Rolls Royce—the name is synonymous with elegant, refined luxury. While many companies produced luxury cars, Rolls Royce produced transportation for the select few, the wealthiest and most discerning.
A lot has changed since the company formed back in 1906. Now the company is wholly owned by BMW, though the cars are still built in England to the very highest standards of craftsmanship.
Other companies offer luxury sedans with more performance, possibly even more luxury. But no other company can match the cachet of owning a Rolls Royce—and with fewer than 400 cars sold per year, no Rolls owner is likely to park next to an identical car at some 5-star restaurant or exclusive club.
Rolls Royce knows that because its name commands such respect, it has no need to economize—in fact, cutting corners to save money would ruin the marque.
Rolls Royce would rather make parts by hand than save time and money automating production. Thirty different craftsmen, from seamstresses to professional polishers create each car.
Money is no object when building or buying a Rolls; people who buy the car know they are buying the best, and that is worth whatever the price might be.
Inside, only the finest materials are used: flawless leather, wood with the grain carefully matched so each side of the car is identical with the other. For those who seek to bring the outdoors in, there is an option to have thousands of fiberoptic bulbs placed in the headliner so when a passenger looks up, he sees stars overhead.
Rolls Royce offers the latest in active suspension and chassis stabilization, so that the backseat passengers will never spill a drop of champagne even while traversing a rutted road at respectably high speed.
The cars offer every sort of driver aid including infrared cameras to help detect possible obstacles in low-light conditions. The satellite GPS system scans the road ahead and chooses the best gear for the car depending on how fast it is going.
The cars come with Internet hotspots built in-heaven forbid some executive should ever miss a global teleconference while driving—and of course, the sound system has more speakers than it needs and enough adjustments to create any sound environment a passenger might desire.
The cars can even be painted any color the buyer chooses—bring in a favorite necktie or lipstick, and the factory will match it.
Rolls Royce currently offers three distinct lines of vehicles: the top –of-the-line Phantom, the luxurious and stately Ghost, and the Wraith, almost a sporty (in a very upper-class English gentleman’s sense) coupé model.
There are four Phantom models: the Phantom, the Coupé, Drophead Coupé, and the extended wheelbase version. Each offers unprecedented quality. These are big, square-haunched cars, massive and solid, but proportioned so that they don’t look stodgy.
Though the cars weigh about three tons, they move with ample velocity—no one in a Rolls would ever need to hurry—thanks to a 6.8-liter four-valve V12 engine producing 453 bhp. The factory claims a 0–60 time of 5.7 seconds—though likely few owners (or drivers) will ever test it—and its top speed is governed electronically at a sensible 150 mph.
Performance of course is not a selling point. People buy Rolls Royce for luxury, and nowadays luxury means options and electronics, and as one would expect, if a customer can imagine it, Rolls Royce can provide it.
While the Phantom embodies the air of carefully modulated excess, the Ghost offers simplicity. It is a more modest car, with all of the quality but a little less ostentation. This is a car for people who want to stand out, but just a little.
This car is offered in the Ghost, Extended Wheelbase, and V-Specification models, the latter a limited edition offering a little extra power, not that more power is needed.
The Ghost line is slightly smaller with a slightly smaller (6.6-liter) engine tuned to produce more power: 563 for the base model and 593 for the V-Specification. Like all Rolls Royce engines, this one is tuned for torque, so the car can move out smartly in traffic despite its bulk.
Finally, the Wraith is the smallest, lightest of the bunch, weighing a mere 5400 lbs. and getting 624 horsepower out of its 6.6-liter V12.
The Wraith is the sports car for the buyer of great breeding, the sort who understands that sport doesn’t demand breaking a sweat; and with the power on tap, the Wraith will move quite quickly without much effort.
0–60 is a claimed 4.4 seconds, respectable for many a more sports-oriented automobile; the Wraith, of course, will achieve the acceleration with impeccable aplomb.
Rolls Royce builds cars that are excessive, plainly. In purely practical terms, no one needs that much bulk, power, or luxury. But in human terms … there are people who need to own these cars, and Rolls Royce has been in the business of meeting that need for over a century. The current models keep that heritage going.