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

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    1 June 2016
    Volvo returns to the big time of large estates with its new wagon, the Volvo V90. We've driven it for the first time abroad
  • Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI 150 S tronic
    First Drive
    29 May 2016
    We head to Havana to find out how the new Audi Q2 is shaping up ahead of its November launch
  • Seat Leon 1.4 EcoTSI FR Titanium
    First Drive
    27 May 2016
    High-spec new Titanium FR trim is temptingly good value, particularly on the semi-enthusiastic 1.4 EcoTSI petrol
  • Kia Niro
    First Drive
    27 May 2016
    The Kia Niro will be one of the greenest cars in the compact crossover class when it goes on sale later this year. We drive it to see what else it has to offer
  • Car review
    27 May 2016
    Can the turbocharged successor to the 458 raise the bar again?