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Exclusive First Drive: the Rolls-Royce Nighthawk and Larry Fitzgerald in Super Bowl City

When Rolls-Royce calls and asks if you would like an exclusive first drive of a new limited-edition Phantom called the Nighthawk, there’s only one answer: “Yes, please.”

Such a supremely special limo deserves an equally distinct destination and driver. It wasn’t hard to choose Phoenix during Super Bowl week, and football legend and the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald—who happens to be about as car crazy as they come. He has an ever-revolving car collection, which currently includes an 833-horsepower RENNtech Mercedes SL and a turbo-charged ’70 Charger (both of which he was generous enough to let me four-wheel drift down his street, but that’s a story for another day).

I met the car and Larry in his circular driveway in Paradise Valley, outside of Scottsdale. The Nighthawk lives up to its stealthy name: high-gloss black paint with a matte black hood and windshield surround; 21-inch wheels, and an interior swathed in black leather, carbon fiber and red accents. Larry opened the rear-hinged passenger door for me, and as I climbed in, my feet disappeared in the fur-like high-pile wool carpets.

Rolls-Royce owns precision engineering and attention to detail, and the Nighthawk is the latest and greatest proof. Larry drove around the area, pointing out highlights and explaining how to navigate the Super Bowl mayhem coming on Sunday. Fifteen minutes into the drive, he suddenly smiled and said, “I owned a Phantom a few years ago and sold it, but this reminds me of how incredible it is to drive one. There’s nothing else like it.”

Sue Callaway and Larry Fitzgerald with the NighthawkPhotograph by Winston Goodfellow
Photograph by Winston Goodfellow

True words for the buttery, buffered and beauteous experience of riding in the Nighthawk. The aluminum spaceframe saves weight and supplies stiffness, the V12 is powerful enough to make a three-ton vehicle feel spirited, and the sophisticated user interface all deserve note—but it’s the visceral sense of rare-air luxury that the car exudes that makes the most lasting impression.

Only nine mere mortals in the U.S. will have the pleasure of owning a Nighthawk—or after my drive with Larry and judging by the look on his face as he powered the car through turns, maybe eight. It is, in fact, the automotive equivalent of the Super Bowl—a coveted, pinnacle thing. Which in turn is just right for a lauded player like Larry Fitzgerald.

Price as tested: $569,600