At CNET Car Tech, we got to spend three days with a 2007 Rolls-Royce Phantom, and found out that evaluating a $375,000 car isn't easy. There is an indefinable refinement to the Phantom in its hand-built interior. The attention from bystanders as you roll down the street lets you know you are behind the wheel of something special. There is a care and attention to detail in the construction of a Rolls-Royce that other cars, stamped out in factories, don't receive.
The profile of the Phantom employs a few optical illusions that took us some time to figure out. For one thing, it looks like the back is lower than the front, an effect achieved through a sloping beltline and windowline. However, the roofline stays high, affording plenty of headroom for the rear-seat passengers. The front is dominated by the traditional, massive mirror-polished chrome grille, topped by the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. As a neat little security measure, the Spirit of Ecstasy descends into the grille when the car is locked.
At 19-feet long, with a hood that seems to stretch for miles in front of the driver, you would think that the Phantom would be a heavy car. Well, it is, but Rolls-Royce manages to keep the weight down to just under three tons (about 5,900 pounds) with aluminum body panels. Its bulk is moved along very readily with its 6.75-liter V-12 engine, which puts out 453 horsepower. More important, that engine puts out 531lb.-ft. of torque, 75 percent of which is available at 1,000rpm, which means that the Phantom accelerates quickly.
You do feel disassociated from the road while driving the Phantom. The car does exactly what you tell it to, but doesn't bother communicating road feel. People that drive Phantoms are masters of the world--the world doesn't master them. In that spirit, the six-speed automatic has no manual gear-selection mode--you put it in Drive and go. The steering wheel is traditionally thin, with a large diameter. Sometimes, turning it and watching the front of the car come around feels like you are steering a ship.
While the car is beautiful on the outside, inside is really the place to be. Big, comfortable seats, lots of headroom and legroom, thick lamb's wool floor mats, and very nice wood lining the interior contribute to the aesthetics. There is also a lot of technology available on the inside, but it's hidden away. For example, the panel holding the clock in the center of the dashboard flips over to reveal an LCD screen. Knobs pop out of the center front and rear armrests that let you control the car's systems. With the rear-seat DVD option, as in our Phantom, 12-inch LCDs are incorporated into the tables, which fold down for the rear-seat passengers.
BMW owns Rolls-Royce, a fact that becomes obvious when you access the car's systems, as it uses a dressed-up version of BMW's iDrive for controlling entertainment, telephone integration, and navigation. Yes, the Phantom has all the modern tech, letting you pair your Bluetooth cell phone with the car, enter destinations into the navigation system, and even hook up an MP3 player through an auxiliary input in the glove box.
But even in these systems, it keeps up the Rolls-Royce quality. The maps on the navigation screen are beautifully rendered. There is a velvet-lined tray hidden in the dash where you can keep your cell phone. And the stereo, a Harmon-Kardon Logic7 system with 15 speakers, two floor-mounted subwoofers, and a 420-watt amp, sounds fantastic.
We might want to complain that the CD changer uses a cartridge system, or that some of the navigation functions aren't as modern as they could be. But these little issues get eclipsed by the stately magnificence of the Rolls-Royce Phantom.