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CAR OF THE MONTH November 2006

2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom Review

No Illusion of Grandeur

by Alain Gayot

A three-quarter front view of a 2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom

In short: The ultimate luxurious, comfortable large sedan.

Sir Henry Royce once said, “Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it.”

This pretty effectively describes the Rolls-Royce Phantom, a grand motor car built from the ground up by using and improving upon state-of-the-art BMW technology and 100 years of classic Rolls-Royce tradition. It is a car like no other, and it would have to be with a price tag in the neighborhood of $350,000 — give or take ten or twenty grand worth of options. The Phantom is as much of an experience as a form of transportation, and although certainly not for everyone, it is definitely a car that everyone dreams about.

2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom

About 800 of these masterful creations enter luxurious service each year in the United States. Many Phantom owners generally inhabit the supremely-spacious rear quarters while Jeeves whoever their chauffeur is guides this ultra-limousine down the Rodeo Drives and Fifth Avenues of America. What ol’ Jeeves will find is an unparalleled, often surreal driving experience. To begin with, the Phantom is big, really big. It weighs more than two Mini Coopers, is half a foot longer than a Chevy Suburban and is more than five feet tall. If that’s just not big enough, an even longer, extended wheelbase version is now available.

When gazing out over the thin-rim steering wheel, the Spirit of Ecstasy perched atop the silver grille seems like it’s in another zip code, facilitating the need for an optional $3,300 split screen camera system that shows what is happening on either side of the bow when nudging into a street. Yet, beyond adjusting for its girth, the Phantom can be as easy to drive as a golf cart with feather-light steering that nevertheless provides plenty of feedback. Just place your hands on the odd, chauffeur-friendly grips at four and eight o’clock, and the Rolls cruises with ease in a straight line on highways and city streets alike.

A side view of a 2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom

All that girth is hauled around by a BMW 6.75-liter V12 under the hood capable of 453 horsepower and 531 pounds-feet of torque. Zero to 60 mph zips by in a scant 5.7 seconds, and accelerating that quickly in something so large never gets old. Unnecessary bursts of acceleration aside, the owner/passenger in back will appreciate feeling like a baby in a cradle, cruising in total comfort as if Jeeves is actually respecting the speed limit. A quick glance at the classic speedometer, though, could easily show an effortless and tomb-like quiet 120 mph. How BMW and Rolls do that is the third-of-a-million dollar question, but inches of noise-deadening materials and the wonderful suspension probably have something to do with it.

While BMW provided only the last generation Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph’s V12 engine, now that they own the brand, many more facets of the Bavarian Motor Works have crept into this version—particularly inside. The column-mounted gear selector, iDrive controller (thankfully with separate radio and A/C controls) and even audible tones are similar to those found in the BMW 7-Series. Rest assured, though, that the interior is still a handcrafted work of art even more impressive than what you’d imagine a Rolls-Royce to be like. Every inch that isn’t covered with supple leather has beautiful veneered wood, chrome and other fine textures.

2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom

Above all else, this is a car about details. The RR logos on the 21-inch rims do not spin with the rest of the wheels, remaining legible to commoners on the side of the road. There is an umbrella inside each of the elegantly nifty coach rear doors. The iDrive controller and screen disappear behind veneer wood panels. Plus, owners can personalize their Phantoms with a refrigerator, a humidor, a 24-carat gold Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament and just about any exterior or interior color they wish (at a price, of course). Even the standard Spirit of Ecstasy disappears neatly into the grille when the car is locked for her own protection.

Whether driving or sitting comfortably behind Jeeves in the back, the Rolls-Royce Phantom exudes a feeling of grandeur that is not an illusion. In many ways you could say this is the best car in the world. If you’re the type of person, like Sir Henry Royce himself, who strives for perfection in everything you do (and have the cash), why not get the very best that exists?

A three-quarter rear view of a 2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom

Read a review of the 2011 Rolls-Royce Ghost

Warranty/Service: 4-year/unlimited-mile basic warranty; 4-year/unlimited-mile full maintenance program; 4-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance.

Base Price: $328,750 /As tested: $346,650

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

Engine: 6.75-liter V12
Horsepower: 453 bhp @ 5350 rpm
Torque: 531 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Curb weight: 5,600 lbs
Wheelbase: 140.6 in
229.7/78.3/64.3 in
Turning circle: 39.7 feet

Brakes: four-wheel disc with ABS, electronic brake assist and cornering brake control
independent front and rear with self-leveling air springs
traction control, vehicle stability control

Safety: front air bags, front side air bags, front and rear side curtain air bags; active knee protection, tire pressure monitor, run-flat tires

0-60 mph:
5.7 seconds

Top Speed: 14.3 mph (governed)

EPA City: 12 mpg
EPA Highway: 19 mpg

Likes: Unparalleled luxury, size, presence, exclusivity; powerful V12; divine details

Dislikes: Covered power seat buttons; odd A/C controls; dry-clean only floor mats; parking it

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Photography: AlphaMedia

(Updated 09/13/11 NW)