2010 Rolls-Royce Phantom Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New convertible for the new Rolls-Royce.
For 2008, Rolls-Royce has added a significant new model to its range of Phantom sedans and limousines. This one is the first convertible to be built from the ground up since BMW took over Rolls-Royce and built a brand new factory in Goodwood, England, to build them.
It's also the first Rolls-Royce convertible in history to be priced at more than $400,000.
It's a different kind of convertible in terms of design details, closely related to the overall look of the Phantom sedans, but worlds apart in many ways. It is intended to occupy the market segment vacated by the old Corniche line of convertibles, and carries the Phantom name quite deliberately to relate it to the new BMW-run company and erase memories of the old Rolls-Royce.
The Phantom Drophead Coupe comes to market almost intact from the 100EX roadster concept car that the company first showed in the spring of 2004, a car designed to celebrate the company's centennial, using a 9-liter V16 engine. After it was shown around the world, the clamor from customers and the media for a production version of the 100EX was so loud the company went ahead with it. The giant engine didn't survive the transfer to production, but almost every piece of the 100EX concept, inside and out, has made it into the production convertible.
All Phantoms are handbuilt from the ground up around a tremendously strong welded aluminum space frame that is accurate to 0.004 inches in every single dimension. If there were six-star crash ratings for front and side impact, we're sure this car would qualify.
With this ultra-luxury car, the customer buys all the Rolls-Royce hallmarks: hand-built craftsmanship, exclusivity, head-turning style and size, and power aplenty. As for its market competition, well, there simply isn't any.
There will be only on Phantom Drophead Coupe model. The bespoke nature of the car and the factory option list for this car make it a virtual certainty that no two cars will be built alike.
There are nine exterior paint colors, none of which is shared with the Phantom sedan or limousine. The windshield surround and A-pillars can be painted body color, or made of stainless steel, buyer's choice. There are six contrasting hood colors plus stainless steel. There are ten interior leather colors to choose from. The interior veneers include elm, oak, ash burr, mahogany, rosewood, and piano black.
Options are few and expensive. If you want the stainless steel hood, you have to take the teak convertible top cover with it, for a mere $17,000. The 21-inch, nine-spoke wheel and run-flat tire package is $3000. Other than those two packages, the Drophead Coupe comes with every conceivable comfort and convenience item there is, including a Rolls-Royce umbrella hidden away in each of the two front door frames.
The warranty is four years with unlimited mileage. The Phantom Drophead also comes with free full service for four years and unlimited mileage, Rolls-Royce Assist (road side assistance and concierge service) for four years, and a free subscription to Sirius satellite radio for the life of the car.
Safety features include ABS with emergency brake-force distribution, traction control, and electronic stability control. A forward-looking wide-angle TV camera helps the driver see around corners, useful in big-city parking garages.
The exterior design of the new Phantom Drophead Coupe makes a statement like no other car. It is substantially different from the sedan and limousine, far more sporty and elegant. The car is almost 10 inches shorter overall than the Phantom sedan, shares no body panels with the larger sedan, and it features what the English call coach doors (what we used to call suicide doors), hinged at the rear and opening at the front, for more elegant entry and exit from both front and rear seats.
The door skins go way, way forward of the windshield frame and incorporate a lovely swoop in the front fender sheetmetal to add visual interest to what is probably the largest convertible in the industry. The headlamps, signal lamps and driving lamps are new. The grille looks like a Phantom grille, but is sized and shaped for a sporty convertible and includes the world's only power-operated hood ornament, which flips over out of harm's way at the touch of a button, locking into place and leaving only a flat stainless-steel plate, so it can't be stolen.
On the Drophead Coupe, the trunk lid is made in two sections, the long horizontal one aft of the convertible top cover, and a vertical one that folds out into a carpeted picnic table or tailgate arrangement that can hold up to 330 pounds of human or other weight.
Trunk space itself is 11.1 cubic feet, enough, Rolls-Royce says, for three sets of golf clubs. The five-layer-thick cloth convertible top folds away completely behind the rear seats in a few seconds under a panel that can be painted in body color, contrasting color, or covered in optional genuine handcrafted teak strips that look like they belong on a Chris-Craft runabout.
Standard wheels and tires are Michelin PAX metric-sized run-flat tires on seven-spoke alloy wheels that are slightly larger than 20 inches because they are metric, and Goodyear 21-inch EMT run-flats on nine-spoke alloy wheels are optional. The wheels themselves have lightweight composite center sections, and of course, the car carries no jack or spare tire to save weight (which is kind of silly when the car ends up weighing 5700 pounds, but there it is).
The Phantom Drophead Coupe cabin was designed to reflect the materials and designs used in, and the pure romance of, racing sailboats of the Thirties. The thin-section rim on the nautically flavored steering wheel is a carryover from the old days, and one that we don't particularly care for. A big car like this deserves a big, thick steering wheel. The seats are huge, thick and supremely comfortable, front or rear, and they are upholstered in very simple large rectangular sections of world-class leather. In case you get caught in the rain, it will be fast and easy to wipe all of the water off the leather very quickly, since there are no nooks, crannies, seams or tufting. The door panels on the extremely thick doors are likewise very simply decorated.
The interior design scheme is a mix of Rolls-Royce tradition like the chrome, wood and leather, the organ-pull controls for the vents, and the column shifter with its unusual R-N-D-P layout, blended with 21st-century requirements like Bluetooth telephones, auxiliary audio inputs, 6-disc CD changers, and navigation screens (hidden behind the analog clock at the top center of the dashboard).
The instrumentation is very simple, with a centered speedometer, a combination fuel and temperature gauge, and a meter on the left that resembles a tachometer, but is a power reserve meter that reads in percentage used and remaining. Quirkily wonderful.
The detailing on this car is remarkable. Every piece of chrome trim, every seam, every joint is perfect, as it should be for a handmade $400,000 car. The chrome looks deep enough to swim in, and there is lots of it, including large pieces on the edges of the coach doors. The leather is the best available, selected from large, unblemished hides. The music system plays through nine channels and 15 speakers arrayed around the cockpit, and it's very, very good at ear level.
The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe that we test drove was black with the stainless-steel hood, stainless-steel windshield surround, and teak decking on the convertible top cover, with a gorgeous Moccasin leather interior and door panels and dark wood interior trim. Push the large key into its place on the left of the dash, press the engine start button, select D, press the electronic parking brake switch on the dash to release, and you're off.
The way the Phantom Drophead Coupe accelerates its considerable mass, almost 5800 pounds, is nothing short of miraculous. The big V12 is tuned to give 75 percent of peak power, or 340 horsepower, at just above idle speed, 1000 rpm, and all 531 foot-pounds of torque at a mere 3500 rpm, so you never have to push into the upper rpm ranges to get truly rewarding performance. Rolls-Royce claims a 0-60 mph time of well under six seconds flat, which, at this weight, is remarkable. Upshifts are quick, and downshifts are a bit on the lazy side, but the power never wanes.
Braking is equally awesome, sporting extremely large and powerful discs, almost 15 inches in diameter up front, with ABS. In Tuscany, anything can happen with scooters, pedestrians, and drivers gawking at a $400,000 Rolls instead of paying attention, so we were happy to have the monster brakes along for the ride. We would appreciate them just as much in the Hamptons or in Beverly Hills.
Do not think of this big Rolls as an elephant on roller skates, because it is quite the opposite. Remember, BMW is running the company now, and they are famous for performance and handling. Through the air suspension and the stiff body and chassis, there is a tremendous amount of isolation from noise, vibration, and shake, but the steering is relatively lively and communicative, and the car changes direction with serious authority and accuracy on those big tires. With the cashmere-lined, five-layer convertible top up, the Drophead Coupe becomes an island of serenity in a noisy world.
We're quite sure that the American Rolls-Royce arm will be able to sell every Drophead Coupe it can get its hands on for the foreseeable future. There are enough sports stars, entertainment stars, entrepreneurs, and generally wealthy people to keep Goodwood busy for years to come building them. Status and exclusivity are fine, but this car is also very rewarding to drive right up to its top speed of 150 mph, a precision navigation instrument, extremely quiet and peaceful inside, and built like no other car in the world.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw test drove the Phantom Drophead Coupe around Maremma Toscana, Italy.
Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe ($407,000).
Options As Tested
brushed stainless-steel hood and teak deck ($17,000).
Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe ($407,000).
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