First Drive: Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe


What’s new?

If you’re going to dream, you should dream big. The first and last word in luxury has always been Rolls Royce and while they have an increasingly broad range of luxury cars, it is the range-crowning Phantom that is the ultimate luxury car.

And what better way to enjoy this luxury than in the Phantom Drophead Coupe? Don’t let the Coupe tag fool you; Drophead in Rolls Royce speak means convertible, so it is a very different proposition from the Phantom saloon. This is a super-luxury car you drive yourself rather than letting James have all the fun.

Looks and image

Whatever colour you choose for your Phantom Drophead you’re going to get noticed. It’s over 5.6 metres in length – that’s 18 feet 4 inches in old money - making it the longest car on sale in the UK that isn’t another Rolls Royce.

It might sound hard to believe but there is a grace to it despite its size. Its proportions and curves recall those of an elegant yacht, which isn’t entirely accidental, and the detailing is inspired by such things; the teak rear decking could come straight from a Riva speedboat.

You might think something as potentially ostentatious as this could have a somewhat negative image but the truth is far from it. During a weekend of gliding elegantly about the country it received nothing but keen interest, open-mouthed staring and endlessly enthusiastic enquiries. People love this car because it’s like nothing else on earth.

Space and practicality

It might be 5.6 meters in length but you can’t use all of that for stuff or people, not with a 6.75-litre V12 engine up front. However, don’t go thinking that the Phantom Drophead isn’t spacious. Sitting up front is exactly like a luxurious drawing room, with a different design of seat (made to deal with the occasional rain shower). You sit high up with an imposing view of the road ahead. The back seats are a little smaller but still spacious and comfortable, while the boot is a modest 315 litres. But let’s face it, your pile in the south of France will have a wardrobe of your clothes anyway.

Behind the wheel

It’s easy to be cynical about a car of this size and expense and dismiss it as mere transport, but just five minutes behind the wheel is all it takes to realise the Phantom Drophead offers a complete different experience altogether.

The engine starts without a murmur and it’s only the needles flickering into life that indicates the silken V12 is running. Shift the delicate gearlever into D and as you release the brake the Phantom rolls forward, as if you’re releasing momentum rather than merely accelerating. As you build speed the sensation continues, while the suspension makes road imperfections disappear. Everything about the Phantom is geared to shielding you from the petty faults of the world and transporting you to your destination as unflustered as possible.

The other magic trick that the Phantom Drophead performs is to dissuade and discourage you from being hurried or stressed. Sure, you can hustle this 2.6 tonne beast if you like, but without even knowing it you find your arms sitting comfortably on the leathered rests, your hands slip down to the bottom third of the wheel and suddenly life isn’t quite so demanding.

Value for money

On paper it’s not the easiest task to justify a list price of £358,488 before options, but let’s remember who this car is aimed at; the lucky few who own several cars, probably several houses and possibly other modes of transport. What your quarter million and change buys you is an experience beyond compare. The craft and quality is exceptional, the driving experience is incomparable and the way it makes you and your passengers feel simply isn’t available elsewhere. Qualities like these don’t come cheap.

Who would buy one?

Even so this is clearly not a car for every person and every budget. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the position to drop nearly £400k on a car, then you probably don’t need or want my input. But it’s worth remembering that, despite German ownership, Rolls Royce has its heart and soul in the UK and several thousand talented employees based in Goodwood that designed and built this magnificent machine, so even if there’s no chance of us owning one we should still be proud that the finest luxury car in the world is British.

This car summed up in a single word: Exalted

If this car was a…: hotel room it would be the presidential suite.


Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe, £358,488.

Engine:6.75-litre petrol unit producing 454bhp and 531lb.ft of torque

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic gearbox driving the rear wheels

Performance: Top speed 149mph, 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds

Economy: 19.1mpg combined

Emissions: 347g/km of CO2

Rolls Royce

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