Occasionally, automotive and lifestyle writers are tasked with traveling in style to a luxury boutique hotel, sampling rare wines, and enjoying food prepared by three-star Michelin chefs. We look at it as a duty we’re compelled to perform for our readers. And it’s one of those assignments we rarely turn down.
Recently, I received just such an invitation from Rolls-Royce. Seems they needed a lifestyle writer to take the flagship Phantom II sedan to Carmel-By-The-Sea for Gourmet Fest, a celebration of fine food and wine. The event sponsor, Relais & Chateau, is a worldwide group of boutique hotels and gourmet restaurants, including the lovely L’Auberge in Carmel.
Big Arrival When confronted with a Rolls-Royce Phantom, you’re aware of its subtle enormity. With an overall length of 230 inches, the Phantom II is nearly eight inches longer than Chevy’s giant Suburban SUV. But because of its elegant proportions, the Rolls-Royce is stately, not at all truck-like. But like a Suburban, I knew it would not fit straight ahead in my standard-size garage. It managed a diagonal space, normally reserved for two full-size vehicles.
We traveled to Carmel on California’s scenic Highway One in a mix of bright sunshine, drizzle, and occasional cloudburst. In every instance, the feeling was quiet and composed, so much so that our 60 mph speed might have felt expeditious in an ordinary luxury car.
On a couple of occasions, I passed a slower car and the sensation was surreal. Even with aluminum coachwork, this big Phantom is heavy (tipping the scales at nearly three tons), so rapid acceleration is not an expectation. But there’s enough power available to launch the Phantom from 0 to 60 in just 5.7 seconds, so passing was remarkable for both participants.
Pecking Order In the automotive kingdom, only one majestic machine can be king. Rolls-Royce holds that title with the kind of assurance derived from decades of delivering monarchs to their elegant destinations. So while a Bentley Mulsanne can easily claim ultra-luxury stature, it’s better served facing off against the slightly more petite Rolls-Royce Ghost. And the former Maybach from Mercedes-Benz was never much of a challenge to Phantom’s prominence in this lofty category.
While your humble journalist and his lovely wife are not titled with royal status, perching comfortably in the quiet interior of the Phantom II imparts a special feeling. That momentary stature also elicits a variety of emotions from others. Traveling through ultra-liberal Santa Cruz, we were visibly scorned by two aging hippies in their Toyota Prius. But when we glided up to L’Auberge, we received royal treatment. As a footnote, I’ve learned to bring plenty of currency for tipping on trips like this, since the expectations are as elevated as the car.
Show and Tell While we spent the weekend indulging in gourmet wining and dining pursuits, the Phantom seemed content to bask in regal splendor, towering above ordinary vehicles. And when I was in or around the big Rolls-Royce, I was tasked by strangers to give a commentary of its unique features. The silver handled umbrellas that spring from inside the doors are crowd pleasers along with the hubcaps that float on precision bearings to allow the RR logo to remain perfectly straight. And when the Spirit of Ecstasy above the massive grille disappears when the car is locked, you’ve sealed the deal.
While the Phantom II is content to preen at the curb, it lives for the open road; even one with twists and turns. During our ride home, we stopped at a favorite winery above Santa Cruz to fetch a club shipment. On the way back to Highway One, we were followed by a BMW sport touring motorcycle. Without apparent effort, I picked up the pace through the curves so as not to impede his progress. Later when we stopped for coffee, he approached and confessed that he’d never witnessed a Rolls-Royce maneuver with enthusiasm. He didn’t even ask about the hidden umbrellas. BRIAN DOUGLAS
2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom II
ENGINE: 6.75-liter V12
HORSEPOWER: 453 @ 5,350rpm
TORQUE: 531 lb.-ft. @ 3,500rpm
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 11-city/19-highway/14-combined
BASE PRICE: $402,940
AS TESTED: $482,640