Rolls-Royce Phantom EWB

When it comes to luxury cars, big numbers mean big business. Whether it's maximum speed, power or even price, the larger the vital statistic, the greater the boast. But if you have the kind of money that affords you a chauffeur, there's one figure that counts above all else: length.

A massive saloon with sumptuous interior comfort, amazing looks and masses of space - the EWB is a true Rolls-Royce. Despite carrying a huge price premium over the standard car, the stretched Phantom has already attracted 50 buyers since it was announced at last March's Geneva Motor Show. For a privileged few, no other car will do.

When it comes to luxury cars, big numbers mean big business. Whether it's maximum speed, power or even price, the larger the vital statistic, the greater the boast. But if you have the kind of money that affords you a chauffeur, there's one figure that counts above all else: length.

Having a 'stretched' luxury saloon is the ultimate celebrity status symbol, especially if it wears a Rolls-Royce badge. From the very beginning of the Phantom project in 1999, a lengthened version was ready to go if demand was there

Following the green light for the extravagant convertible version - based on last year's 100EX show car - bosses also approved the EWB (Extended Wheel Base) saloon. Is this the ultimate limousine? We took the wheel to find out.

With an extra 250mm between the wheels, the Rolls looks just about perfect. Its vast height and width seem more in proportion, and balance with the over-sized grille and chunky C-pillar.

All the length is added to the rear door. There's more thick lambs' wool on the floor and, of course, the alumin-ium rear doors and roof had to be stretched. Sink into the sumptuous armchair and even the tallest aristocracy will have room to straighten their legs.

Amazingly, all this extra raw material adds only 75kg to the Phantom's weight. What's more, structural rigidity is guaranteed as the aluminium spaceframe chassis parts are simply cut into longer pieces at BMW's German plant, rather than extended at a later date.

Driving the EWB through the small coastal roads of Pebble Beach in California, US, puts it to work in its native environment. From behind the wheel it's hard not to be daunted by the new model's 6,084mm length, but the huge saloon's manoeuvrability is impressive. Once you've become used to the dimensions, piloting the EWB down narrow streets presents no problems.

What's more, the performance is truly epic. The vast Rolls covers 0-62mph in only 5.8 seconds, making it only 0.1 seconds slower than the standard car. Thankfully, the powerful brakes are still more than capable of slowing the Phantom at an astonishing rate, too.

So how much do the extra inches in the rear cost? A seemingly ridiculous £50,000. The £300,000 price can balloon further if you opt for the dividing screen to separate front and rear passengers - no cost has been announced for this extra, but a spokesman for Rolls-Royce told us it "will not be inexpensive". Still, if money is no object, the EWB is surely the only way to travel.

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