Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé Preview – 2007 Detroit Auto Show: Rolls-Royce doesn’t manufacture cars. It hand crafts motorcars. Similarly, the two-door open-air version of the Phantom sedan is no mere convertible, but a drophead coupé. No matter what you call it though, it is a striking automobile to behold. The styling evokes traditions of past Rolls-Royce cars without slumming the retro ghetto. The wood is plentiful, the chrome finishes are mirror-like, and every interior surface that isn’t wood or metal is covered with hides from a small herd of identical cattle. You don’t drive this car, you motor.
It’s likely that 99.99 percent of the people reading this won’t ever come close to buying a Phantom Drophead Coupé. For those that can consider this car, they can be content that they purchased a vehicle that continues a long line of extraordinary Rolls-Royce convertibles. It is also the second vehicle to be developed at Rolls-Royce since BMW took over stewardship of the company in 1998. The rest of us will have to make do with fleeting glimpses.
The days when Rolls-Royce used ambiguous terms like “adequate” to describe its power output are long gone. The Phantom Drophead Coupé’s 5776 lbs. are motivated by a 453 horsepower 6.7-liter V12 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Torque is a prodigious 531 lb.-ft., more than enough to get the mighty Roller rolling. Rolls-Royce estimates 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, and top speed is limited to 149 mph. We’d call that “more than adequate.”
The 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé looks like only one other car on the road, the Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan. Despite this, there are significant differences. Every exterior panel is different, and the Coupé is shorter overall than the sedan. It shares the distinctive (and controversial) Rolls-Royce front end treatment. It also has a cloth top, odd considering that hardtop convertibles are almost the norm today. Particularly noteworthy are the rear-hinged doors. Yes, those are massive chrome door handles you see under the side mirrors. We can’t think of one practical reason why you’d want the doors to hinge to the rear, and that’s exactly why they’re perfect for a car like this.
It wouldn’t do for a Rolls-Royce to have anything but the most elegant and sumptuous interior possible. The Phantom Drophead Coupé uses wood, metal and leather to great effect. The only plastic the driver’s hands will ever touch are on things like the radio controls, as virtually everything else is carved, cast or upholstered with one of those other elements. The layout is traditionally Rolls-Royce, which is to say that if you’re a lottery winner who has been raised on Honda and Toyota ergonomics, well, there’s an adjustment period.
“The Phantom Drophead Coupé is about emphasizing the essentials of pleasure,” says Rolls-Royce Chief Designer Ian Cameron. “Above all, we were determined to make this car a joy to live with.” We can imagine that anybody purchasing this car would find great wisdom in Mr. Cameron’s words. Of course, simply being able to purchase a car like this would bring great pleasure to most of us, but that’s another discussion for another time.
There are few things more British than a Rolls-Royce, and the Phantom Drophead Coupé (yes, you say it “coo-pay”) is the quintessential Rolls. It is intricate in its execution, bold in its styling, and its luxury transcends anything you’ll find on the lots of a BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or other mass-market brand, expensive as they may be. Just as there will always be an England, there will always be a Rolls-Royce.