The topless winged lady flies through the air with greatest of ease, that phantom of the street opera baring all to see.
This big V-12 Rolls-Royce convertible is an imposing car, with her hood riding taller than the roof of most sports cars. In Brit-speak, today’s tester is the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe, costing a breathy $553,000 as tested.
All at the same time, this car is arrogant and ostentatious but also creative and innovating. And, yet, the common comment from people was “What a pretty car.” The tester in its optional two-tone paint of Blue Ice ($9,925) and Peacock Blue ($9,000) — plus a $8,950 service charge — is pretty — despite the Phantom’s heavy-handed exterior styling of blunt-force drama.
Rear-hinged doors, with power closers, add to the allure. And the off-white natural grain full leather upholstery with sisal floor mats gave it a nautical call to port. And at almost 18.5 feet long and 6.5 feet wide with a turning circle of 43 feet, she’s a bit broad in the beam for nimble maneuvering.
If there had never been a fuel crisis in America, more cars would be built to the size and substance of this Roller. I never felt safer behind the wheel of a car. It is soft and comfy on the road, with no real steering feedback or tire noise. It floats and rolls (known as “waftability,” at Roll-Royce), but she tucks firmly into hard cornering, once the suspension takes a stance. The first time I drove the car, it felt as if I were piloting a 38-foot motorhome. But by the next day, I was tooling with two-finger control on the steering wheel.
The DHC is a daily driver, but it’s also a daily parade car. I can’t count the number of cellphone photos that were snapped. Those 21-inch Goodyear Eagle run flat tires look to be the size of bus tires. With a generous sidewall and alloy wheels, each tire and wheel stands 30 inches tall.
The non-turbocharged 435-horsepower, 6.75-liter V-12, with 531 foot-pounds of torque, is not quick to move the car off its feet, but once it’s rolling the power builds furiously. Rolls cites 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, which would seem to defy gravity for a car weighing 5,798 pounds. But large four-wheel brakes are up to the three-ton task: 14.7-inch vented discs front, 14.6-inch vented discs rear.
Fuel economy is an oxymoron at 11 mpg city, 19 highway and 14 combined, on premium fuel. The smallish fuel tank might allow a driving range of 336 miles.
The dashboard is more than 4.5 feet wide and with such an expanse to fill, the placement of instrument panel controls is more for design balance than ergonomics. Actually, many of the switches and buttons just seem randomly placed as add-ons, not part of a grand plan. Fan controls are low, the 10-way seat adjusters are inside the armrest console and the seat heaters are notched outside of that console. Once you know the landscape, it works.
And there are generous dual glove boxes, polished and book-matched wood veneer and dual full-length umbrellas that tuck into little cannon barrels in the door jambs, with push-button spring-loaded release. Oh such comfort privilege.
The five-layered top powers back and leaves no bustle. Air flow with the top down is comfortable at all speeds. I never drove with the top up, so I can’t comment on visibility in the closed car. But for as big as the Roller is, the back seat space is still best for the grandkids, though adults likely won’t complain if they get a ride.
Completely unique to this car is a very usable tailgate. The trunk space of 11.1 cubic feet actually has broad space for at least one full-size set of golf clubs.
The Phantom lineup is made up of two four-door models (including a long wheelbase), a coupe and the convertible. The DHC has a starting price of $484,875, including the $2,600 gas-guzzler tax and the $2,500 freight charge and from Chichester, Great Britain. The tester had about $68,000 in options, which would buy most in the 99 percent income demographic a luxury class sedan.
But for costing half-a-million, the tester did not have a heated steering wheel or ventilated seats. And the three-stick cigar humidor — $4,500 — in the glove box would pop open and cause the glove box door to jam until slender fingers could be found to finesse it open.
Is it worth it? I was that asked many times, in my weekend of driving. For the few who can afford this level of luxury, it isn’t so much the car as the privilege that comes with it. So, yes, just roll with the waftability.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage