The Rolls-Royce Phantom was never going to be the best car in the world. To merit that title today, a car would have to display practical virtues irrelevant to a Rolls. In any case, the firm stopped making that claim for its cars half a century ago. 

But BMW was never in any doubt about the kind of car it had to build to bear the grille, mascot and name it bought in 1998. Rolls-Royce has entered the lexicon as shorthand for refinement and craftsmanship regardless of price.

BMW and its factory at Goodwood had to build, from scratch, literally and figuratively, the Rolls-Royce of motor cars.

Rolls-Royce would rather you not compare the Phantom to anything else in the motoring world. It is a luxury good, it says, more comparable with a Swiss chalet or a piece of fine jewellery.

That’s not the stretch it seems. It’s hard to rationalise such a purchase, when objectively, a Mercedes S-class could do 99 per cent of the job for much, much less money.

But buyers with this much money to spend have likely got an S-class or two tucked away already, and enough cash in the bank not to have to worry about finance packages.

The Phantom is about ultimates, and that’s why it appeals to the super-rich.

Top 5 Super luxury

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Rolls-Royce range

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run