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This is what to expect when you buy a Rolls Royce

Buying a Rolls Royce is as luxurious an experience as the vehicle itself

The entrance to a Rolls Royce dealerchip
Dave McQuilling / The Manual

If you’ve ever wondered what stepping into the afterlife feels like, I’d suggest you head down to your local Rolls Royce dealership. The silver doors open, a light breeze hits your face, some light piano music chimes away in the background, and a delightful soul with a whole Greek goddess vibe will offer you a coffee while also pointing out that champagne is available.

This is of course the version of the afterlife that the best of us get to go to. If you want a preview of what the naughtier folks amongst us probably have in store then I would suggest heading to NYC and delving into 116th Street’s subway station at some point in August.

Heading away from hell and back in the right direction, Rolls Royce has done an excellent job of cultivating a luxury experience right from the second a potential customer enters their premises. As you stand at the bar (some dealerships come equipped with a speakeasy), all of your worries drift away, and you enter the sort of mindset you should be in when making any major decisions. That’s when another member of staff will appear, which in my case was a chap called Nderim. Then came the time to discuss business, sort of.

You have all of the help you need

Champagne on the bar of a Rolls Royce dealership
Dave McQuilling / The Manual

You may have a picture of a Rolls Royce owner in your head, but you’re more than likely wrong. What may have been the vehicle of choice for the landed gentry, eccentric rock stars, and titans of industry is now a jewel in many a successful person’s collection. You can’t really stereotype a Rolls Royce customer these days, with one exception. Most people buy one to remind themselves they’ve ‘made it’ to some degree.

Most customers also have some idea of what they want before they visit the dealership, and some will even choose a car right then and there, fill out some paperwork, and leave with it. But just going “I’ll take that one” seems a bit of a waste when you consider the options that are available. Acting as clueless as I usually am before noon, I requested a tour of the vehicles on offer. Nderim obligingly took me around the dealership, starting with a Spectre before moving on to the Cullinan — which is currently the most popular vehicle Rolls Royce produces.

My actual choice was something that wasn’t on the show floor and won’t be for some time. The Cullinan Series II was announced on the day of my visit, and surprisingly enough, it was already available to order. There would obviously be a wait involved, but it was still possible to customize and order the vehicle. Test drives are also possible at this stage (assuming you declined the offer of champagne) should you want to see what the driving experience of each vehicle is like. You can also more than likely have a member of staff drive the vehicle while you relax in the back if you’re looking for something to be chauffeured around in. You’re the boss here, and your whims are catered for. That’s a common theme.

Either way, once you’ve settled on a vehicle type, then it’s time to slip into a special room to discuss the bespoke options. If nothing in the current Rolls Royce lineup is quite doing it for you, then you aren’t out of options. You’re never out of options, provided you have the funds. You can discuss the possibility of commissioning a Coachbuild, where Rolls Royce basically builds a vehicle from scratch to meet your exact specifications. The car in question will be a one-off and cost tens of millions of dollars. That’s also not a dealership discussion but rather one you’ll be having directly with the staff at Rolls Royce’s factory and head office in Goodwood, England.

But if regular bespoke is unique enough for you, you’ll be ushered into a special room to talk through your options. And there are an awful lot of options.

It’s closer to a tailored suit than a vehicle

Rolls Royce design room
Dave McQuilling / The Manual

Despite this side room being a place where business is technically being discussed, and hundreds of thousands of dollars are likely to be spent, the relaxing atmosphere still prevails. If you want a drink or some food, it will be brought in for you. Any questions you have will be answered, and any options you have will be discussed.

The staff are very unlikely to say no, no matter how tasteless or silly your ideas are. However, they will gently nudge you in a certain direction if you’re on the verge of doing something stupid. For example, if they know you’re the kind of customer that likes to buy a vehicle, spend a few years with it, then sell it and get a new one, then they will help you construct something that will actually sell when you’re done with it. In short, that means conservative choices, like a black or grey exterior and a classic color for the interior leather. You may want a pink Cullinan, with a lime green and purple interior, and you can totally still have that. But someone sane is unlikely to want to buy that travesty from you when you’re looking to trade it in.

To help you make your choices, Rolls Royce has a number of tools available. The most obvious is a large screen and a piece of software that can turn your choices into a digital representation of your potential vehicle. Your model, paint choice, and interior choice will be displayed on the screen, and tweaks can be made from there.

There are also examples of leathers, fabrics, woods, paints, and a headliner neatly stored around the room — so you can look at and feel physical samples of your potential choices. Again, you’re not limited by what’s in this room. If you want something wildly exotic, like alligator leather cladding your seats, they’ll do it for you. If the wide range of colors on offer still aren’t doing it for you, you can choose a custom color. Straying from the menu will complicate things, and lengthen the amount of time it takes to nail down your design choices and produce the car itself. But if you’re prepared to put the effort in, Rolls Royce are happy to put it all together for you.

If you’re wondering where the line is, here are the rare things that will get you a “no” from Rolls Royce. The first is pretty obvious, and that’s something outright illegal. So, if you have your heart set on an ivory dashboard, you’re pretty much stuffed. Then there’s contractual obligations, specifically regarding coachbuilds. From what I gathered, those vehicles are one-offs, and given the amount of money involved, they likely involve some very iron-clad contracts. So even if you throw the company a blank cheque, they won’t produce a copy of a previous coachbuild. Beyond that, there doesn’t seem to be many limits. Some things will send the final bill into the stratosphere, but not many things will see a customer get an outright denial. At worst, you’ll get a polite indication that you’re being a bit stupid. Sort of like a butler indicating your shoes don’t go with your trousers.

Once everything is in place, you’ll get a brief window where you can still slam on the brakes or change your mind about certain details. So things aren’t set in stone straight away, and you can still make changes for a short time afterwards.

Buying the vehicle is just the beginning

Rolls Royce vehicle design on screen
Dave McQuilling / The Manual

While your relationship with a regular manufacturer may not go beyond the occasional service once the paperwork has been signed and your vehicle has been delivered — things are a bit different with Rolls Royce. The luxury experience that began when you stepped onto the premises doesn’t really have an endpoint.

As Terence McGouran, general manager of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Paramus, explains, things go beyond a courtesy call or two to check how your vehicle is settling in. The relationship goes from acts of convenience, such as collecting your car for a service and delivering it back to you — to special test drives. This can include an invitation to drive something hard to get hold of, like the Spectre, or maybe an extended loan of a vehicle you’re considering buying. Thinking about getting a Ghost? Why not take it for a weekend and test it out properly?

Then there’s the variety of exclusive events you’ll be asked to. Launches, parties, golf tournaments, dealership openings. It’s like being in a very special club. The cost of entry isn’t cheap, but if you can afford to be there, then you’ll be treated exceptionally well.

Things go both ways to some extent. If you’re particularly close with a dealership, you may get a heads up about special editions like the Black Badge Ghost Ekleipsis. This gives you your only realistic chance of securing a limited edition of the Rolls-Royce, as the company produces only a small number of it each time around. The cars are so limited that they’re usually all sold before they’re even announced to the press. Rolls Royce itself may not even own one, which is where that special relationship comes in. During media events and showroom openings, Rolls Royce may want a particular limited edition vehicle present. Sometimes, the only option is to ask a close customer if the venue or dealership can borrow the very rare vehicle Rolls sold them. After all, what are friends for?

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