A day in the life of a Rolls-Royce chauffeur
By Helmut Dostal
There are two kinds of Rolls-Royce owners: the ones who enjoy driving and the ones who’d rather be driven. The latter requires a very special, uniquely talented and rare individual: a Rolls-Royce chauffeur.
While I had no intention of trading my publisher’s chair for the driver’s seat of a stunningly appointed Rolls-Royce—even if it turned out to be ultimately more comfortable—I was curious to learn more about the DNA of this iconic brand and its driving culture. So I packed my bags for Vegas to meet the folks from the Rolls-Royce Motor Car Company, who had promised me three days of immersion into the world of RR’s owners and their personal drivers.
Imported from England for this “White Glove Program” was a faculty of three experts. Each had a wealth of unique experience that ranged from race-car driving and engineering to an admirably in-depth knowledge and passion for all things RR.
So just what is so special about driving a celebrity or an industry leader (or their nine-year-old daughter) up hill and down dale? The list is long and the stakes are high!
Take the preferred model of the “chauffeur-driven RR’s crowd,” the Phantom. At US$500,000 (give or take $100,000 depending on the level of your bespoke finish), an owner has invested in the most luxurious automobile money can buy. Without a doubt, the skills, etiquette and integrity of the driver are expected to be on par.
Like a butler who flawlessly manages his or her owner’s needs and the running of the estate’s household, the Rolls becomes the domain of a good chauffeur. Such an individual will nurture and protect his or her boss, and display utmost responsibility, discretion and good judgement at all times. As much as the Rolls-Royce models provide a huge degree of refined performance as well as safety and communications technology, it is beyond a doubt the chauffeur’s knowledge, consideration and driving style that clinches the deal on a perfect ride, every time.
A well-heeled chauffeur is expected to be 100 per cent familiar with the directions to a given destination, and to pre-select the safest and most exped-ient route to the desired destination ahead of time. He or she must have anticipated the route, weather, road conditions, potential stops along the way and anything needed during the trip. Duties must be performed with quiet efficiency and discretion but, when called upon, the chauffeur must be ready to chat with passengers in an interesting, engaging way.
And then there is the perfect “chauffeur stop” … the correct way to bring a Rolls-Royce gently to a full stop. Just before the point of stopping, ease off the brake ever so lightly. It’s a skill that needs practice, as I discovered. So to does the protocol of leaving a few feet of roadway and the tires of the car in front visible.
Consider cornering and road conditions: sharp, erratic moves and braking manoeuvres by the driver are out of the question, except in emergency situations. Bends in the road are to be followed evenly and smoothly, avoiding jarring steering corrections at all costs.
A perfect example of how the Phantom’s discreet features match with the delivery of discreet white-glove service is the trademark RR umbrella. Hidden in the door panel and ready to be pulled out by the driver to shelter precious passengers from the rain, it’s a well-used item, especially in the UK.
This car is more than a pretty face
The Rolls Royce chauffeur is entrusted with the lives, safety and comfort of some very special passengers, so it goes without saying that the Phantom and the other Rolls-Royce models all feature a full front, rear and top-view camera system for safety’s sake. This gives the driver a 360-degree surround picture of potential obstacles or dangerous situations. Radar sensors scan the road at highway speeds, keeping a defined distance from vehicles ahead if cruise control is activated.
With their iconic road presence, RR cars are easily viewed as fortresses on wheels and, given the technology and the security features, it’s easy to see why. Look beyond the imposing exterior and the ultra-luxurious interior, and you’ll discover a powerful 12-cylinder engine, sophisticated hydraulic suspension, some of the most capable braking systems on the market and a surprisingly nimble steering response.
Both driver and passenger also enjoy a sophisticated level of technology that connects in a calm, effortless way. The state-of-the-art, one-touch controller for on-board Wi-Fi, file sharing, telephone and video-conferencing is accessible from the front or the sump-tuous rear passenger environment. After all, a global CEO might need to work while his or her youngest daughter watches a movie.