It has always been a hell of a thing to transcend the times – to remain aloof and impervious to change. Especially true in this age of rampantly accelerating technology and social trends moving like a forest fire in a high wind. Who’s pulled it off and thrived? Jagger? Brucie? The Queen, certainly. And the Rolls-Royce Phantom, until now.
Thirteen years on from launch, this is the last Phantom VII – a bells-and-whistles run-out with a two-tone paintjob. The car on which Rolls’s Goodwood era was founded is sliding into graceful retirement, eventually to be succeeded by an all-aluminium, ‘high-tech’ Phantom VIII in 2018. We’ll miss it.
It was never about driving, it was about being driven, and few chauffeurs get to explore the Phantom’s talents with an empty back seat. We do. It’s easy to forget the V12 when you’re doing effortless wafting, but it’s immense when you floor it, its huge reserves of torque swelling like a tide, threatening to overpower the soft air springs and flabby white-wall tyres. The wafer-thin steering wheel, finished in two shades of hand-sewn leather, shudders on lock, its one-finger lightness surprised by the hustle. Surprised or not, this 2.5-tonne lady still knows how to handle herself. Shame it’s conduct unbecoming, like sliding down the bannisters at the Ambassador’s reception.
People like us don’t drive cars like these. What we have to say about understeer (it does, a bit) and road noise (there isn’t any) doesn’t matter. The Phantom is a lore, a fable, something to be revered not road-tested, something that even rabid Corbynistas are tacitly glad of. And something to be mourned.