Prior Convictions: Phantom or i10?

Apropos of the Phantom being so utterly splendid, Rolls-Royce would like you to consider it to be the best car in the world. Which it might be, depending on how you define the best car in the world.

At £360,000, which I reckon is more expensive than any other car built in significant volumes, shouldn't the Phantom be the best? I mean, it would be a failure if it weren't, wouldn't it?

But in some ways, it isn't. It's large, but not overtly practical. It has a twin-turbocharged V12, but only gets to 60mph in 5.1sec. It's quiet and refined, to the extent that it feels like you're at home even when you're not home, but it isn't exciting to drive. And, quite a lot of buyers will drop a million quid on one: by the laws of diminishing returns, that's not a great return.

Because if a Phantom owner drives the Rolls and you climb into, say, a Hyundai i10 - which starts at £8,995 and is one of the best city cars you can buy - you'll get to your destination at the same time, you'll stay just as dry, fit five people, carry almost as much luggage, park it more easily, find it's more agile, that it has a long warranty, a stereo, and one of the greatest gearshifts on any production car. Should the i10 not be the best car in the world, for being able to do all of that, for a fortieth of the cost of the Rolls?

Or there's the Volkswagen Golf R. Ah, lovely Volkswagen Golf R. It's all the things an i10 is, but more, because it's more fun to drive, faster, a bit more practical and refined, and so on. It's a terrific car and yet is still only £31,355. Should perhaps that not be the best?

Maths doesn't help, here, like it would in some circumstances. Imagine: a Vienetta ice cream is £1.60. But you can buy a dozen choc ices for that money. What's better? The choc ices, obviously. You get more of them, they taste pretty much the same and they're far, far less pretentious than a Vienetta, which is basically pretending it's too good to be a big choc ice. It's a stroll in the park victory for the choc ices.

Try that arithmetic with the Phantom? You can buy at least 11.4 Golfs for the price of a Rolls, but you could have 200 of them, and still none would ride as silently or smoothly as the Phantom. Conversely, cut a Phantom to a tenth of its size and it won't do what a Golf will. Logic, here, is no use at all.

So should the 'best' car simply be the most capable? And in which case, wouldn't it be the Bentley Bentayga? Yes, it is expensive, but is given a harder, broader, brief to fulfill than, I think, any other production car. It has to be a capable 4x4, to tow 3.5-tonnes, and yet needs to be a luxury car too. Oh, but did we mention we also want to be a bit sporting, and have a 187mph top speed? That it does all of these, even though it costs upwards of £160,000, is remarkable. No other car does as many things, as capably, as the Bentley Bentayga. Does that not make it the 'best'?

And the truth is that however you present your argument, in fact, is how you define the best car in the world. There is no right, there is no wrong, there is only opinion. The best car in the world is indefinable.

Except that, obviously, it's a Porsche 911 GT3.


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (26) Join the discussion on the forum

  • tim milne 07 Oct 2017

    John Cleese made a similarly argument to the Viennetta / choc ice comparison (showing your age there, Matt) prior to the arrival of digital TV — one silver teaspoon vs than 500 plastic stirring sticks. As it turns out, choice and abundance have proved to be very useful in TV, allowing the creation of some really innovative programming.

    I think this question has to be viewed in the context of whether cars are to be one-thing-to-all or exist in a pluralistic world where many different types co-exist together. Now, this also brings in the question of price — not all of us can afford multiple cars, with all the associated costs of storing, insuring and running, anymore than we can afford a Bentley Bentayga.

    So, if it's the former, you'd have to say the best car in the world is probably a Golf because that's the car that best matches costs vs capabilities.

  • tim milne 07 Oct 2017

    But, of course, the answer is actually a GT3

  • tomv1to 07 Oct 2017

    Your all wrong. The best car is clearly the outgoing Swift Sport. Not biased in anyway.

  • Plate spinner 07 Oct 2017

    article said: the laws of diminishing returns...
    tim milne said:
    ... matches costs vs capabilities...
    At the top end of any market where Buyers are not necessarily constrained by price, these points are not really relevant.

  • Dave Hedgehog 07 Oct 2017

    tim milne said:
    But, of course, the answer is actually a GT3
    its never going to be a bentayga, no car that induces vomiting at 400 yards like the bentaagghhhga does can ever be fit for anything other than scrap

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