When it was launched at the beginning of 2003, I’d never have picked the Rolls Phantom as my car of the decade.
You need a few years to see how such an extraordinary machine settles into the society of cars, and to drive a few examples to be sure they work according to the high-sounding claims.
You also have to know, before you lay your £264,000 (plus options) on the line, that its looks and reputation satisfy your peers as well as yourself. It’s too much money to risk being laughed at.
Nowadays, I’m entirely confident of the design and role of the Phantom, especially since they’ve sharpened the styling and made some discreet improvements to a fundamentally marvellous design. I now view the Rolls as one of the most desirable cars on the road.
I like the way it looks, I’ve enjoyed (sparingly) the way it drives, and above all, I’m confident that it “occupies the territory” of a national flagship in a way no Rolls-Royce saloon has managed since the Silver Shadow of the mid-’60s.
Think about it: the Rolls-Royces after 1965 were increasingly compromised in engineering and styling (thanks mainly to the poor resources of the companies that owned Rolls on the way to its present BMW ownership). By the turn of the millennium, the whole notion of a British automotive flagship desperately needed to be unravelled and re-thought.
Then the chosen design needed to be properly financed and engineered so that it could assume its top-notch position by right, rather than in the apologetic way of its predecessors.
The Phantom does this. It drives swiftly, silently, accurately and in the utmost comfort, rapidly shrinking around you. It is simple to operate, yet always special, and its interior is a wonderful place from which to contemplate the rest of the world.
It has established effortless supremacy over the only serious pretender to its crown, Mercedes-Benz’s sad and sorry Maybach, and no other rival is even on the map. It is one of the world’s greatest contemporary cars, and if my ship comes in, I’m going to own one.