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.
Driven: The finest motorcar in the world
Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.