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Rolls-Royce White Glove Program: Driving Miss One Percent

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 5/8/2015 Jonny Lieberman

"The umbrella can be used both defensively and offensively." While I no doubt suffer from some undiagnosed variant of ADHD, that sentence is a top 10 way to get my rapt attention. It helps that I heard it while standing under the awning of the Encore, casino master Steve Wynn's mega follow-up to his whimsical, grand scale Las Vegas Wynn resort. It also helps that I was amid a veritable fleet of Rolls-Royces: Phantom Drophead Coupe, two Phantoms, one regular-length Ghost, and one extended-wheelbase Ghost, or EWB. Not to mention the 11 matching EWB Phantoms the Wynn and Encore have on call for their preferred guests. The reason I was in Vegas and surrounded by all those fancy cars from Goodwood is something Rolls is calling the White Glove Program. Naturally, there aren't any actual gloves involved. Instead, I was to be trained on the finer points of being a Rolls-Royce chauffeur. Fun, no?

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While not a formal program by any means, the object of the trip was less to educate yours truly on the finer points of moving wealthy people to and fro and much more to show off what goes through the mind of a Rolls-Royce chauffeur. I don't think I'm shocking or upsetting anyone by stating that there's more to it than you or I might think. Showing me the ropes is Rolls' top driver, Andi McCann. Why top? Andi's the man who drives Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the silver-haired and quite friendly CEO of Rolls-Royce. It doesn't get much more top than that.

Rolls Royce White Glove Program© Provided by MotorTrend Rolls Royce White Glove Program I met Andi the night before at the most decadent dinner I've had in a while, a steak tasting at the Wynn's SW Steakhouse. A couple of notes on that: The SW is one of three — that's three — restaurants in the United States that are allowed to serve actual, certified, brass-plaque, and paperwork-ensured Japanese Kobe beef. As yummy as the Kobe was, another steak from Japan — A5 — was worlds better. Best steak ever? Oh, yes. Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg were sitting at the next table. There's a giant, green, animatronic frog that pops up from the top of a waterfall and sings Garth Brooks. Vegas, baby. As for Andi, before Rolls-Royce he worked in the competitive skiing world, as well as F1. He's something of an expert on mechanical kinesiology, how man interacts with machine. He's funny, too.

SW Steakhouse Experience Rolls Royce© Provided by MotorTrend SW Steakhouse Experience Rolls Royce The first thing Andi teaches me is that you must park your Rolls-Royce — in this case the Ghost EWB — in a "visually acceptable" manner. This means little more than taking a look around and being conscious where you're parking and what you are parking next to. For example, don't park next to a trashcan. Or a tent. If there are obvious lines on the ground, park parallel to them instead of at a 45-degree angle. To illustrate his point, Andi pointed to the different colored stripes of cobblestone in front of the Encore. Not only were all the cars parked equidistance from the curbing, but each tire was also spaced 3 inches from a visible line. The idea is not only to present the vehicle in the best possible light for whatever bystanders might be looking at it but also to ease the mind of whomever it is you are picking up. Should you actually have to park the car in a space, you absolutely never "box the Spirit of Ecstasy in." Meaning you back the car into a spot so as to expose that all-important hood ornament. Also, as the driver, you never walk around the front of the car. Go around back.

Rolls Royce White Glove Program© Provided by MotorTrend Rolls Royce White Glove Program Andi spoke frequently about making things "sharp and effortless." Here's an example of sharp: Andi explains that there are currently 10 things wrong or out of place with the interior of the Ghost. Without looking, I rattle off a few guesses. The round air vents are at different angles, the upper and lower temperature control wheels aren't matched up, the head rests are at different heights, and the iDrive screen is exposed (never mind the fact that it's an iDrive screen). "Good start," Andi tells me and then proceeds to show me that some of the organ pulls (used to open and close the vents) are pushed in while others are out, one rear seat belt is twisted, the front seats aren't evenly lined up, one of the rear seats is reclined, the sunroof cover is open a tad, and the rear armrest is down. That last one is only wrong if the passengers cannot enter from both sides. Because at the Encore they'd be entering from just one side, the armrest must be up. In other words, the interior's been left sloppy, not sharp.

Here's an example of effortless: As you lead your passengers to the car (carrying their luggage so that they won't later track airport muck across their $50,000 rug) the first thing you do is get everything in the trunk. "What if it's 120 degrees outside?" I ask. "Or 50 below, like in Moscow?" Doesn't matter, Andi schools me. My duty is to make sure all of my passengers' belongings are onboard. Once everything is in the trunk, you then ask your passengers if they see all of their belongings. Why? "Because you can't expect someone to have a pleasant journey if there's doubt in their mind," Andi explains. Maybe they just got off a 14-hour flight? Your overarching duty is to put their mind at ease. Only then do you open the coach doors (Rolls-speak for suicide doors) and get them comfortably inside. Because of the Phantom's unique space-frame construction, you must tell them to lower their head, or they will whack it on some high-dollar leather.

The big thing I learned is that Rolls-Royce has both a way to do and a reason for everything. How do you set the temperature in the cabin? Rolls-Royces allow you to leave the car running with the doors locked, so if it is freezing cold, the car won't be an icicle. If it's a normal day, a third of the red on the temp control wheels should be exposed. Or as Andi puts it, "Put them in the middle, and then half back." That way it won't be too hot or too cold. The temperature, to put it into brand-specific parlance, will be adequate. There's also a way, of course, to dress. Pressed black suit, pressed white shirt, black silk tie with a double Windsor knot and leather-soled black shoes. Why? "It looks sharp."

Keep reading for more on the Rolls-Royce White Glove Program

Rolls Royce White Glove Program© Provided by MotorTrend Rolls Royce White Glove Program Once you're underway, you visually check that your passengers are happy and at ease. You do this by making eye contact with them in the rearview mirror. Once you've confirmed with them that everything is right with the world, you flip the rearview mirror up so that they cannot see your eyes. This gives them added privacy. You're a professional. Use your wing mirrors. You don't accelerate; you "gather momentum." You do this from a dead stop by first slowly releasing the brake pedal and allowing the V-12 engine's copious torque (531 lb-ft in the naturally aspirated Phantom, 575 lb-ft in the twin-turbo Ghost) to get things rolling, then you gently roll on the throttle. The 592-horsepower Ghost Series II is obviously a quick car, but your passengers will (hopefully) never know.

You may have noticed Rolls-Royce steering wheels are a bit odd, with hand positions at 8 and 4 as opposed to 9 and 3. This is quite intentional, and a throwback to the brass-era days when chauffeurs had to brace their elbows against the door and the passenger seat to keep the car in a straight line. Andi claims that the 8 and 4 position helps keep the wheel steadier and results in a more effortless experience. "You hear that?" Andi asks as he flips on the turn signal. Yes, of course, I answer. "That's a disturbing sound. So you only indicate a turn for three clicks, tops." Got it.

Rolls-Royce White Glove Program: Driving Miss One Percent

Rolls Royce White Glove Program© Provided by MotorTrend Rolls Royce White Glove Program When it comes to stopping, you keep your eyes up and pay attention so that you can begin braking early and gently. The goal is to slow the car so that when it finally stops, no one feels anything. Avoid having the car rock forward on the air suspension at all costs. Is there a particular distance you should be from the car in front of you? Absolutely. Andy refers to the proper spacing as "tyres and tarmac," meaning you should be able to fully see the tires on the pavement in front of you. Why? Let's say you need to rapidly make forward progress before the light turns green. Put another way, there's an individual (paparazzi, assassin) who wishes harm upon your passenger. By leaving enough space, you can escape without having to ram through the poor car in front of you. Your passenger would then notice the Ghost's full thrust, but it's the exception that proves the rule.

The umbrella from a 2013 Rolls-Royce Ghost© Provided by MotorTrend The umbrella from a 2013 Rolls-Royce Ghost Which circles us back to the umbrella as both an offensive and defensive weapon. You've all no doubt seen (or heard about) déclassé up-the-skirt photos of celebrities leaving the back of a limousine. Such an occurrence would be the absolute antithesis of the Rolls-Royce White Glove Program. Here's how you, the driver, prevent such a horror. Exit the vehicle and lock the doors. This prevents an overeager paparazzi from opening the car while you're all the way over on the other side. You come around back and open the front door, removing the umbrella. A few notes on the Rolls-Royce umbrella: Each one is Teflon-coated so that water and mold cannot soak in. The umbrellas are stored in the front fender where engine heat is piped over them to make sure they're always dry. It would be the opposite of sharp to cover your charge with a wet, dripping umbrella, right? The umbrella's tip is metal, about 3 inches long and an inch in circumference. The base is about 8 ounces of steel, whereas the rod is made of carbon fiber. Quite a sturdy piece— and why they cost $700 for a matched set. You can of course get bespoke umbrellas that match the car's interior, but that costs a bit extra.

Back to extracting your skirted passenger from the back seat. With the umbrella in hand and the front door wide open, you simultaneously open the rear door and the umbrella while facing toward the crowd. She is now shielded from all sides, with the umbrella blocking the front view and the doors obscuring lenses on the sides. The umbrella is in your left hand. Put your right hand behind your back. Your female passenger grabs hold, and as a unit you progress forward, using the pointy end of the umbrella to clear a path. Once you've physically cleared the coach door (which is a few steps in the case of the Phantom EWB), you spin off to your right, leaving your passenger in the care of her PR/security team. Has Andi ever had to use an umbrella as anything other than a defensive shield? "There was this one bloke with a camera who got too close this once," Andi says, smacking the handle into a palm. "I'm sure the lump on his shin wasn't too big." Nuff said.

After the White Glove Program training ended but before the program ended, I had to split early to catch a flight home to Los Angeles. The downside was that I missed "Le Reve" (the underwater, Cirque du Soleil-like performance at the Wynn.) that evening, as well as what was surely another fabulous meal. The upside was that I was then chauffeured to McCarran Airport in the back of one of the Wynn's Phantom EWBs. The driver asked me what I had been up to in Vegas. "Learning how to do your job!" I told him. I then ran through a brief summary of all that Andi McCann had taught me, pointing out to the driver everything in his car that was less than sharp and effortless. "Man," my driver exclaimed. "They should put us through that training!" Without question, yes they should. Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe© Provided by MotorTrend Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe

Rolls Royce White Glove Program© Provided by MotorTrend Rolls Royce White Glove Program
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