It's time to drive the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, some two years after the company threw back the covers hiding its 101EX concept. Back then, no one ever pretended that was anything but a gossamer thin disguise for the upcoming Phantom Coupe. Fast forward 24 months and the first Coupes - running a 453bhp V12 and costing nigh on £300,000 - are rolling off the Goodwood factory's immaculate production line.
It’s rather large, isn't it?
The Coupe looks big in pictures, but in the metal it’s even larger. The kind of larger than makes you walk around the car (a good ten minute stroll itself) a few times just to recalibrate your mental tape measure. Whether the Phantom’s size and style appeals to you or not, there’s no denying its imposing proportions and intelligent detailing. That brushed alloy bonnet is proving popular too, with the overwhelming majority of buyers ticking its box on the long options list. What a pity then that even when riding on 21inch alloys there’s still a large enough gap between tyre and wheel arch to make the car look under-tyred.
What’s it like on board, Cap’n?
Swing back that vast rear-hinged door and climb up and into the front seats. There’s a wonderfully simple and pared-back feeling to the cabin that almost verges on the spartan. Unlike a Maybach or a Bentley, the cabin is not confusingly shotgunned with a thousand buttons dials and controls. There’s no intimidation, just intelligently configured ergonomics – controls you need regularly are just where you’d want them, those that aren’t are secreted away.
Refreshing in a less-is-more way…
Quite. You get the feeling that pretty much every minute detail has been thought through to the nth degree. Take the umbrellas that are stowed in the front wings - they’re Teflon coated so that they can be replaced when damp without the fabric perishing. And the elegant dash clock - it tumbles silently away to reveal the satellite navigation screen. But after that bare bonnet, the option most drivers will enjoy is the ‘Starlight’ headlining with its 1600 LED lights. Perfect for roof-up star-gazing.
There is one glaring fault though – the trio of roof-mounted controls for opening the boot, raising the suspension (itself an odd engineering choice given the Coupe’s lofty ride height) and activating the always-necessary parking sensors is totally obscured from view from the driver’s seat.
Good to sit in, but good to drive?
Very good. Refinement levels are extraordinary – this is easily the quietest car we’ve ever tested, Phantom saloon excepted. Sitting in the Rolls-Royce at idle is like relaxing in a hermetically sealed vault. And that refinement never fades. It may have 2590kg to haul around but performance from the 6749cc V12 is never anything but silken, swift and silent. With 453bhp at 5350rpm and a hefty 531lb ft of torque at 3500rpm, the Phantom flows along with effortless ease, six-speed transmission slipping imperceptible between ratios. It may not bolt forward on wide throttle openings with the vigour to match twin-turbo specials like the Brooklands or Maybach but then the Phantom isn’t about gauche displays of power.
Does it fall to bits around corners?
Not a bit of it. Body control is extraordinary for something so large – you don’t exactly go hot hatch baiting in a Rolls-Royce, but on a winding A-road the Coupe flows along far more quickly and cleanly that you’d anticipate. Compared to the saloon, the Coupe gets uprated suspension and a tweaked steering set-up. It works very well – the car feeling surprisingly alert and keen to change direction despite its size and weight. Lovely brakes too. The ride quality is equally astounding. Even over the most acned surfaces the Coupe simply glides with an imperious serenity, it’s suspension silently insulating the cabin from intrusion.
It doesn’t exactly look massive in the back
Good point. For a car over five and a half metres long with a three metres plus wheelbase, packaging is almost comical. Sure, there’s ample of room aboard for four and their luggage, but accommodation is generous and no more. Maybach and Bentley rivals may have it licked for head, hip and elbow room, but there’s still something very special about travelling in the rear of the Coupe.
The Coupe is the final member of the Phantom family, and as with its siblings, to judge it by the same criteria as other luxury cars is to miss their point by a West Sussex mile. These cars are motoring edifices built with a far-seeing longevity that regards fuel crises and economic downturns as minor and temporary irritations. And they are brought by people with similar attitudes, buyers who have quality, refinement and intent at the top of their list rather than the cost, economy, insurance and depreciation that would tops ours. So can the outrageously expensive yet flawed Phantom Coupe be the finest two-door grand tourer on the market? Undoubtedly.