2009.5 Rolls-Royce Phantom: First Drive

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The Rolls-Royce Phantom extended-wheelbase sedan starts at around half-a-million dollars — $450,000, to be precise, but what's $50 grand, right? — and is 20 feet of attention-grabbing luxuriousness that can be customized to suit your stylistic whims. That was predictable; what I was not expecting was that this big sedan would be so easy to drive.

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Because the Phantom costs as much as a very nice house, you feel a little trepidation when first starting out in it. That feeling quickly fades when you discover how easily it floats down the road, the suspension managing impacts before they disturb you.

The Phantom is also quite agile for its size. Turning the thin-rimmed steering wheel produces an immediate change in your path, and the steering system's overall precision gives you confidence when guiding it.

Though the Phantom's V-12 engine makes 453 hp, it doesn't put regular luxury cars to shame; you can get plenty of horsepower in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or a BMW 7 Series. The V-12 does make the nearly three-ton Phantom feel relatively swift, though, and its power delivery is impressively smooth and quiet; you rarely hear the engine.

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The cabin is a study in elegance and hand-craftsmanship that's rarely seen in cars today. Rolls-Royce gives customers free rein to customize the leather and wood trim used in the Phantom — the automaker says you can even supply your own tree to be used for the wood trim if you'd like — and it offers a number of options you don't see in everyday cars, like a safe in the trunk, a beverage cabinet and power-operated curtains.

Rolls-Royce sells a very limited number of cars in the U.S. The automaker's sales have taken a hit like the rest of the market — down 16 percent this year, according to Automotive News estimates — but that's better than the overall market's drop of 37 percent. I guess consumers with the means to buy a car this expensive always have money to spend, recession or not.

Photos

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Cars.com photos by Ian Merritt

By Mike Hanley | May 7, 2009 | Comments (10)
Tags: Rolls Royce

Comments 

H

If you can afford this car, you can afford a chauffeur to drive for you. If I owned this, I'd never allow it out of the garage for fear of a pebble or rock dinging the front end of my $450k ride!

f

I'm waiting for a manufacturer to come up with a new concept regarding the dash vents for the interior heat/AC. The directional round design is in nearly every vehicle. I kind of expected to see something different in a car like this. They just seem to detract from a smooth sleek dash design. I picture one long, narrow uninterupted vent just uner the top lip of the dash that might make it look more linear. Perhaps I'll take advantage of their "design your own" offer when I order my phleet of Phantoms.

Brian E

If you're looking for a new concept in dash vent design, look at the Phaeton's indirect ventilation system. You can't even see the vents; they're covered up unless direct ventilation is requested.

I noticed a small block of plastic in the center of the rear bumper at the bottom. I would be aghast to discover a trailer hitch behind it :)

broq

id rather have a Maybach- only because I think the interior is better on it. I think this one looks better on the outside though.


Broq

Interior design is completely blah.

.

Ian, your partner's shoes are not practical. Her toes will suffer.

Ken L.

It looks like Cars.com is moving up in the automotive journalist world. I'm sure exotic car companies like Rolls Royce do not just provide their vehicles to anyone for a full evaluation, right? I wonder if any of the Cars.com staff decided to get hitched and used it at his/her wedding???

Opportunities to drive a car like this are rare, but Rolls-Royce was kind enough to let us drive it in conjunction with an event for prospective buyers. No Cars.com staffers were married in the making of this blog post.

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