Ohhh… suits you Mr Kacher
Thank you very much indeed. Yes, Rolls-Royce's Drophead is a truly breathtaking vehicle, one in which it only feels right to wear a tailored suit before swinging open that big rear-hinged door and slipping behind the thin-rimmed steering wheel. And it will be an incredibly rare sight, the Phantom Drophead Coupe. Over the next 10 years, no more than 3000 of these phenomenal vehicles will pass out of the gates at Rolls-Royce’s high-tech Goodwood factory. And with 43,000 different hues of paint, the choice of nine interior palettes and six shades of leathers and roofs, it’s unlikely your Drophead will ever pull up along side an identically specced model. But the personalisation won’t extend beyond the cosmetic – there’s no possibility of ordering an uprated engine or a tweaked suspension set-up.
I just love the polished aluminium bonnet and teak rear deck…
Do you? I’m not so sure. These options may cost the equivalent of a decently priced family hatchback, but I’m not entirely convinced of their stylistic integrity. The bonnet reminds me of shiny kitchen equipment and that deck is too maritime for my liking. And it doesn’t match the interior veneers. I’d go for a body-coloured bonnet (and please, I beg you, no two-tone paint jobs) and a leather roof lining that matches the body colour, so when the roof is retracted the rear matches the cabin. In your chosen spec, this is a truly unique car and one that exudes top-notch pedigree. Just seeing one is a real occasion, and that's before you get behind the wheel...
I guess it drives like a barge too?
Quite the opposite, dear boy. Yes, at 5609mm long it’s absolutely enormous and parking it requires astute use of both parking camera and beeping parking radars. And it’s very heavy. Despite its aluminium spaceframe construction, the Drophead weighs in at a portly 2620kg. But on the road it handles with an agility and nimbleness that’s at odds with its girth. In fact, it's a brilliant drive. The soft-top Phantom is a pedigree performer, not a poseur, you see. The steering is light but precise and surprisingly informative, allowing you to punt this big car along with real verve and pace. And the brakes – ventilated 374mm front and 370mm rear rotors – are simply superb, easily reeling in the enthusiasm of the direct injection 6.75-litre V12.
Let me get this straight - you can actually have fun behind the wheel?
Oh yes indeed. Push the Drophead and there’s a bit of early understeer followed a smooth and predictable neutral phase. It’s almost tempting to wag its tail but the traction control is non-switchable, and besides thrashing almost three tonnes of metal is probably not what Goodwood’s engineers had in mind for the Drophead. Very unbecoming of one so stately. What it could do with, though, is more torque. Sure, 453bhp and 531lb ft are ‘adequate’ in Rolls-Royce talk, and there’s nothing wrong with the 5.7 second sprint to 60mph, but I wouldn’t mind more muscle to shorten the 50-100mph run. The Drophead Coupe deserves an engine that belies its size and weight, and it might sound like treason, but turbocharging to bolster low-rev torque would create that engine. But we're splitting hairs here; this soft-top is a rapid and refined car to drive, period.
The perfect way to waft down to St Tropez, then
Only if you waft slowly. For all its elegance and grace, the cabin is surprisingly turbulent with the roof down above 65mph – far more so than its nearest rival, the Bentley Azure. Blame the relatively low windscreen header rail, the shallow windows and the absence of a wind deflector. One is under development, but I can't help thinking that this syrup-saver should have been ready at launch. Roof up, though the six-layer hood does a superb insulating job. You could be in your favourite club armchair, so hushed is it. And the supple ride quality is superbly damped. The convertible feels solid and robust, and even if you drive over poorly surfaced and potholed roads there’s not even the faintest hint of scuttle shake or cabin shudder. Very impressive.
The cabin certainly looks like a fine place to spend time
Yes, it does have a wonderful ambience, although if I was nit-picking some of the woodwork was not quite as immaculately matched as I anticipated. Despite its clean and formal layout, it’s full of delightful touches. The minimalist stitching on the seats was selected to make the chairs easier to wipe down after a quick shower. The heavily chromed controls move with a damped, machined feel that makes adjusting the air vents a true tactile pleasure. The slender steering wheel is finished in the silkiest of leathers and pressing the L button on the transmission tunnel holds the six-speed box in the lowest appropriate ratio to help maintain a constant low speed. Perfect for tinpot dictators wanting to parade in front of their people.
There’s just one word that best describes the Drophead and that word is rarefied. It takes 350 hours to build the Phantom and you’ll need £260,000 to have one sitting on your gravel driveway – and that’s before you start personalising any aspect of the car, mind. Not that the price tag hasn't stopped the car from selling out until the end of 2008. Few cars are more expensive, and fewer still come close to the kind of automotive statement this Rolls-Royce makes. It’s not perfect – the cabin materials fell just short of perfect and the imminent wind deflector will need to be very good - but this is a Rolls-Royce that you’ll savour driving, rather than enjoy being driven in. I know of few finer ways to travel.