How often do you get the opportunity to drive every model in the Rolls-Royce line-up back-to-back? Never! That is what went through our mind when we received an invitation from Rolls-Royce to join them for a tour from the special Rolls-Royce exhibition in the BMW Museum in Munich to Hotel Berge in Aschau am Chiemgau, and back! We have enjoyed some individual experiences with Rolls-Royce including our road tests of the Phantom Series II and Wraith but getting a chance to compare them directly is new to us.
But before we embark on our journey through the German countryside we take a closer look at the Rolls-Royce exhibition at the BMW Museum. Launched last year in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the modern Rolls-Royce Phantom, this is the first Rolls-Royce exhibition at the BMW Group’s headquarters in Munich. Don’t mistake this for the Rolls-Royce display in the BMW Welt across the street, this exhibition displays 15 of the most iconic Rolls-Royce automobiles of all time.
Themed the ‘Strive for Perfection’ the exhibition is put together largely by Dr. Andreas Braun, Curator of the BMW Museum and also our guide for the private tour. The exhibition starts at the top floor of the museum where we meet the first Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost dating back to the 1910s. Every step of the way the history of Rolls-Royce is further documented with various photographs, ornaments and accessories including the first sketches and examples of the Spirit of Ecstasy.
Interesting fact is that Rolls-Royce used to produce the chassis with engine and drivetrain which was then sent to a dedicated coach-builder who finished the body of the car. The final car would return to the Rolls-Royce factory before handing them over to the customer with full warranty from Rolls-Royce. Even if components made by the coach-builder broke Rolls-Royce would look after the defect. Today many coach-builders no longer exist or have been acquired by major firms. Many of their names might still ring a bell, like: Park Ward, Mulliner, Fleetwood or Scaglietti.
The Rolls-Royce ‘Strive for Perfection’ exhibition can be visited at the BMW Museum in Munich until September 30th 2014. And when you’ve taken in all the history of the brand from 1904, the BMW Museum next door is worth a visit too. With the outstanding private tour of the exhibition behind us it was time to hit the road. Right outside the Museum nearly the entire Rolls-Royce line-up was shining in the sun. Time for us to make a choice, what car should we drive first?
We opt for the Wraith as the first car – knowing that the route leads us out of Munich via a very nice straight bit of unlimited autobahn it seems like the right thing to do! We crawl behind the wheel and plant our feet in the lovely thick carpets, but no time to relax yet! First stop: The Maximillianstrasse, a luxury shopping street in the center of Munich. You might wonder why? Well, if a car manages attract attention from the spoiled locals here it really means something. At first sight not that many people seem to pay attention at the Salamanca Blue Rolls-Royce Wraith but as soon as we park up people start to take a closer look at the stunning fastback. Some passing cars even stop and get out to take photos and within no time we are surrounded by people. This tells us the Wraith is something special and clearly valued by the locals, who normally don’t even blink when a 200,000+ Euro Bentley drives past.
With that done its time to explore the sporty side of the new Wraith. Wraith is the most powerful Rolls-Royce in history. Behind the deep set Pantheon grille sits a potent 6.6 litre, twin turbo-charged V12 engine. Delivering 624 bhp with 800 Nm of torque, it powers from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Even with this formidable power, Wraith is every inch a refined Rolls-Royce with electronically controlled air suspension that creates the signature ‘magic carpet ride’. The Wraith, just like the other Rolls-Royces on sale today, doesn’t have any paddles or even a rev counter – instead there is an automatic transmission and a ‘power meter’ that simply displays home much of the cars power is still available. 100% in idle, 0% under full acceleration but mostly somewhere between 20-30%.
Not far from the center of Munich lies the start of the A8 autobahn to Salzburg. After one last traffic light lies a long unlimited autobahn where the Wraith can show us how sporty it really is. The Wraith has rear wheel drive, just like the Ghost and the Phantom, but with a weight of 2,440 kg + two people and wide tires on a dry surfaces there are very few traction issues. As soon as the light turns green we plant our right foot at the bottom and the Wraith shoots forwards towards Salzburg. 100, 160, 220, only at 260 km/h the seemingly unstoppable acceleration is interrupted by the electronic limiter. Wow! The 0-60 mph figure only tells part of the story, it is the tremendous torque and power available between roughly 80 and 250 km/h that is really impressive.
We continue at varying speeds down the A8 and realize how quiet the Wraith is, yes under power you can hear a bit of the V12 but overall the engine does its job primarily in silence. After 50 kilometers we leave the autobahn for what it is and head down various B-roads deeper into the Bavarian country side. Passing through small villages and towns the reactions from onlookers make us realize a Rolls-Royce is not something they see every day. On the empty roads between the towns the Wraith shows his sporty sides although the sheer weight of the car does leave its marks through corners and under braking. Yet again it is the most nimble Rolls-Royce yet and it never had the ambition to be a thoroughbred racer.
We have lunch at the iconic hotel Berge in Aschau im Chiemgau, a hotel that sees itself mostly as a retreat and actually praises the lack of cell phone reception in the area for ultimate relaxation. Each room is different and features some unusual and creative designs using many natural materials including a lot of wood. Out in the garden are a few small bungalows and a wild, yet carefully planned garden.
After lunch we feel totally relaxed and it is time to plant our feet in the ultra-thick carpets of the Phantom Series II. There is no car on the market today with more grandeur and style than the Phantom and being driven around in one feels like a privilege only royals get. Despite the fact that nowadays the Phantom is also driven by entrepreneurs, celebrities and rappers around the world doesn’t seem to have done much to the image of the Rolls-Royce. Everyone you pass still likes to get a look at who is sitting in the back of the Phantom.
Driving a round in this 2014 model of the Phantom it is hard to believe that the Phantom is already in production for 11 years. Since the introduction of the first Phantom under BMW ownership, what could be considered the 7th generation Phantom, the car has become an synonym for success and style. Driving is nearly completely secondary to well-being of the passenger. Steering the Phantom across narrow country roads and through towns feels like an operation on its own. In the passenger seat you have everything you can wish for, from television to a seat so comfortable its hard not to fall asleep.
How does it compare to the Ghost? The Ghost is the Phantom’s little brother. But don’t take this the wrong way, in same ways the Ghost is better than the Phantom. It is faster and easier to drive than the Phantom. Everybody used to driving a 7-Series or an Audi A8 can get used to driving a Ghost. It has the same level of style and comfort as the Phantom but a little less prestige, although surprisingly few people will recognize it as a Ghost on first side. You can still hide or pop up the Flying Lady at the touch of a button. And in the rear of the Ghost things are actually a bit tidier and more spacious since the entertainment screens moved into the back of the seat and are no longer placed on a fold out table like in the Phantom.
Would we rather have a Ghost over a Phantom? As a daily driver we would probably opt for a Ghost but for these special occasions the Phantom is still the only option as nothing comes close to its level of style and prestige.
With the Wraith, Ghost and Phantom all in the mix we would almost forget there was another Rolls-Royce with us on our memorable trip through Bavaria: a Phantom Drophead Coupe. Without a doubt the worlds most exclusive and stylish convertible. Until Rolls-Royce releases the Wraith Drophead it is also the only convertible Rolls-Royce has on offer today. Like the Wraith it takes a bit getting used to the suicide doors in the front, although once you do get used to it is very easy to get in and out of the Drophead Coupe. The doors itself redefine what you believe a car door to be, forget the metal clunky sound of most cars, close this one and you hear a distinct *doooshh*. The doors weigh as much as a Fiat 500 each but feel truly first class and provide excellent noise isolation. With the cloth roof up you might not suspect being in a convertible as there is hardly any noise from the outside penetrating the cabin.
The ride is as you would expect from anything with Phantom in the name, extremely smooth. The Drophead Coupe is not a lightweight either so corners are not its thing perse. Instead stick to long autobahn journeys and cruising around town to enjoy the Drophead Coupe to the max. No wonder you see most of them in places like Southern France and Miami. The ultimate locations to show off the worlds ultimate convertible!
If you enjoyed this story also make sure to check out our individual reviews of the Rolls-Royce Wraith, Rolls-Royce Ghost and Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II. Stay tuned for upcoming reviews of the Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II, the upcoming Wraith Drophead and the rumored Rolls-Royce SUV.