Andi McCann arrives early to pick up the day's client. He's always early. He loads the luggage into the trunk and closes the passenger door. Then he starts the Phantom – a Rolls-Royce designed to ferry royalty, world leaders and other megalomaniacs – and wheels it into busy traffic in one smooth motion, his fingertips on the thin wooden steering wheel. The cup of coffee in the rear seat barely registers a ripple as he accelerates. He and his car are smooth incarnate.
McCann's Tag-Heuer watch matches his deep blue blazer. He works for Rolls-Royce, as the chief instructor at the company's White Glove chauffeur training program, which he helped to create. He doesn't wear white gloves or a black hat. He does see everything.
"Often, the weakest part of any car is the driver," he says, as we travel down a narrow two-lane highway outside Cape Town, South Africa.
In 2015, McCann travelled to 19 countries, teaching professional drivers how to drive better. Delicate work to be sure. His students work for five-star hotels and private clients who want their drivers to learn from the best. All of which is to say, Andi McCann is a rare breed: He is a good driver.
We are all chauffeurs, shuttling friends or kids around. We could all learn a thing or two from McCann. From behind the wheel of the Phantom, he imparts wisdom at 120 kilometres an hour.
Anticipation: "Whether you're travelling above 200 km/h on the Autobahn in Germany or 20 km/h in a city, you just have to look further ahead, more than double what you would normally do," he says. Do not stare at the car in front. Looking farther ahead lets you anticipate earlier, making you smoother. This is the keystone of McCann's driving philosophy.
Tarmac and tires: "When you come to a stop, you should always see the tarmac and tires of the car in front," he says, slowing the Phantom before a red light. "We're actually too close to the car in front now. You can feel that because his bad driving is starting to morph onto us. We'll give him about a two-second gap, maybe three if you're in a Rolls-Royce, because that's polite. And now, suddenly we're driving to our standard, not his." If you're too close to the car in front, all you can focus on are its brake lights. Not smooth.
Not slow: "Good driving is not slow driving; it's accurate and sharp."
Attire: On this, McCann is insistent: your shoes should have thin leather soles for a delicate feel on the pedals. Rubber soles make that impossible. I look down at my clunky Timberland boots in shame.
Timing: "If you're on time, you're late."
Night driving: "A lot of the reason why people start to drive poorly and wander across their lane at night is because the human eye can't focus on a black space for too long. We tend to pick up various objects instead. So at night, you start staring at the lines that are reflective – and guess what? That's where the car starts to go, too." Wandering back and forth requires constant correction, which accelerates fatigue.
Muscle: "A lot of people drive with their legs too bent, so they're using large muscle groups. Some people with small feet, they'll stomp on the pedal; they don't rest their heel on the carpet. You want to use your ankle exactly the way it was designed to be used: as a hinge joint. You should be rocking your foot on the heel."
The chauffeur stop: The most impressive part about being driven by McCann is there's no head nod when the car comes to a dead stop, it doesn't porpoise. This is the "chauffeur stop" and it's difficult to master. "A lot of us aren't used to braking for more than two seconds," he says. Brake early, be progressive, and then start to release pressure. It takes a delicate touch.
"If you were to have an egg in a very shallow fruit bowl, let's just try and keep the egg in the fruit bowl. It's not just braking, but acceleration, too. And guess what? That's going to make your driving more economical, too. You'll save fuel."
As we arrive at our destination, McCann pulls the car to a perfect stop, opens the door, retrieves the luggage, bids this client good day and moves onto the next one. Taxis are going to feel awful after this.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
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