Motivation for the 5,577-lb. 2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom comes from an aluminum 6.75-liter, 48-valve, 60-degree V12 with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing. Engine output is rated at 453 horsepower at 5,350 rpm and 531 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm, all directed to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Michelin Pax run-flat tires are standard, with Goodyear Eagle tires measuring 255/50R21 front and 285/45R21 rear optional. Behind either set of rubber is a suspension system comprised of front double wishbones and a multi-link, self-leveling setup bolted to the rear; anti-sway bars are standard. With a top speed electronically limited to 130 mph and sprints to 60 mph requiring only 5.7 seconds, the Phantom takes full advantage of its four-wheel-disc antilock brake system, using large vented discs and benefiting from dynamic brake control as well as traction and stability control systems. The whole luxurious package – consisting of aluminum, composite, and steel body panels – is situated on an aluminum space frame and is directed by a variably-assisted, speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering assembly with a barge-like 45.3-foot turning radius. Mileage is EPA rated at 12 mpg city, 19 mpg highway; we recorded 9.4 mpg during a couple hundred miles of mixed driving around our offices in southern California.
Dismal fuel economy probably isn't much of a concern for buyers considering a vehicle that starts at $332,750, including a $3,000 gas guzzler tax and $1,000 for destination charges. In exchange for that enormous amount of loot the 2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom delivers coach-style power-closing rear doors, leather and genuine wood on nearly all interior surfaces, front and rear parking sensors, front heated bucket seats with memory and fold-out trays on the seatbacks, heated rear seats, Bluetooth connectivity, BMW's central iDrive controller, a GPS navigation system that also picks up local television programming, a multi-zone climate control system, and front side airbags. A power sunroof, power trunk lid, and illuminated mirrors, all optional features when the Phantom made its debut in 2004, were moved to the standard features list for the 2005 model year. Also included free of charge, so to speak, is a 420-watt sound system with dual subwoofers, a six-disc CD changer, and satellite radio; Rolls-Royce umbrellas integrated into each of the rear doors; and a hood ornament that can be set to retract whenever the vehicle is turned off (sorry, thieves).
That's the basic Phantom, which was not to be confused with the car Rolls-Royce loaned to us for testing. Our Silver Sand 2006 Phantom, with its Mocassin interior, carried with it a suggested retail price of $346,650. Here's a breakdown of what that extra $13,900 bought: a veneered instrument panel ($1,100); veneered steering wheel spokes ($600); veneered backs on the rear fold-out trays ($1,800); the Rolls-Royce logo stitched into all headrests ($600); front and rear cameras for the parking systems ($3,300); 21-inch alloy wheels with Goodyear Eagle tires ($3,000); a crossbanded elm cluster veneer ($2,200); and something labeled a “bespoke option" ($1,300). Not tacked onto our car was an optional rear bucket seat option with a DVD player, screens located in the back of the front headrests, a lower center console, power rear and side sunshades, and power rear seats. And not available at all on the 2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom are seemingly common features like cooled rear seats, rear footrests, or a host of outlets and accommodations for the laptop-carrying, business-conducting, chauffeured executive.
That's within the realm of belief after a few miles behind the Phantom's large, thin-rimmed steering wheel. The V12 engine unloads gobs of power, but tapping into it requires a bit of patience and finesse. Dump the throttle and there's a slight delay before 453 horses and 531 lb.-ft. of torque kick in, after which point the Phantom moves out with unrelenting authority; ironically, gradually depressing the accelerator begets a more immediate response. Once up to speed, sprints from 80 to 100 mph are accomplished with incredible ease. Mated to the 6.75-liter V12 is possibly the smoothest six-speed transmission in existence.
Fun to Drive
Now, if we were talking fun to be driven in the Phantom would get two thumbs up. Passengers are treated to a posh interior with more room than a studio apartment, oblivious to the driver's attempts to stave off boredom.
Rear seat storage space is also lacking. Again, storage cubbies are built into the doors, yet besides seatback pockets that can be hard to reach when sitting in the recessed seat, there are few other areas designed to hold gear. The center armrest is padded yet is devoid of cupholders, storage, and any controls, and as is the case up front, two cupholders are curiously placed at floor level.
Otherwise, secondary controls are straight forward with door lock and power mirror buttons on the door switch panel, headlights on the left side of the dash, and steering wheel stalks for wipers, cruise control, and turn signals.
Price of Test Vehicle: $346,650 (including a $1,000 destination charge and a $3,000 gas guzzler tax)
Engine Size and Type: 6.75-liter V12
Engine Horsepower: 453 at 5,350 rpm
Engine Torque: 531 lb.-ft. at 3,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Curb weight, lbs.: 5,577
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 12/19 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy: 9.4 mpg
Length: 229.7 inches
Width: 78.3 inches
Wheelbase: 140.6 inches
Height: 64.3 inches
Leg room (front/rear): 40.5/37.3 inches
Head room (front/rear): 40.2/38.5 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Five
Max. Cargo Volume: 16.2 cubic feet
Competitors: Maybach 57
A Rolls-Royce Phantom is for riding in, not driving. It's just too big, too complicated, and attracts too much attention to use as personal transport. If your gig is driving the privileged class about town, however, the Phantom is a great place to call the office, decked out in opulent leather, glowing wood, gleaming chrome, rich carpets, and lush seating fit for royalty. Grasp the thin-rimmed, large diameter steering wheel and step on the gas. The Phantom lifts off the line with grace, gathering speed in a deceptively rapid fashion if you keep your foot in it. The view over the long hood is just like that of my dad's old 1979 Lincoln Mark V – just replace the Linc's rectangular star hood ornament with that chrome-dipped Flying Lady, which drops into the radiator shell with the press of a button. Old-school ideals of class ooze from this car. From the upright radiator shell and formal roofline to the slabs of polished wood trim and incandescent interior lighting, the Rolls-Royce Phantom represents the best in retro-mod styling for the super luxury sedan class. The car is big enough to dwarf the commoners, too, even on roads littered with SUVs, serving to make those sequestered on the rear bench feel even more self-important. After all, when it comes to this Rolls, the passenger is clearly the focus, not the driver.
Rolls-Royce Phantom – Ron Perry's Opinion:
There are those that drive and those that are driven. The Rolls-Royce Phantom is aimed at the latter, but after spending a weekend behind the wheel I think I may have to rethink my career path – the life of a chauffer doesn't seem so bad.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom is huge. Forget parking one in your standard two-car garage. The Phantom's magnitude is apparent on the road as well, and Rolls-Royce has accommodated for it. Can't see over the hood and around the cars parked on the street to see oncoming traffic? There are cameras for that, both front and rear. You also sit high in the leather seats for better visibility. Aside from its size, the Rolls-Royce Phantom is actually a pleasure to drive. It rolls on beautiful 21-inch rims that could easily be mistaken for 24s and the ride can only be described as cruising on a cushion of air. The styling and character lines of the Phantom would be most at home in the courtyard of a mid-century castle. It exudes class and distinction whether rolling down the road or sitting stately at the curb.
Inside, the theme continues. Magnificent hides and wood cover the interior, which is accented by chrome knobs and switches. The interior is expansive and filled with neat little features like a button that makes the flying lady disappear into the grille to thwart thieves, automatic door closers for back seat passengers, a navigation and television screen that flips into the dash to reveal a jeweled clock, and climate controls that allow you to set a different temperature for your feet and upper body. The only big downfalls of the Rolls-Royce Phantom are the iDrive system that BMW has installed and the lack of luxury items found in much less expensive cars like reclining rear seats, front and rear back massagers, and cooled seats to keep everyone fresh and crisp.
If I ever hit the lottery jackpot I would most likely buy a Phantom, minus the driver of course, because I enjoyed driving it too much to share.
Photos by Ron Perry