The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is not the sort of car wed normally review. For a start, it costs over 350,000 and thats without so much as glancing at the options list. It will also lose around 200,000 in depreciation in three years and few can afford to write off the price of a very nice house like that.
Yet, its an iconic car, an emblem of all that is Great about Britain. So when Rolls-Royce offered us the chance to spend a day driving one - with a factory tour thrown in - it would have been a missed opportunity to refuse. So we didnt.
What can I say? The standard Phantom, whether in standard or extended wheelbase (EWB, in Rolls-Royce speak) form, has immense presence at the best of times. Throw in a folding roof, bright blue coachwork, and a brushed alloy bonnet and youve got a car that draws attention like few others.
The suicide doors are a fabulous touch, bringing an exclusivity and elegance that you will appreciate every single time you climb in. Gorgeous touches abound: the yacht-inspired rear deck is simply sensational and the wheel emblems, weighted and mounted on a ball bearing race so they are always upright, are utterly unnecessary and all the better for being so.
The fit and finish is, of course, superb; few cars are assembled and painted with more care than a Rolls-Royce.
But it isnt all good news. The headlights look, to me, awkward and, dare I say it, cheap. So does the grille. Rolls-Royce grilles were traditionally fashioned by hand with a slight curve to them that, weirdly, ensured they looked straight when fitted to the car. They were fabulously wanton, gloriously expensive, and utterly over-the-top. The Phantom grille, by way of contrast, merely looks good. Which isnt enough on a car that costs this much.
The interior is beautifully finished, featuring Bavarian hide, burnished alloy, polished chrome, and the highest quality veneer you are ever likely to see used in the 21st century. Everything operates with a precision that few drivers will have experienced before, even if some controls, including the air vents, are counterintuitive.
Rear seat legroom is merely adequate, but this is a car for driving and drivers, rather than being driven in, and the ergonomics up-front are perfect.
A 5.6-metre long car that is almost 2-metres wide is always going to be a mighty handful on anything other than wide-open roads, so twisty back roads and city centres are not where it feels most at home.
Nor is it a sports car, despite the sporting pretensions; this is a car for elegant travel, for covering continents in luxury, for driving with your finger tips. At that it excels. If you owned a Phantom Drophead Coupe you probably wouldnt use it every day, but by golly, when you did wheel the old girl out youd enjoy every minute.
The 6.75-litre V12 engine develops 453bhp and 531lb/ft of torque, enough to waft to 60mph in under 6 seconds, which is as ridiculous as it feels. It never feels outright fast, just far faster than any car this size (and weight) has any right to feel.
It is, of course, creamy smooth and almost imperceptible as are the gear changes from the eight-speed gearbox. This is not an engine as we know it, and if someone told you it was a small nuclear reactor youd believe them. Fuel consumption? Rolls-Royce suggest that 19.1mpg is possible. It probably isnt
Value for Money
None, Zero. Nada. Zilch. This car makes no financial sense whatsoever.
Youll either consider the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe a glorious irrelevance or an appalling demonstration of all that is wrong with the First World. It is, it could be argued, too big, too profligate, too extravagant, too expensive. Just too much.
It also has too many signs of penny pinching for me to find it completely convincing. The grille is where it starts, but, sadly, not where it ends. BMW iDrive feels incongruous in such an expensive machine and some of the minor controls (indicator, gear change lever, etc.) feel cheap.
The Phantom is an anachronism and the choice of the Drophead Coupe cranks the bling dial all the way to eleven. Yet the Chinese and the Russians are buying them quicker than the Goodwood factory can churn them out and as a result the Rolls-Royce bottom line is healthier than ever.
As Charles Royce himself said: The quality remains long after the price is forgotten. For some that is all the justification they need.