(08:30 Feb. 27, 2003) By BRADFORD WERNLE | Automotive News Europe LONDON (AN) - The new Rolls-Royce Phantom is arguably the most talked-about production car in the world at present. That's because the Phantom's styling is controversial. Great Britain's Auto Express magazine says its mailbox has been deluged with letters about the Phantom, with the styling sentiment running 10-to-1 against BMW's new Rolls-Royce flagship. "The front end has all the architectural flair of a fortified concrete bunker and boasts what appear to be Ford Granada headlamps," complained Tony Gondby, an Auto Express reader. "All the beauty of the curvaceous lines of its Silver Cloud forebears has been lost in a clumsy, bulky mass of straight-edged metal, upright glass and weird lights," wrote reader Richard Usher to Autocar, another car magazine. Ian Cameron, chief designer for Rolls-Royce, says he is not concerned about the feedback. "People are less likely to say anything if they're happy," he says. "The response has been good. This is not a car for Joe Public. This car makes a statement. It is not meek or submissive in the frontal area. In their heyday, Rolls-Royces were very strong and impressive cars." The grille was the "smallest cooling aperture" Rolls-Royce could get away with, given the 453-hp V-12 engine, Cameron says. The Phantom debuted in Goodwood, England, and at the Detroit auto show last month. Cameron says the car has to be seen on the road to be fully appreciated. "The cars that have been photographed have been in light colors," he says. "Light colors make objects look even bigger. Light colors are not best on this car. This car is best in dark colors." One group that really counts - Rolls-Royce dealers - say they're overjoyed with the response they're getting from customers. Stephen Foulds is a Rolls-Royce salesman for H.R. Owen, which owns the Jack Barclay Rolls-Royce and Bentley dealership in London, the world's largest Rolls-Royce dealership. He says he has heard almost nothing but good things about the car. Foulds says the dealership has taken about 100 customers to see the Phantom at BMW's new Goodwood factory. "The response has been incredibly positive," he says. "It is a car you have to see several times. The more times you see it, the more you see interesting detail in it. It looks like it's hewn out of solid granite." Adrian Hallmark, marketing director of Bentley, formerly Rolls-Royce's stablemate and now its rival, gives some grudging respect to the car. He says: "If I had the money, I'd buy it for the sheer presence. It's ugly/handsome, sort of like (French actor) Gerard Depardieu."