It only takes driving about three and a half feet to realize that the Rolls-Royce Phantom is unlike every other car in existence. I’ve driven plenty of Rollers before but never a Phantom. And after barely a yard’s worth of driving I said out loud “Oh, I get it.” The Phantom is a completely unique experience, one that might not be for everybody, but it’s one that everyone should experience at least once in their life.
Phantom Series II
For 2023, Rolls-Royce updated the Phantom but Rolls doesn’t use BMW-speak, so it isn’t called an LCI. Instead, it’s the Phantom Series II. Some of the updates from Series I to Series II include an illuminated Pantheon grille, new headlight bezels with laser-cut starlight patterns, and an updated art gallery dashboard.
In pictures, the Phantom isn’t an especially pretty car but, in person, it’s striking like nothing else on the road. There’s something about its sheer size and imposing proportions that immediately let you know it’s not like other cars. Everything about it, from the design, to the paint quality, to the materials, and even the way it sits on its wheels feels like it’s another league entirely from everything else.
The car I drove was especially stunning. Its breathtaking metallic green paint combined with black disc wheels was just the perfect spec. It looked elegant but also badass in a way that only a Rolls-Royce can.
Like Nothing Else in the World
Once I set off, though, I realized that, despite its imposing looks and absurd levels of luxury, the Rolls-Royce Phantom isn’t a snobby car. The common trope is that Phantom owners don’t drive their cars, they have chauffeurs for that. However, the driver isn’t the chauffeur, the Phantom is. Even as the driver, the Phantom coddles you, it wraps you in warmth and comfort, turning the chore of driving into a luxurious pleasure. There’s an old expression among us automotive scribes, that good luxury cars make you feel more refreshed at the end of a long drive than you were when you started. That’s only actually true of one car—the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
I drove the Phantom up the same canyon road that I drove everything else on in Palm Springs. Prior to the Phantom drive, I tested the BMW X1, the X7 M60i, the 330e, and the 760i. In all of those cars, even the 760i, that mountain felt like work. Fun, often heart pounding work, but work nevertheless. In the Phantom, it felt so easy and effortless that it was like taking a break.
It’s genuinely hard to describe how smooth and supple the Phantom is over any sort of pavement. The only way I can accurately describe it is that it deletes bumps. You can see a bump in the road, watch the long, bow-like front end of the Phantom go over it, and it’s gone. It takes a bit for your brain to recalibrate because you’re expecting to feel the bump. But you don’t. Like it never existed in the first place.
Fun in an Odd Way
The Rolls-Royce Phantom isn’t exactly fun to drive, in a traditional sense. Its steering ratio is incredibly slow, so it takes quite a bit of steering input to make things happen. But that’s by design. Twitchy steering inputs would be uncouth, especially for a chauffeur. So Rolls wants its driver to be deliberate and almost request some steering from the car. However, once you get into a groove, it’s actually shockingly accurate and easy to place.
Don’t think that because the Phantom is pillow soft that it’s a sloppy mess when you turn the steering wheel, though. It’s quite the opposite. Rolls’ air suspension keeps body movements in check, even when you’re driving in a manner that would upset the dignitary in the back. It also has rear-wheel steering, which makes it surprisingly nimble, despite being as long as a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and as heavy as one too.
So despite its slow steering and plush ride, you can get into a rhythm with the Phantom on a twisty road and it actually becomes rather fun. All the while, you’re insulated from any sort of outside noise, your hands and butt are free from bumps and vibration, and you’re ensconced in leather, wood, and metal. It’s fun but without any of the work of driving a sportier car.
Internal Combustion Turned Invisible
Powering the Rolls-Royce Phantom is a 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V12 engine and I honestly don’t care how much power it makes because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because the engine completely disappears once you start moving. I’ll admit it sounds kinda good on startup, from outside the car, but once you’re inside, there’s no physical or audible proof of its existence. Just effortless, buttery-smooth waves of instant torque. Almost like an electric car, just with more dead polar bears.
Thinking about it now, though, the Rolls-Royce Phantom should be electric. The next one will be and that’s good. After driving the Phantom I can say that its magnificently smooth engine is its only real weak spot. Not that it’s bad—it’s a brilliant piece of engineering—it just blends into the background and you never notice it. So why not have an electric motor that’s even quieter and has more torque?
Slipping into the Phantom is special. Every surface, every switch, every touchpoint is made from the highest quality materials and built to an a unbelievable standard. My car’s interior spec wasn’t anything special by Rolls’ standard, especially when compared to the breathtaking green paint and black wheels, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t gorgoues. It’s still nicer than every other car’s on the road, especially in terms of build quality. The wood work is incredible, the metal work feels durable and premium, and all of the tech—including BMW’s latest drive—remains hidden until you ask for it.
Not only is the Phantom easy on the body, regardless of road, but it’s also easy on the mind. Screens can be hidden away, the gauges are a mix between old-school analog gauges, and even the cabin clock is analog. If you don’t want modern distractions, you don’t need to have them.
Drive the new 7 Series and it’s practically shouting at you the whole time. It’s a great luxury car but there’s so much tech and so many lights that it can almost be blinding. In the Phantom, there are no such distractions. Only pure, simple, old-school luxury.
Owners Should Drive Their Phantoms
I spent about an hour in the Rolls-Royce Phantom II and I didn’t want the journey to end. I know that most Phantom owners will have drivers to take them to and fro. However, I highly recommend you ditch your driver and do it yourself. The Phantom offers a unique driving experience that can’t be found in any other car and you’ll never experience that from the back seat. Forget the chauffeur, get out and drive your Phantom.