When I was around 11 years old, two things happened. First I discovered a British TV show called The Avengers. This became my favorite show, displacing Star Trek reruns. The main character in the show, John Steed, portrayed by the great Patrick Macnee, was who I wanted to be when I grew up. One of Steed’s cars in the show was a Rolls-Royce Phantom. This made an impression. Around the same time, my dad bought me my first car book, The Rolls Royce Owners Companion. I read this book cover to cover and decided that Rolls-Royce was my favorite car brand. Since then, while I have driven and/or owned cars of many brands, I have never owned a Rolls-Royce. However, after driving the new 2019 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII, that may change, and soon. What you have in the 2019 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII is quite literally the finest car that has ever been built. I know this sounds like a bold statement, but I have driven everything from a Triumph Spitfire to a McLaren F1, the Mercedes Maybach to the Bentley Mulsanne. Just how much better is the Phantom than everything else? It is so good as there are literally no other cars to compare other than the other current offerings from Rolls-Royce, and even these suffer a bit in comparison. To be honest, the reason I even inquired about testing the 2019 Rolls-Royce is a bit of a funny story. I judge at the Greenwich Concours every year and this year the committee set up a new VIP parking area. Since that parking is literally across the street from the concours, I wanted a car that qualified as a VIP car. What better than a Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce not only approved the loan of a press-fleet vehicle, but delivered it to my home. My first thought on seeing the car was of how huge it is. I checked with the gentleman dropping off the car to be sure that this was indeed the short wheelbase model, which he confirmed. The car measures at 228 inches long, or about a foot longer than my garage. This car is big! I got into the car and was greeted by a display that said, “Welcome Mr. Reid.” Nice touch. I immediately took the car on a short drive to see how it worked. Despite the car’s mammoth dimensions, it seems to shrink in size when in motion.The Phantom is an easy car to drive, no matter if it is going thru city traffic or on the highway.
The first thing you notice from behind the wheel is that it feels exactly like you would expect from a Rolls. The only cue to the BMW ownership of Rolls-Royce is the knurled aluminum I-Drive controller, which can be hidden away. Everything you see and everything you touch is simply the best available. The car exudes British luxury like no other car every made, including Rolls-Royce cars of the past. I say this after spending many miles behind the wheel of older Rolls and Bentley. Another of the amazing things about the car is how quiet it is. While driving it around town I hear a distant motorcycle exhaust. I looked next to me and there was a Harley with open pipes. I rolled the window down and heard the extremely loud exhaust. After putting the window up, the sound practically disappeared. The car is extremely quiet, 80 mph on the freeway sounds like 35 in other vehicles. I set off for the Greenwich Concours tour at 6 a.m. and all was good until I hit Interstate 95. Traffic was stopped. Usually this would drive me crazy but in the Rolls Phantom I simply put on a Hall and Oates CD, turned on the seat massage functions and waited for the traffic to clear. Speaking of the audio system, this needs further discussion. My wife, Ann, is a bit of an audiophile and as a result our home audio systems are some of the very best available, costing tens of thousands of dollars. The Bespoke Audio System, a $10,875 option in the Rolls-Royce Phantom, makes our home system sound like that in base-level Nissan Versa. Spectacular does not begin to describe the sound. No manufacturer has ever installed an audio system that holds a candle to the one in the Phantom. Thinking I might be overstating how good this system is, I put a few friends who are serious audio geeks in the car and all were blown away by the quality. This is box you really need to check if you order one of these cars.
We got to the tour start point and rallymaster Rich Taylor asked me if I could carry a few passengers. Being a proper gentleman Rolls-Royce driver, and since I only had my navigator, Mark, and myself in the car, I said of course.
The guests rode in the back of the car and were immediately taken by the car. They tried every button and setting available and soon found themselves enjoying being ensconced in the luxury of the Phantom. We could have been at a British club Boodles in London, enjoying an after dinner drink. Phantom is that phenomenal a place to be. In fact the car is likely a better place to be than an exclusive British club, as none of those clubs I have visited feature a roof of lighted stars. When you first see the Starlight Headliner you might feel that it is a bit over the top, but it truly makes the car an even better place to be and has to be one of the most wonderful interior options for a luxury car ever devised. At one point we were on a high-speed stretch of the route and opened the car up quite a bit. I mentioned how fast we were traveling to everyone on board and they would not believe me until the leaned forward and saw the speedometer. The car isolates you that much from the outside world in the best possible way. Much of this is due to the great amount of sound-deadening material in the car. Rolls added 285 pounds of it to the new Phantom. More amazing is that even the tires have sound deadening foam used in their construction. The word I would use to describe the car from behind the wheel is effortless. This has to be the easiest car to drive I have ever had the pleasure to pilot. The Phantom is powered by a 6 ¾-liter twin-turbocharged V12 engine with 563 horsepower and 664 pound-feed of torque. This allows the 5800 pounds car to cover 0-60 in only 5.1 seconds. That itself is impressive but more impressive is the way the car does it. Instead in being slammed back in your seat, you instead feel a slight increase of power. Holding the accelerator to the floor of this car is a mind-bending experience in that you find yourself traveling quite rapidly very quickly, but you only realize that if you are looking at the speedometer.
During the Greenwich Concours the car attracted more attention in the parking lot than the Ferraris and Lamborghinis parked next to us. I cannot imagine how many hundreds of Instagram posts were made on the car. We also made a few side trips with Phantom, going to Target as well as a McDonalds drive thru. During both side trips the car received tremendous positive attention. If there was one downside to my time with the Phantom is was when trying to park it at the hotel. The only way to safely do so was to park it at an angle. Yes, I was forced to be that guy who parks crooked. My excuse it was the only way the car would fit in the garage. After the Concours, I drove the car to the Del Mar hotel to meet some friends. At the Del Mar, the valet had me park next to a Silver Cloud Drophead. I drove home, enjoying my last long drive in the car, taking in the amazing leather seats, the under-glass gallery of the dash, the world’s best audio system, and the effortless performance and magic of the behind the wheel experience. During the trip back, scores of other drivers took pictures as we passed. On the way home I took the car to the best touch-free car wash in Connecticut. As I watched the car through the windows of the car wash make its way thru the process I saw that the attendants were filming themselves as they were washing the car. This is the way the Phantom impacts people. It’s hard to describe the legitimate and very real sense if loss I felt after the Phantom left. It is also amazing how one can become so used to the unsurpassed and seamless luxury embodied in this exceptional motorcar. The Phantom is in a category all by itself. To best illustrate the Phantoms excellence, about two hours after returning the magical Rolls-Royce, I drove my 2016 BMW X3 on an errand. The BMW felt like a Toyota Corona from the 1970s. And now the challenge: How to come up with the half-a-million dollars it takes to own such a vehicle.