But should you buy one?
Despite being one of the most luxurious automakers in the world, prior to 2003 Rolls-Royce faced an uncertain future. Having become a subsidiary of BMW back in 1998, in the ensuing five years, the German automaker set out to restore the British marque to its former glory. The process involved building an all-new facility in the United Kingdom to construct an all-new vehicle of world-class stature.
Launched at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, the Rolls-Royce Phantom was the first production model from the newly-created Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited. The car was clearly a success and Rolls-Royce has since flourished under BMW ownership. Those original cars from the early 2000s have now become a relative bargain and one a smart buyer should investigate.
Aside from its unparalleled luxury and comfort, a Rolls-Royce is one of the most iconic vehicles you can see on the road. No one will mistake a Rolls-Royce for any other car and when you step out of one, people instantly know you are important. Only the rich and famous can typically afford a Rolls-Royce but the cars have not been impervious to depreciation. You can now look like a Kardashian without having a seven-figure bank account.
A 2004 Rolls-Royce Phantom had a starting price of $320,000 when it was new. Today, a brand-new 2019 model will set you back $450,000. But if you are willing to buy one with some mileage - around 30,000 to 50,000 - you can now pick one up starting at around $75,000. To put that into perspective, a used Phantom now costs less than a brand-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, or Lexus LS 500 - for a car with the Spirit of Ecstacy on the hood. Rolls-Royce didn't even change the car drastically over its 13-year life cycle, meaning a 2004 model doesn't look distinctly different from a much pricier 2016 model.
BMW developed a 6.75-liter V12 engine specifically for use in the Phantom, producing 453 horsepower and 531 lb-ft routed to the rear wheels through a ZF six-speed automatic transmission (later replaced by an eight-speed). 0-60 mph was estimated at around 5.7 seconds, though acceleration figures are not what is important in a Rolls-Royce. Rather, a Rolls-Royce should accelerate effortlessly without disturbing the driver or their passengers. This V12 is nearly silent and the car glides over imperfections in the road as if they weren't there.
Even to this day, Rolls-Royce interiors are designed to blend the best of old school luxury with modern reliability. All of the technology is placed in the background, so it doesn't disturb the ambiance. There is an infotainment display, but it can be hidden behind a panel with a built-in clock. The Phantom debuted with an older version of BMW's iDrive system and even the company's brand-new products currently use outdated infotainment. Luckily, hopping into a 2004 Phantom won't be too jarring because the technology is not integral to the driving experience. The rest of the cabin is filled with wood, metal, and other high-quality materials.
Driving a Rolls-Royce is a wonderful experience but being chauffeured around in one is even better. Rear occupants are treated to 37.3 inches of legroom and some models boast features like folding tray tables, a built-in refrigerator, curtains, recliners, and umbrellas in the doors. When being driven around in a Rolls-Royce, you can close the blinds and forget about the world, arriving at the destination more relaxed than when you set off.
It is difficult to believe you can now buy a used Rolls-Royce for less than the price of a new BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus. Those cars all boast more modern technology and new car warranties but the Phantom simply outclasses them all. You may have to roll the dice on reliability and maintenance but no one said living like royalty didn't have some associated cost. Owing one of the newer luxury sedans off the showroom floor will certainly be easier but not nearly as fulfilling as driving a Rolls-Royce Phantom.