Driving a Rolls Royce is not for shy, retiring types. Nope, if you're a shrinking violet then the attention you’ll get behind the wheel of something like this, the Rolls Royce Phantom, will come as a shock. In the five days we had it we got the lot: there were two-fingered salutes, middle-digits right, left and centre and moonies too. Mostly though there were scowls, mainly from middle-aged women in silly little nondescript cars, closely followed by middle-aged men driving much the same.
It was, frankly, a little bit depressing and kind of sums up where this country is right now. Ours has become a joyless nation. Not much in the way of admiring glances or people shouting ‘cool, well done’ just in case you had won the lottery. No, mostly it was abuse. The hatred coming from sniffy members at the local David Lloyd gym, for example, was palpable. People who didn't know us didn't care if we’d won the lottery or were self-made entrepreneurial types perhaps. Maybe they thought we’d stolen it.
Still, all water off a duck’s back when you’re sat inside the Phantom. For starters, you can’t hear anyone hurling abuse. Despite having a 5.7-litre V12 twin-turbo engine there’s little in the way of engine noise. This car is super insulated and extremely quiet. That said; it was fun to sit in a car park with the double doors open and blip the throttle to hear the huge lump blatt out a silky-smooth roar from the twin exhausts. But the vault-like thickness of the doors, that sumptuous insulation and then, of course, the in-car entertainment system all works together to make the outside world seem very, very distant when you’re driving around.
It’d take less time to tell you what the Rolls Royce Phantom doesn't have than what it does when it comes to the specification. Our model topped out in the region of half a million, so it had all the toys and more besides. However, audio fans, in particular, are extremely well-catered for thanks to the Phantom Bespoke Audio system. It seems that the team who developed the system benchmarked performance against a recording studio’s playback room, as opposed to the more normally used automotive field tests.
During the design process of the Phantom, there was a concerted effort to produce a body that would enhance, rather than detract from the audio potential. As a result, the car itself has become like one mighty subwoofer. So much so in fact that Alan, the man who delivered the car, said he needed to turn the bass down a bit as it was, quite simply, too good. He was right. Heading down the dual carriageway at 11pm we were able to crank up a selection of tunes and had to give up before reaching maximum volume, not because of distortion but because it was too loud. The 1300-watt output from the amplifier controls 18 different channels, with one for each speaker. Those speakers feature magnesium-ceramic compounds that make them super durable. They are quite formidable.
Engineers at Rolls Royce also spent a long time tweaking and fine-tuning the system in order to give it that extra hand-finished edge that you expect from the marque. At the same time, the Phantom features microphones in the cabin that are able to make subtle adjustments to the amplifier setup in order to maintain optimal audio output. Hardly surprising then that back in 2018 Mercury Music Prize and MOBO award-winning musician Joseph Junior Adenuga, better known by his stage name Skepta, conceived and recorded a track (Skepta RR) inside a Rolls Royce Phantom.
While the speakers are obviously premium-grade, it's the cocktail of other high-end components that work in tandem to make the audio system as amazing as it is. There’s 6mm thick acoustically dampened glass for example. No less than 130 kilograms of sound absorbing insulation is also packed inside the core of the car. Amazingly, the Phantom even boasts Silent-Seal tyres, which have a foam layer inside the rubber carcass that reduces overall tyre noise by 9bd.
However, enjoying music inside the Rolls Royce Phantom is so good that you end up really wanting to share the experience with others. No matter when you come to a halt in a suitable location, as opening up the front and back doors simultaneously allows you to create an effect not dissimilar to being at a live concert. Alternatively, when we were out on a scenic drive and the weather closed in we pulled over into a layby, ate pasties and watched Dave on live TV via one screen mounted in the middle of the dashboard and two screens in the back. It was great.
Aside from the audio system the Rolls Royce Phantom is a marvel of engineering on every level, though a little thirsty. An unkind man at the garage said it looked like a tank as we filled up with a suitably supertanker-sized dollop of Shell’s V-Power Super Unleaded to keep the V12 engine satisfied. But we learned to love its ludicrously imposing stance as the week rolled on. It might not be a tiny metal eco-box like the cars most of us are driving, but it is still a masterpiece.