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That is the reason, Cropley explained, why the Phantom was given its “sheer size, long wheelbase, highly distinctive body overhangs (short in front, long at the rear), long bonnet which runs almost horizontally to the mighty grille, huge C-pillar, high cabin with small glass areas, and downward sloping, tautly drawn tail”.
“Many early observers have found the Phantom’s modernity unsettling, and the new order at Rolls-Royce wants it that way,” Cropley explained. “Nobody would call this car discreet, and few describe it as beautiful, either. Critical comment centres on the high, bluff front, and the rectangular marker lights. Again, Rolls people seem content.”
Yet with this, the Phantom had top-class dynamics, thanks to plenty of “high-tech features, including an all-aluminium spaceframe chassis, a highly advanced V12 engine, height-adjustable, adaptive air suspension, and electronic driver aids”.
So, in we stepped. Quite literally, as “no bending down is needed, because the upper door frame is as high as your head.”
“The seats, richly leathered, are mildly enveloping in a traditional armchair sort of way and faced with coarse-grained leather. They’re firm, and have a veneer of softness just below the surface. Long distance seats.
“Everywhere inside the car, the air of hand built quality was successfully delivered. Simplicity, too. The whole tenor of Phantom driving controls is simplicity. You’re supposed to be able to operate this car intuitively, without ever having to search through a computer menu.”
This was evidenced by the six-speed ZF auto gearbox’s lever, which had just three positions – Park, Drive and Reverse; automatic air-con with no confusing buttons; a sat-nav screen hidden behind the clock that only rotated into view should you pull a lever; and a BMW iDrive controller hidden in the centre console. Even the stereo controls were hidden, all because “Rolls research is emphatic that owners like neither complexity nor clutter”.
So far, so good. But now it was time to take it onto the Tarmac. “Press the starter button and there’s a brief, seamless whir before the engine catches smoothly and very, very quietly,” Cropley enthused.
“The car glides forward. The speed-sensitive power steering feels very light, and the rim thin, reminiscent of past Rollers. During development, the Phantom did its share of Nürburgring testing, during which drivers argued vociferously for a thicker rim. The traditionalists won.”