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

  • Rolls-Royce Dawn

Driven this week

  • Citroën C4 Grand Picasso
    First Drive
    26 August 2016
    The Citroën Grand C4 Picasso gets tweaked styling, improved tech and new personalisation options to keep it ahead of rivals
  • Car review
    26 August 2016
    Wolfsburg celebrates the GTI’s 40th with its most extreme version yet
  • Kia Optima Sportwagon
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    New Kia estate looks the part, has good space and handles tidily, but its engine's flexibility and refinement let it down
  •  Kia Optima PHEV
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    Plug-in hybrid Optima is a practical, tax-efficient PHEV that undercuts rivals and fulfils its main remit well, but keen drivers need not apply
  • Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4 Spyder
    First Drive
    24 August 2016
    Awful driving position aside, drop-top Huracán handles UK roads well. It's more dynamically rounded than its rangemates, but lacks rivals' handling bite