I have never owned a Rolls-Royce, and unless things change
dramatically in the newspaper business, I doubt if I ever will. However, I have
sat in the odd one or two and even been chauffeured in one. But to be quite
honest about it all, does anyone buy such a vehicle, other than for the
there has always been a market for such grandiose vehicles, the original Maybach
(and the new Maybach), the Bugatti Royale or the Bucciali TAV all spring to mind
immediately. These were not ‘sporting’ vehicles in the mould of the
Bentley’s for example, but imposing chariots that said one thing above
everything - “I’ve got the money. I sit in the back. The chap up the front
is just the chauffeur.”
RR became synonymous with all things upper class and a symbol of British
aristocracy and the ‘best’. Whether it deserved all the adulation was
another thing altogether, especially when the RR’s for many years had General
Motors Hydramatic transmissions for example.
It was on July 28, 1998 when the toffs in the UK choked on
their morning tea and toast, as BMW took control of RR, that bastion of
everything that the British Raj had ever stood for. With Bentley going to VW and
RR to BMW, the blitzkrieg was totally successful.
both the German manufacturers credit, they didn’t take the radiator badges to
Germany and stick them on tarted up BeeEmms or VeeDubs, but VW returned Bentley
to Crewe in the UK, and BMW built a new manufacturing plant at the home of
Roll-Royce, Goodwood, West Sussex, on the south coast of England.
The new RR has been given the name Phantom, which takes its
title from a succession of between wars models and will spawn a series of
forthcoming variants including convertible, long-wheelbase and armoured
Despite a somewhat bland and (for me) dated exterior, the
result is a thoroughly modern interpretation of the traditional Rolls-Royce
shape, draped over a full aluminium spaceframe structure.
According to the factory, it presents classic Rolls-Royce
shape comprising a long, tall bonnet and radiator grille, an even longer
wheelbase, short front and long rear overhang, solid aluminium A pillar and a
thick C pillar that offers rear-seat passengers the ultimate in privacy and
safety. Riding on a expansive 3570mm wheelbase, the Phantom body measures a huge
5834 mm long (Maybach is 6200 mm), 1990 mm wide, and an equally imposing 1632 mm
The four-door, five-seat Phantom weighs 2485kg, yet thanks to
a purpose-built 6.75 litre, 60 degree 48 valve V12 with 338 kW and 720 Nm of
torque and six-speed ZF automatic transmission will record 0-100 kays in 5.9
seconds and has a top speed of some 240 km/h (however, one cannot ignore the
Maybach with its 405 kW and 900 Nm of torque recording 0-100 in 5.4 seconds).
One very distinct difference between the new Roller and the
Maybach is in their handling of the rear doors. Maybach is conventional, swung
from the B pillar, but RR have gone back to the old ‘suicide doors’ hinged
from the C pillar. Since the chap in the rear seat is the one who matters, this
may be a better compromise, but reports I have read suggest that the doors are
too long to open fully from the rear. However, as pointed out earlier, you are
not supposed to do this by yourself - that’s what the chauffeur, footmen,
doormen are there for!
For the ultimate in ‘uselessness’ the RR boasts floating
and synchronized wheel centres to ensure all four RR badges remain upright at
all times. Now that’s really got you lusting after one, hasn’t it!
But if you are in the marketplace to be looked at while
deciding whether to buy a British Football Club, then from the inside of an RR
would probably be the best place to make that decision.
Price? Does it matter? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it, but I
believe it is somewhere between 50 and 60 million baht in this country.