It’s not everyday that you drive a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe. Not even if you own a Phantom, because if you do, you also choose between six other beauties parked beside it throughout the week. It’s Monday? Well that sucks. Better take the Lotus to lighten up the week. Tuesday? Feels like the CL65 AMG will do the trick. Wednesday? The 911 Turbo fits the profile – it is hump day after all. Thursday you’ll take the B7 to spool up to the weekend; Friday definitely calls for the 458 Italia. Saturday you’ll spend all day on the Yacht, and your M3 will get you there in haste. But only one car will suffice for a sunny Sunday drive: your glistening Phantom Drophead Coupe.
Every car has a personality, a modus operandi, and so different cars call for different styles of driving. Babying your Ferrari is ill advised – it’s likely to grind its teeth and spit you out as it gallops away head-banging at redline. Conversely, throwing curves at a Phantom is like throwing Mardi Gras beads at Queen Elizabeth. Much like the Queen, the Phantom will simply snub its nose at such untoward behavior, and carry on majestically.
I can now say this with some measure of authority as I’ve contemplated the seemingly endless turns of the large steering wheel lock-to-lock. How one could counter-steer through a drift in this machine is far beyond me – I assure you Tiff Needell would sooner retire his helmet. I would even go so far as to say that drifting the Phantom is impossible; akin to her majesty break-dancing. Hmm, maybe at a younger age? Such juvenile exploits are off the golden menu, shy of painting four parallel lines in the snow (don’t laugh, I once left six parallel lines behind a Freightliner FL70 in a glorious Christmas time drift. Kids, don’t try this at home). Of course, Phantoms spend Christmas with exotic four-wheeled family – indoors.
The point is, the Phantom Drophead Coupe pines to carry you in extravagant luxury, floating along in unabashed lavishness, taking in the crisp air. The way this car soothes your driving libido and calms your right foot is unparalleled. I suspect the Stig would take his helmet off after ten minutes behind the wheel. The Phantom’s very mandate is to make you feel royal, and every surface, every sparkle, every sound, smell and sensation works toward this purpose.
It all starts with its time honored 6.75 liter V12 engine under-hood. Thrusting you forward in pacific smoothness, the naturally aspirated all-aluminum 12-cylinder produces 453 horsepower at 5,350 rpm and 531 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. Seventy-five percent of this engine’s torque is available at a sauntering 1,000 rpm, and so it should be, considering this car’s considerable heft: a portly 2,620 kg (5,800 lb). Since you’re dying to know: acceleration from standstill is brisk if not snap-neck; the Drophead achieves 60 mph from naught in a highly respectable 5.7 seconds and carries on to a terminal velocity of 149 mph.
Of course what it feels like in practice must be witnessed to be appreciated. It beckons a yachting parallel – the first in this review but by no means the last. Picture the large vessel sitting aplomb in the sea. You bury the throttle and the nose rises up slowly, planting the rear deck to the water. Your back nestles into the captain’s chair as the behemoth gains momentum. The movements are exaggerated, but they all happen in a calm and dignified manor. And so it is in the Phantom Drophead: the hood rises up until it’s pointing slightly skyward and the wind begins to fill your hair as the asphalt swirls around the aft deck. It’s all quite magical, poise merged with power.
An old friend once related his Rolls-Royce experience to me, and it wet my appetite for the sensory gratification I recently enjoyed. He likened the drive to “precious metal through fine oil.” Rolls-Royce engineers have labored to ensure no champagne (or Grey Poupon) is spilled on the lovely wool carpets (see clip). The independent air-spring suspension at all four corners works to smooth the waves and calm the ride. At no time – even over the bumpiest Philadelphia roads – did the Phantom buck or jar. Of course, the car’s heavyweight 5,800 lb curb weight goes a long way to slow body motions while the 21 inch wheels frantically bounce over bumps, carrying the Rolls above in a linear vertical line. When the road began to wander, the Phantom kept on its toes and held its own. Through a quick left-right S-bend the only frantic motions came from my hands as they spun the wheel hard to Port, then hard to Starboard. The dimensions of this car are felt at all times, but particularly when maneuvering through rush hour Philadelphia traffic. Since you likely own an island, you may find it helpful to plant your territorial flags at the front corners as a visual marker to ensure you don’t swap paint. Braking was plush but sure, the four binders able to haul nearly three tons of luxury to a stop in remarkable time.
Once the city’s crowded streets gave way to a scenic boulevard, the Drophead Coupe came into its own. This tree-lined street offered up a rustling green canopy overhead and as we cruised along, the mood was set. A Rolls-Royce lives for exquisite surroundings and once found it perks its nose, straightens its neck-tie and unabashedly batts its eyes. Normally such antics would be ignored by passers by, but in Goodwood’s finest, people take notice. For example: while navigating a metropolitan road a police car drove up alongside. Eww. This is the wrong kind of attention – so I thought (especially in a borrowed Rolls).
To my amusement, the Police officer driving had no interest in pulling me over – but instead let go of the wheel and bent his upper body out of the side window. While his partner took the helm, he began prostrating himself up and down with arms out-stretched in a motion of worship. Was this really happening? Yes – and this blatant disregard for public road safety gave way to an exchange of giant white smiles and enthusiastic waves – this from Philadelphia’s hardened cops. So how did the common folk receive this car? With similar – though less eccentric adoration. Young children smiled and waved, their mothers offered passing smiles. Fellow motorists offered thumbs-up and flowers bowed in respect. Truly everything feels auspicious when rolling in a Rolls. The hood’s spirit of ecstasy casts a spell on you.
Interior appointments are of the highest order, as only the best will suffice. I was told by a Rolls-Royce executive in a recent interview that all leathers are selected and treated in-house. There is no middle man, there are no suppliers for the fine, supple hides that swoon you in a Rolls-Royce. Wood trim is tree-thick minus the bark. If a surface is chromed, it is made of solid metal, and only sheep with an IQ over 170 are selected for their wool. No detail on the interior is left to chance, and even the door sills are exquisite with large suicide-hinged wings ajar.
The door hinges have been polished and proudly sparkle, giving the reassurance of total mechanical perfection inside-out. Speaking of the doors, when it comes time to egress from within, a large button found near the A-pillar will automatically open the door for you, in a steady open swing. What better way could a car say, “you’ve arrived?” Handing this car over to valet service will be a difficult task as flash backs of ‘Ferris Beuller’s Day Off’ envisage your Drophead flying airborne over a railroad crossing (see clip). Perhaps it’s better to savor every last moment behind the wheel and park it yourself.
The controls are laid out in a predictable, ergonomic fashion, and all switchgear moves and spins with precisely solid, silky motions. Some interfaces are hidden behind trick paneling, which retracts at the push of a button – ala James Bond spy-car. Since BMW took control of Rolls-Royce, some electronic systems have been shared across platforms, but aside from the characteristic door chime – you would never know that the operating software came from anywhere outside of England. As to be expected of an 18 and-a-half foot car, interior room is somewhat cavernous and could leave you feeling agoraphobic. This must be what the President’s suite feels like at the Four Seasons, though I didn’t find any chocolates on my seat.
Moving to the exterior, the Drophead coupe is said to be modeled after racing yachts of the 1930′s – so it’s not all in my head – this Phantom really does look and feel reminiscent of an open water experience. It took all of my self-control not to break-out the swim gear and lie across the teak wood deck – shy of a yacht I’ve not seen such expansive wood panelling open to bask in the sun.
Said teak decking calls for a princely sum of $8,975 on the options list. Besides the aforementioned teak deck, one of the most striking features of the the Drophead I drove was its brushed steel bonnet. This brushed steel treatment on the hood and A-pillars calls for another $10,325. Its admiral blue paint shone deep and glossy, well complimented by the chrome, brushed steel, glass and wood surrounds – handsome in any light. While we favored ours, the exterior is available in a dizzying 44,000 color combinations.
The base price of this elegant land-yacht is a healthy $447,000 USD and while we’re on the topic of money – the Drophead Coupe drinks premium bubbly to the tune of 11 mpg city / 18 mpg highway. Add in the left side of the options list and you’re devilishly close to half a million dollars key-in-hand.
If you have the golden heels to afford such a vehicle, you will no doubt grow fond of it as you discover every surface and material. Its rich opulence could spoil a king and its brimming confidence will put a skip in your step. We highly recommend the Drophead’s driving experience if you ever have the chance to own one, but remember: this one is only driven on Sundays.
Special thanks to Rolls-Royce NA for our time spent behind the wheel.