u x ury & style i ’ v e s e e n a g h o s t h o w r o l l s - r o y c e i s a p p e a l i n g t o w o m e n h a r l o t t e m e t c a l f
‘The Spirit of Ecstasy’, Rolls-Royce’s great symbol, on the hood of a Rolls-Royce Ghost
The only time I have been in a Rolls-Royce with a woman at the wheel was in Los Angeles about 20 years ago. The woman was young and exceptionally beautiful and claimed that her white convertible was a gift. Even in a city so inured to wealth and glamour, people stared as we purred along Sunset Boulevard. I became instantly and permanently convinced that a girl’s ultimate luxury accessory was a Rolls-Royce, but since then I have never glimpsed another woman driving one.
Before 2003, a typical Rolls-Royce owner was a gentleman in his sixties. Much has changed since BMW bought the company in 1998 and now there are more young owners and the brand is subtly but surely adapting to suit the demands of women drivers. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Rolls-Royce colour palette is overseen by a woman, nor that one in five of the manufacturing work force is female. Yet the biggest breakthrough when it came to drawing women to the brand was the introduction of the Ghost in late 2009.
The starting price of £200,000 is steep but I thought if I could not buy one, I could at least take one out for a spin. I was ready to make my own way to RollsRoyce’s headquarters in my Mini but it was suggested that I might like to ‘experience’ the Phantom first. Preceding the Ghost, the Phantom was launched in 2003, ready for Rolls-Royce’s centenary in 2004.Would I like to be picked up in one? Indeed I would. So one February morning I had the delicious experience of stepping from my flat into the creamy leather-upholstered cocoon of the Phantom’s interior.
With sixteen standard variations to choose from, or the option to have even the paint invented specially, each Phantom is unique. This one had a black leather ceiling, pinpointed with tiny stars of adjustable brightness so I felt I was being whisked away on a magic carpet ride. Rodney, the driver, said it usually took new owners a couple of days to become familiar with the car’s multiple gadgets. I was with Paddy Renouf, him-