Driving tips from a Rolls-Royce chauffeur.
As an automotive journalist, I have taken driving lessons from pro racers on tracks in Italy and learned off-road skills from experts in the Gobi desert. However, getting tips from a chauffeur is a unique occurrence. I was recently privy to an exclusive introduction to Rolls Royce’s White Glove program at the renowned Wynn in Las Vegas.
In 2007, Roll-Royce initiated White Glove to create a formalized code of consistent behavior for chauffeurs of their vehicles.
The chauffeurs took us on a route outside of Las Vegas on winding desert roads with a backdrop of startling red rocks and desert vistas that reached beyond heaven (or so it seemed). We each took a turn at driving to get the feel of the vehicle. Despite its size, the Phantom was light, super quiet, gentle and responsive.
David Hughes, our driver and a self-described “Good Welsh” is part of Rolls-Royce’s Vehicle Knowledge Center in England. He gave us the following tips, many of which can be applied to everyday driving.
Rolls-Royce tips from a professional driver:
- You need to be early. Effortless is a key brand word. If you have an opportunity to display the car, it is positioned for a ¾ view. Rolls-Royce is an occasion. I am delivering the passenger an experience, with skills from the racing world.
- When we arrive we detail the car. Besides polishing and cleaning, we make sure that all the vents are horizontal and positioned the same way, the navigational screen is closed, cup-holders folded in, organ stops [air vents] ½ way open, seats upright. That way, everything in the car looks beautifully formed.
- After greeting your customer and before opening their door, put their bag in the trunk so they are assured that it is in good order. It’s best to open the curbside door—it makes it easier to get in the Rolls-Royce. [A note: The chauffeurs never walk in front of the Spirit of Ecstasy, the historic hood ornament. It would be a sign of disrespect.]
- You want to engage eye contact when you get in the car. The first thing to do is provide your passenger with the route if needed. Keep the conversation formal unless your passenger wants to speak. Our view is that we’re not a silent automaton. If people don’t want to talk, that’s fine. We avoid conversation on policies and opinions; it’s a balancing act between making sure your passenger is at ease.
- One needs to have the professional ability to deal with flexibility. The important thing when driving a Rolls-Royce is to be confident without being arrogant. Courtesy is tantamount.
- We turn the mirror if anything illicit is going on. One can specify a divider in the Roll-Royce, but that’s an uncommon option!
- When you are driving, keep the throttle even and leave lots of space between you and the other cars. At every junction, you want to see tires and tarmac. It serves some purposes. Number one for ultimate security; number two you self-stage so people can see the car. Use a mild pull-away, smooth pickup, and ease into a stop long before the light. You don’t want to do anything to disturb the passenger.
- Our standard attire is a black jacket, white shirt, and tie. I also wear thin-soled shoes to feel the pedal. “We try to maintain consistency in how we dress, so a lot is provided for us. It’s a particular style; things should be correct.” [Note: Hughes wore Seville Row finery.]
- The umbrella trick. If your passenger is wearing a dress that may be revealing we open up the umbrella to let her get out of the vehicle comfortably.
When I took my turn at steering, Hughes told me I was holding my hands and shoulders too tight and moving my hands around the wheel too much. Yes, I was admittedly squirrelly for the first 20 minutes, but relaxed once I understood the dimensions of the vehicle. His best suggestion: Use the Spirit of Ecstasy as a guide. Keep it in one place as you are driving down the middle of the road. Use it as a positioning point for maintaining a center point on the road.
That being said, I preferred having Hughes ferry me in the Phantom.