Minutes after easing out of the Savannah, Ga., airport in a 2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe Series II, it struck me: This hulking piece of steel, chrome and Alpine bull leather is worth more than my suburban New Jersey home. My co-pilot Harvey laughed. A veteran automobile writer from Wisconsin, he’s accustomed to burning rubber in Ferraris and Land Rovers. Me, I’m more of a ’98 Jetta guy. Yet here I was, sailing down I-95 toward Sea Island Golf Club in a 5,600-pound, 450-horsepower fortress-on-wheels that feels less like a car than a catamaran. Asking price: $490,000, fully loaded.
When you slide behind the wheel of Rolls, the first emotion you feel is fear. (As in, Please, Lord, don’t let me back into that stop sign.) Then comes unworthiness. And, finally, mercifully, bliss. Just look at your sumptuous surrounds: the three-inch-thick lambswool floormats; the spotless leather interior; the fridge and drinks cabinet built stealthily into the backseat armrest; the 1,600 tiny fibre optic lights hand-woven into the roof to create the illusion of a starry night. My favorite feature: umbrella holsters hidden within the driver and passenger’s side doors. Press a button and — voila! — a parasol pops out like a Whack-a-Mole.
It’s opulence on overdrive. But it’s what you don’t feel — and hear — that’s most impressive: bumps, ruts, wind gusts, Taylor Swift whaling from the adjacent car. The Phantom is impervious to it all. “It lowers your pulse,” says Rolls product manager Terence Grogan, an amiable New Yorker by way of Ireland.
It also raises eyebrows. Even at the glitziest of golf clubs and resorts — places like Sea Island, where the lot is filled with Jags and Mercs — a Rolls remains as rare as a double-eagle. Guests gawk. Valets grin. Which isn’t to say Rolls sales aren’t brisk. In fact, the company has been on a bit of a roll. In 2014, the automaker sold 4,063 cars worldwide, which is a 12% increase from ’13 — and the fifth consecutive year of record sales. (In the U.S., sales in ’14 spiked by almost a third.)
Credit the combination of sleeker, hipper offerings, like the two-door Wraith, paired with the ability to customize. Just as you can order up a golf club to your every need and desire, so, too, can you have a Rolls built to order. One recent buyer requested that the company build his veneer from a piece of wood he salvaged from his property. “Another customer asked us to match the exterior paint to a shade of lipstick,” Grogan says.
On our Georgia journey, Harvey and I put a whopping 150 miles on our Phantom — whopping because most Rolls owners put no more than 5,000 miles on their cars annually. Neither of us had packed our golf clubs, but we would have had plenty of room for them. The Phantom’s 16 cubic feet of trunk space comfortably fits two golf bags and a pair of carry-ons.
Shortcomings? None to speak of, assuming you’re O.K. with ogling from strangers. Actually, there was one small hiccup when the built-in navigation system diverted us to the wrong address in St. Simon’s Island.
“See, it’s not perfect,” Harvey quipped.
No, but it’s awfully close.