Where else will you find a starlight roof and 44,000 colour options?
A sporting Rolls-Royce? Well the famous British marque is not the one you first think of when the idea of a sporting model comes to mind, especially if it has anything to do with the stately, if gargantuan Phantom.
But Rolls-Royce has been full of surprises since BMW took on the job of creating a new range for their prestige line.
When the Phantom was launched in 2003 it shocked people with its avant garde take on the traditional Rolls-Royce look. The new style has been a runaway success in Rolls-Royce terms, with 1010 being built last year alone.
Then last year, the two-door convertible Drophead Coupe was launched, and has been lapped up by buyers around the globe. It retained many of the unusual Phantom features, such as the rear-hinged doors and has items such as a polished teak rear deck and brushed stainless steel bonnet as options.
So now the company has launched the Phantom Coupe. While it shares many components with its siblings, the Coupe is not simply a Drophead with a tin top in place. Rolls-Royce has cleverly taken the opportunity to make it quite a different car, aimed at ensnaring a different clientele – though they understand that many will be sold to existing RR owners.
The front of the car is the same as the Drophead, which gives it the look of being the number one choice of Darth Vader. Of course the roof is unique to the Coupe, but so too is the rear deck, back bumper and there’s a myriad of other detail differences.
The boot is unusual in having a drop-down section, capable of taking the weight of two people sitting on it – just the ticket for watching the races. The boot is a lot bigger than the Drophead’s and so is the fuel tank.
But the big difference that Rolls-Royce has made to the Coupe is the driving experience. Their people insist that the car is the most “driver focussed” Rolls-Royce of all time.
To achieve this, they’ve kept the body strengthening that was necessary for the roofless Drophead, which provides the Coupe with a very stiff structure. The handling characteristics have been further beefed-up with stiffer springs and thicker anti-roll bars.
The transmission has been tweaked to give later change-up points and quicker downshifts. More positive higher-geared steering, with a thicker, smaller diameter steering wheel are also included in the make-over.
So how do all the changes add up? Having the chance to drive the Coupe immediately after driving a four-door Phantom immediately showed the differences are quite noticeable. While the bigger car needs a level of concentration and careful driver input to be able to waft around as it should, the Coupe is instantly easier to drive.
Somehow it is much more like a ‘normal’ big car to drive. There’s plenty of power (and importantly, torque) from the big V12 under the bonnet for when you want to hustle the Coupe along, with creamy smooth and seemingly limitless acceleration on tap. And the car is quite agile, given its bulk. Pretty soon a driver can confidently push the car around.
It’s not a sports car, and nobody should pretend it is, however the Coupe can certainly hold its head high and wouldn’t have trouble keeping up with most large performance cars.
Older Rolls-Royces are completely unsporting in their driving characteristics, but with the Coupe the engineers have managed to successfully change the personality of the car.
The luxury is of course part of the appeal of a Rolls-Royce. From the moment you open the rear-hinged door (with umbrella in it’s home in the door cavity), and slip easily into the sumptuous seat, reach out and tap the button which draws the door closed for you, you can tell just sitting in the car will be a special experience.
The supreme quality of the fittings and finish spell out that this is indeed the best made car in the world. Perfectly polished woodwork, supple leather, exacting fit and incredible attention to detail are hallmarks of this car. The silently multi-adjustable interior is very hard to criticise.
Our test car was fitted with the dubious option of the Starlight roof-lining – consisting of 1600 fibre-optic lights which emulate a start lit night – adjustable for brightness, of course. Maybe with Chinese or the Middle Eastern buyers in mind…
A little bit of BMW creeps in with the operation of the driver’s controls – the gearshift, I-drive controller and indicator operations – but not the actual buttons and levers.
When you’re ready to order your Phantom Coupe, there’s plenty to consider. Rolls-Royce proudly offers almost unlimited options, for example 44,000 exterior colours are available… “All manner of other technical, structural or aesthetic detailing is possible, to meet the precise requirements of customers,” states the company.
FAST FACTS 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe
Body: 2-Door Coupe
Engine: 6.7-litre V12
Power/torque: 338kW @ 5350rpm/ 720Nm @ 3500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Drivetrain: Front engine, rear wheel drive, 21-inch forged alloy wheels
Performance: 0-100km/h: 5.8 seconds. Top speed: 250km/h (governed)