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Classic: Rolls-Royce Phantom

The Good Life Guide may not have been born until shortly before Cigar Aficionado’s 10th anniversary, but the pursuit of excellence has been part of our DNA from the get-go. The section started with just seven categories and soon Time, Places and Gourmet joined the regular roster. On the occasion of our 25th anniversary we tapped the archives of some of our favorite Good Life Guides from the past.

There’s a 90-minute wait at the Vinsetta Garage, a classic, Deco-era service station newly transformed into Detroit’s hottest new eatery. But the line of hungry diners snaking out the front door parts like the Red Sea as we pull up in the new Rolls-Royce Phantom, with the young hostess dashing out for a look before letting us know there’s a table waiting.

For those wondering what the 1 percent of the 1-percenters drive, this is it. And it doesn’t take long to realize a Rolls is as much about the power of brand perception as it is about owning the ultimate in elegantly bespoke automobiles. Whether pulling up to the Lodge at Pebble Beach or a night club in New York, heads swivel and doors open.

The Phantom boasts the massive presence one would expect of a Rolls-Royce flagship, adopting an only slightly less ostentatious grille than the original (1925) version of the saloon car, topped by the classic Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament that has adorned the brand’s products for nearly a century. The size of a full-size pickup, it is not a vehicle that disappears into the crowd.

Slip behind the wheel and you can’t escape the sense of tradition. True, the Phantom [pictured here is the 2018 model] is a very modern car, well-equipped with the latest technology—from the new eight-speed gearbox to the slick infotainment system borrowing the best iDrive technology developed by German parent BMW. But the linear heritage is equally apparent in the details of the hand-stitched leather and mirror-gloss wood trim that has required nearly 100 hours of careful trimming and polishing by craftsmen whose parents and grandparents likely plied their trade on the Rolls line before them.

Tipping into the throttle one can’t ignore the pure heft of the car’s near three tons, yet its 453-horsepower, 6.75-liter V-12 has enormous pulling power, readily keeping up with the kids in their muscle cars who foolishly expect to leave you lumbering behind. No, you’re not going to weave through the S-curves like a Porsche Panamera, but the big Rolls maintains surprising poise even in aggressive driving, with little body roll in corners.

But you should expect that. Odds are that the person up front is a chauffeur, whose charges slide into the absolutely cavernous rear cabin through a pair of “suicide doors.” There they’ll find an elegant decanter waiting, along with cut crystal glasses. Sadly, it will be up to the new owner to supply the Château Margaux or Dom Perignon. Of course, all key controls, such as the climate and audio systems, are duplicated in the back, as well. And our Rolls came equipped with the latest in mobile office technology, including fold-down rear tables that handily concealed a pair of compact computers.

Anyone who wonders just how the rich are different from the rest of the folks in line at the Vinsetta Garage need only spend a few minutes inside a Rolls-Royce Phantom. To own the experience takes $398,000—before gas-guzzler fee and $100,000 for the options we enjoyed. 

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