European luxury sedans have been wowing the world in recent years with technology that just a decade ago would have seemed like science fiction, but these cars have also wowed the world with their soaring price tags. The current holy trinity of European luxury barges — the Audi A8, the BMW 7-Series and the Mercedes S-Class — all have a base MSRP from the mid $80,000 range to the low $90,000 range, but can soar to well over six figures with options. Now everybody knows that I’m way too frugal and financially responsible to waste my money on a new S-class, so I did the sensible thing and bought a used 2005 Rolls Royce Phantom.
Of course, it wasn’t just any Rolls Royce Phantom. This was the cheapest Rolls Royce Phantom for sale in the USA that I could find, and even with its low 48,000 miles on the odometer, it does have some issues. Unfortunately, the warranty is long gone on this car that had an original base price of $320,000. But depreciation had taken its toll, and this purple-colored Phantom was offered by a very fancy Rolls Royce, Bentley and Lamborghini dealer in Chicago for only $84,900. The car had been in their inventory for over a year and had seen its price lowered several times, starting from $110,000. My initial $69,000 offer was politely ignored, but after a little back and forth, we settled on $80,000.
Now there’s no way I could afford to pay $80,000 in cash, so I went to my local credit union and asked for a loan. They are used to me at this point, as my 1995 Ferrari F355 is financed there, and they bank-rolled cars in my past like the Acura NSX and Mercedes S600. Still, this was WAY more money than I’ve ever requested before, but with a moderate down payment funded by the sale of my 1991 BMW 850i and 2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, I was approved. I signed what seemed like 80,000 pages of loan documents, and walked out of my little credit union in debt up to my eyeballs, along with an $80,000 check to buy the ultimate luxury car.
Thanks to ghosts — or phantoms — from my past, I have learned not to make major purchases sight unseen if possible. Since Chicago is an easy flight from Kansas, I elected to inspect the goods myself, along with take delivery of the car in person. Normally, I buy cars from auctions or the back alleys of the Internet, so I was a little overwhelmed buying my Rolls Royce from this insanely fancy dealership. Inside was a new Lamborghini Huracan Performante, along with a few classics like a Lamborghini Jalpa and Diablo SV. They also had a boatload of Bentley Bentayga SUVs, along with a wide selection of new Rolls Royces, including a few with price tags topping half a million dollars.
I was too busy gawking at the cars to even notice my Phantom parked outside until the salesman I had been working with pointed it out to me. Honestly, I’m not sure how I didn’t see my massive purple Phantom, which is half an inch longer than a Ford Excursion. Once my eyes did finally gaze upon it though, I was glued to it from that moment forward, and my salesman, Rudy, guided me outside for a tour of the cheapest Phantom in the USA. It was love at first sight.
My love of land yachts is pretty well-documented, as is my disdain for the current trend of making luxury cars feel like iPads on wheels, with less focus on quality and solid engineering as well as sacrificing comfort to make luxury cars seem more sporty. This could have easily happened to Rolls Royce when it was acquired by BMW in 1998, but, miraculously, things somehow got way better. Instead of following current trends, they designed a Rolls Royce that paid homage to the great land yacht luxury cars of the past, something that nobody was making anymore. The Phantom was the first offering of this new generation of Rollers, and in my opinion, it’s the highest evolution: the last of the dinosaurs from the long dead land yacht era. For me, owning one is a dream come true.
My 2005 Phantom certainly didn’t disappoint in person, as the wide, thick-cushioned seats were insanely comfortable, and the quality of the interior materials was extremely good. The engine presentation was equally beautiful and tidy, with very little of its BMW-derived V12 covered up with cheap plastic covers like most modern luxury car offerings. Everything about this car is perfect old school luxury, but it does have a few fun technological party tricks. The power retractable hood ornament is my favorite, which hides away the "Spirit of Ecstasy" inside the grill at the push of the button. The rear "suicide" doors are also power retractable, and while the Phantom is haunted by an unloved early BMW iDrive infotainment system, that can also be hidden away. Almost like a secret room in a Victorian house, an unsuspecting button flips away the screen to replace it with an analog clock mounted to a large wooden panel.
As expected, the cheapest Phantom available in the USA wasn’t in perfect condition. Along with being greeted by the typical BMW chimes during the engine startup sequence, the car also had a few BMW warning messages, including one for power window initialization, as well as an error in the active suspension. There were a few other little problems, but none that dissuaded me from buying the car. Driving a Phantom for the first time was the ultimate luxury experience, exactly as I had imagined it. Other than completely failing at parallel parking the behemoth, I didn’t have any other serious problems.
With a few hundred more signatures at the dealership sales office, and a giant loan check relieved from my wallet, I was the new overjoyed owner of a 2005 Phantom, which was impossible to park in downtown Chicago. I ended up walking and renting a bicycle to get around the city for the rest of the weekend, all the while wondering if my latest purchase would make the 700-mile trip back home. Hopefully the voyage truly leaves me in the spirit of ecstasy rather than unfolding like the storyline of Titanic. FULL STEAM AHEAD!
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