Wednesday, 11 December 2013

What's it like to drive a Rolls-Royce?

IT WAS a curious conclusion to reach. The best car in the world was a strangely underwhelming one.

There are certain cherries, if you love driving cars, you’ve just got to pop. Burying the throttle on a REALLY powerful car on a private track, for instance – take a bow, Jaguar XKR-S – is one of them, and unleashing an Aston Martin for the first time is another. It’s also true that, as much as I love getting to the nitty gritty of whether the latest supermini is or isn’t worth your hard earned cash, I’m still waiting to fulfil that schoolboy fantasy of getting behind the wheel of Ferrari.

That’s why I had a certain giddy sense of expectation about driving a Rolls-Royce for the first time.

There’s a lot to be said for Crewe’s missiles. It’s true, for instance, that almost every Rolls-Royce is best experienced from the rear, but that’s a goal anyone who makes it to the church on time or the Northern English standup comedy circuit can experience. For me, the real fun was to be had by heading up to the bridge, and setting a course through the countryside in two tonnes of Silver Shadow.

Did I like it? Definitely. Would I, if I were to become Peter Kay’s more successful protégé, like to buy one? Not even slightly, largely because I’d be forever feeling sorry for the chauffeur.

The Rolls-Royce has a dignified lollop to the way it devours straights (well it would, with a 6.2 litre V8 stationed in the drawing room up front) but if so much as suggest a corner it goes all to pieces. In this sense at least, the Roller lives up to its name – if you’re playing at being a Middle East dictator in the rear seats, the feeling of it floating into a corner isn’t especially pleasant, but from the captain’s chair it’s actually verging on frightening.

That said, there is something to be said about having the Spirit of Ecstasy proudly protruding from your bonnet – especially if, like me, you want to indulge your Thunderbirds fixation – and the quality of craftsmanship on what is after all a forty-odd-year-old car buts modern Mercs to shame.

A modern day Rolls-Royce, of course, would feel completely different, but to be bluntly honest my first experience of the name synonymous with motoring perfection – the wedding trade’s chariot of choice – didn’t exactly float my motoring boat.

 The best car in the world? That’ll be the Jaguar XJ, then.

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