NZ Autocar - - Point Of View - David lin­klater

Royce mod­els: there’s also Ghost, Wraith and Phan­tom in its limou­sine, coupe and drop­head in­car­na­tions.

They’re all hand-built and un­re­lent­ingly ex­trav­a­gant, so sup­pos­ing a Royce re­ally is still the best car in the world, which one would it be: the least ex­pen­sive be­cause you get that same qual­ity with a bet­ter value propo­si­tion, the one in the mid­dle be­cause it of­fers the broad­est range of tal­ents or the most rare and ex­clu­sive?

There’s no an­swer. I could tell you what the most ex­pen­sive pro­duc­tion car in the world is at the mo­ment, I could tell you the fastest, I could tell you what the most high-tech one is and I could even put a data-based case for­ward for which car is the qui­etest.

None of the above is a Rolls-Royce and yet the com­pany still em­braces the ‘best car in the world’ ep­i­thet in its lit­er­a­ture. Based on the feel­ing you get when you’re driv­ing one, I couldn’t dis­agree. Even if I find it hard to quan­tify what ‘best’ ac­tu­ally means.

I do know that it’s more emo­tional and per­sonal than ra­tio­nal. I re­mem­ber qui­etly smirk­ing when Mercedes-Benz launched the cur­rent S-Class and claimed in its me­dia-re­lease ma­te­rial that its aim was to build (you know it) “the best car in the world”. It might well be that the mag­nif­i­cent S-Class is a bet­ter lux­ury car than a Royce in many ways, but that doesn’t mean the Three­Pointed Star can ap­pro­pri­ate the term. Or the cus­tomer base for the best, if the his­tory of Benz’s May­bach di­vi­sion from 1997-2013 is any­thing to go by.

It’s easy to over­think the is­sue. Es­pe­cially when you con­sider that ‘best’ had a to­tally dif­fer­ent mean­ing when it was first be­stowed on Roll­sRoyce at the start of last cen­tury.

Then, as now, Royces were mon­eyno-ob­ject mo­tor cars, but the mar­que’s real sell­ing propo­si­tion was re­li­a­bil­ity. Back at the dawn of mo­tor­ing, a car that could be com­pletely re­lied upon to get you from A to B was both a rare and prized thing.

Rolls-Royce’s rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing the best was won through its per­for­mance in events like the sem­i­nal four-day, 1200km Scot­tish Re­li­a­bil­ity Trial of 1907, which man­ag­ing di­rec­tor (and com­pany founder) Claude John­son com­pleted in a Sil­ver Ghost, with a to­tal score of 976 points out of 1000.

So by those stan­dards, the best car in the world now is prob­a­bly a Toy­ota Corolla. That’s set­tled then.

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