Rolls-Royce Phantom Saloon – 2003

Rolls Royce is now a wholly owned subsidiary of BMW but the cars that come out of its new Goodwood factory are as inimitable as they always have been. The Phantom saloon is the ultimate in sophistication, a classic RR design melded to BMW cutting-edge engineering. Built around a hand-welded aluminium space frame with a BMW 6.75 litre aluminium-alloy engine, it is still unmistakably a Roller, its massive but graceful proportions, dramatic long bonnet and opulent interior echoing Phantoms of the past.

The attention to detail is remarkable — everything has been thought of. Even the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot perched on top of the streamlined stainless-steel grille has an auto-retract mechanism to protect it from itchy vandals’ fingers; and the RR logo on the center of each wheel is self-correcting so that it always stays the right way up whether or not the wheels are revolving.

Rear-hinged coach doors not only make it easier to strike a camera-friendly pose without the door frame getting in the way but also give increased protection from a side-impact hit; and they can be closed from inside the car at the touch of a button if the paparazzi start to become a bore.

The V12 engine is virtually silent: it’s impossible to tell whether it’s actually running. And once you do pull away, the six-speed automatic transmission and air-sprung suspension give a ride so smooth you hardly realize you’re moving.

As for the inside — passengers are cossetted in a fantasy palace of polished wood and pile carpet, completely detached from external reality, while the driver is enthroned at a majestic height all the better to command the road. A ride in a Phantom is a positively regal experience — luxury motoring at its absolute peak.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

UK

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

2003

ENGINE:

6,749 cc V12

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 149mph (240 km/h); 0-60 mph (97km/h) in 5.7 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Around 5,000 Phantom saloons have been sold. Several limited editions have been produced, including a run of 25 Phantom Blacks. An extended wheelbase version was introduced in 2005, and in 2007 and 2008 drophead coupe and coupe models were added to the Phantom range.

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