Rolls-Royce Phantom | The Brave Pill

As Disney's PR machine goes into blurry hyperdrive over the imminent arrival of what should be the last Star Wars film, Pill has headed all the way back to the mostly dreadful Episode One to take inspiration for this week's candidate. Behold, the Phantom Menace.

There are different ways to look at a car this posh wearing a 150,000 mile odometer reading. The first, admittedly, is the more traditional one - to run for the hills, or treat it with the sort of caution normally reserved for fizzing grenades or misspelt investment opportunities from exiled members of West African royal families.

The second is a more courageous approach, exactly the sort that Pill was established to promote: to wonder if the care and attention that has obviously been lavished on getting such a complicated, expensive car such a distance means, perversely, it is a better bet than some of the lower mileage alternatives being offered for much more.

It certainly looks good. The word "purple" in any car advertisement is likely to get the reader's face pre-winced if they haven't seen the images yet, but the reality of the Phantom's deep imperial shade is one that suits the car especially well. The matching carpet is perhaps a little more 'seventies, but the good news is that the rest of our Pill's interior is in the magnolia-and-walnut combo that always looks right in Rollers and Bentleys.

Despite squinting at the images, evidence of wear is minimal with the obvious exception of the patch in the carpet where the driver's ankle has rested, and which would be hidden by a set of fitted mats. To get finicity there is also what looks like discolouration on some of the interior trim, which may just because the hue of different materials has altered at different rates. But it doesn't look anything like as beaten-up as 150,000 miles would make most things.

Our Pill is also about as cheap as Phantoms ever get, certainly in the UK. By the standards of ultra-luxury saloons the Phantom VII has always been something of a bank vault in terms of retained value. Before options this Phantom would have cost its first owner Β£216,000, and despite the 14 years and being most of the way to the moon it is still looks well priced when being offered for more than a quarter of that. Bear in mind it's barely a month since Pill featured a Maybach 62 with just 37,000 miles for Β£39,950.

Of course, the Phantom is a far more appealing car than the Maybach ever was, but although it was huge news when it was launched in 2003 it's worth remembering that the Rolls' early reception wasn't the warmest. Plenty of traditional Rolls-Royce owners were openly sceptical about the idea of a BMW-built version and - like the Bentley Continental - the Phantom got stick for sharing some of its componentry with more proletarian models. In truth most of the common componentry was invisible, and although the N73 V12 was related to the motor in the contemporary BMW 760i it had been given substantial changes including increased capacity, more torque and about a quarter of a ton of soundproofing. It is a shame that BMW couldn't get the V16 that it had started developing for the car to work, though.

The Phantom experience was properly special, more so given the contrast to what had gone before. The previous Rolls-Royce saloon was the almost entirely forgotten Silver Seraph, effectively a Rolls-ified version of the Arnage from the period when both brands were under common ownership. The Rolls looked weedier than the Bentley and had a relatively insipid 5.4-litre V12 in place of the muscular turbocharged V8 that most Arnages packed; it felt like a complete afterthought and sold in accordingly limited volumes.

By contrast, BMW had thrown an entire gothic kitchen at the new Phantom. It was enormous; even the standard wheelbase version was nearly six metres long and as tall as many SUVs. Design was imposing to the point of staying at your house uninvited for a couple of weeks and drinking all your beer, with the "coach hinged" suicide doors at the back creating street-stopping theatre. I drove one for the first time in central London, which should have been terrifying, but actually turned out to be something like a magic carpet ride, the XXL Roller receiving an unprecedented level of deference from cabbies and even white van drivers, uncharacteristically happy to surrender road space to something so spectacular.

While the Phantom's driving manners predictably prioritize those in the back there is still a decent amount of fun to be had in the driver's seat. You sit very upright in the front of a Phantom, with powerful power assistance and a narrow wheel rim discouraging any detailed exploration of the limits of lateral grip. Yet it can still be persuaded to roll along in a forceful fashion. There isn't a rev counter, this was the first use of Rolls's "Power Reserve" meter, and well before this passes the 50 percent mark acceleration is already getting strong enough to earn a frisky chauffeur a stern tap on the back of the head from a silver-tipped cane.

Yet I suspect the abiding impression, now as when the car was new, will be the cabin's remarkable powers of noise cancellation. The V12 engine is normally so hushed you can't hear it, road and wind noise should be pretty much non-existent even at a naughty motorway cruise. The new Phantom VIII is even more subdued at speed, but I'm not sure that much else would be.

You will be entirely surprised that main dealer servicing holds to the old Rolls adage of "if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it" - although an impressive number of early Phantom VIIs are reportedly still being maintained by official franchises. The good news is that there are several well-regarded specialists for owners looking to trim ownership costs on older examples and that beyond a rapacious appetite for some consumables the Phantom is actually regarded as pretty tough (a point this car proves better than any.) Bills are inevitable, and some will be big enough to be painful, but this is far from the silliest car to have featured here.

Our Pill is being sold by a Lotus dealer in Norfolk - let's hope it was chopped in for something equally interesting - and although the numberplates aren't visible we've worked some PH magic to have a peek at the MOT history. This is a reassuring sea of green with only a couple of advisories for worn tyres and suspension components, and a single fail for illegally spaced registration plate letters. The record suggests continuous use, which has to be a positive, and also that the rate of mileage accumulation has tailed off in recent years, the Phantom passing 119,000 in 2012.

Of course, it won't be cheap to either buy or run, but it will be interesting - this is quite possibly the highest-mileage example in the country. So who isn't scared of this Phantom?

See the original advert here

Search for a Rolls-Royce Phantom here

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Comments (56) Join the discussion on the forum

  • oilit 09 Nov 2019

    RR offer free servicing for the first 5 (I think) years regardless of mileage, so if you can afford one it's a great buy for high miles - I remember seeing someone who had one with 160000 in less than two years - and they said they kept them until the free service & warranty ran out and then chopped in for a new one.

    I also have a mate who has one he drives and he says whilst the main dealer experience is great - it does have its foibles and has always said the A8L which is also in his 'fleet' is a better proposition as a daily drive

  • A1VDY 09 Nov 2019

    That brickweave is a right mess, could do with a clean. Wire brush between bricks and a wash over with caustic soda would do the trick.
    Then.. take pictures of the car.
    Tbf, Stratton motor Co. have a nice enough frontage at their garage anyway..

    Edited by A1VDY on Saturday 9th November 06:44

  • Turbobanana 09 Nov 2019

    PH said:
    The word "purple" in any car advertisement is likely to get the reader's face pre-winced.
    Why do you constantly propagate the view that anything not black, silver or grey is undesirable? Are you sponsored by a paint manufacturer with an extremely limited range?

  • myvision 09 Nov 2019

    I'd have expected the carpet to have worn better than it has.

  • Augustus Windsock 09 Nov 2019

    Not my cup of Darjeeling, new or used.
    Apart from the fact I’m not one of its target customers, I would never want a car like this, magnificent as it it, not just because of the way it looks or drives, but also because I haven’t sufficient essential organs that I could sell when it ‘fails to proceed’
    As for the comment about covering the hole in the carpet, let’s be real, any self-respecting prospective purchaser would lift any after-market kats to look what they are hiding
    If you’re spending this sort of ££££ on a Royce, I’d look at getting a genuine carpet of the used variety from a specialist. Or at a push a set of the deep lambs wool rugs I thought they came with from new?
    Magnificent but potentially ruinous

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