Driving and experiencing the Rolls-Royce Phantom EWB
by Michael Erhardt with thanks to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
When I had my first date with a Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase the weather was too bad to take good pictures. It was dark with a heavy snowfall. Of course I was happy even for that, because it was just one week after the European debut of this car at the Geneva Motorshow 2006 and so extremely topical.
On the other hand I felt sorry about the bad weather conditions for good pictures, and so I asked Rolls-Royce Motorcars for another chance. To get my wish come true I had to wait until the last weekend of August. One reason for the long waiting period is because Rolls-Royce only have one EWB demonstrator for the European Continent and Middle East. So since my first date with such a car, the second meeting had to be postponed two more times owing to the demonstrator having been sold. Doing the pictures together with a friend, who is a member of the Swiss Section and who does not live far away from Munich, helped Rolls-Royce Motorcars giving us a car for a long weekend.
As for the first time, I was again picked up by the car from my office. This time it was UX00849, a car with Gulf Country Specification and Arabic Owners Handbook.
There was also something written in Arabian letters in the right mirror. A very elegant car, painted in “Black Kirsch” with double coachlining in Moccasin.
Inside the leather in Moccasin was combined with fine “Elm Cluster”. Theatre configuration with two separate adjustable seats, and three curtains in the rear, a steering wheel with wooden spokes for the driver made this EWB a very fine example.
Once again I preferred sitting in the rear of the car first. It cannot be described how great it feels, the legs comfortably crossed and being chauffeured home in the greatest of style. No, there is nothing that can top that! At home we picked up my wife and son (then 4 years old) to head off for our first photo shoot at Schloss Schleißheim, just a few miles outside of Munich.
This time it was I who drove the car. Although I have driven several Phantoms before, I am always fascinated by their unbelievable quietness and smoothness:
Having climbed into your seat – yes, you do not sit down into the Phantom, you climb into it(!) – you push the key into the lock and then push the starter button. Suddenly you feel that there is something that makes the car come to life, and there comes a whisper from somewhere in the front, which must be under the bonnet. And then, there is absolute silence again. After touching the accelerator slightly the car starts moving soundlessly. There seems to be no engine in the car. It is like floating and much smoother than in all previous Rolls-Royce cars. There is absolutely no other car that can be compared with the Phantom in this discipline.
Driving at higher speeds is another highlight. Twice I had the pleasure of driving a Phantom on longer distances on the Autobahn (all together about 700 km). Driving and gliding on small roads through picturesque scenery in a Phantom is of unequalled quality, but travelling at 230 km/h (144 mph by my reckoning - Ed) constantly on the Autobahn (if traffic allows) is more than sensational, because the Phantom is unbelievably relaxing to drive - even at such speeds. The character of the car, the way it moves and keeps its way on the road, makes the driver keep cool in every situation. There may be a bit of a wind noise at very high speeds, but the Phantom never gets loud. It is exceptionally quiet and so when you drive at 230 km/h in the Phantom, it feels like 120 km/h (75mph - Ed) in normal cars. Yes, the Phantom is a class of its own in every way!
Of course, even the sun has its spots, but there are only a very few. Adjusting the seat is not very comfortable, because every time you want to change your position you have to disturb your neighbour and ask him to lift his resting arm from the centre armrest so that you can open the lid to reach the relevant buttons. You will have the same problem when sitting in the rear of a “Theatre car”.
When travelling at night, drivers and passengers may wish for some buttons to be illuminated, eg those at the steering wheel which are just chrome plated or those to activate the seat lights or the night cruise illumination of the interior. These buttons are black on a black background!
Coming back to the EWB, we recognised a slight vibration of the body when crossing railroads. This may be due to the enormous size of the EWB, because the standard Phantom feels stiff like a castle. Also the EWB cannot hide its weight. Hard braking at traffic lights revealed that UX00849 with its special equipment is slightly heavier than a standard Phantom, but the brakes are not weak at all. They really are excellent, but it is obvious that they have to work harder to stop the car.
How do people react on the Rolls-Royce Phantom EWB? To find out we parked the car on a Saturday just in front of Schloss Nymphenburg, where cars normally are prohibited. Driving with a car into this area would normally cause offence - not so with the EWB.
People were enthusiastic, and when the doors were opened the car was the main attraction, relegating the Castle to a minor matter. Spontaneously people recognised the car as a Rolls-Royce, there was hardly a mention of BMW.
Getting on the road, people either ignore the car (they must be those not interested in cars at all) or look with fascination. Some suddenly take out a camera and take pictures. Even on the Autobahn you are being enthusiastically photographed. Young and old, all like viewing the Phantom.
Thanks to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars for giving me a second chance to experience the extended Phantom in such brilliant weather. This weekend really was perfect with a royal car to be photographed at royal locations.
Text & photos: Michael Ehrhardt