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Car reviews - Rolls-Royce - Phantom - Coupe

Our Opinion

We like
Imposing coupe profile, eerily quiet, spades of torque, unprecedented luxury, sharper handling than four-door
Room for improvement
Tattslotto price, Starlight Headlining looks a bit kitsch, a hint of V12 engine note under acceleration might be nice

28 Oct 2008

IT is impossible not to be impressed by a car that costs $1.1 million.

The Phantom Coupe is a simply stunning vehicle that is likely to be even more desirable than the regular sedan thanks to its sleeker look.

It has just as much presence, if not more than the four-door model, which now looks a bit staid or old fashioned in comparison.

Of course the four-door Phantom is a truly modern interpretation of a Rolls-Royce, but it looks like a symbol of old wealth while the Coupe is a symbol of new wealth.

It's slightly laid-back grille is imposing and the sheer bulk of the car, with those 21-inch rims and flowing lines, means this car stands out like few others from 100 metres or more.

After your eyes have worked their way around the shining behemoth, they start to notice the smaller details - like the wheel centres with the RR emblem that don't move, even though the wheels do make quite an impression.

It is sort of like a reverse of the 'spinner' wheel covers that spin separate to the wheel that were so popular in the aftermarket car modification scene a few years.

After you have taken in the bold exterior, it's time to get in, which takes some getting used to.

The doors are rear-hinged so those of us used to opening normal front-hinged doors will try and open the door and then step around to move out of its path. After a few times you work out you should stand forward of the door before opening it.

Thankfully, closing the door is less of an issue. All you have to do is press the button just next to the A-pillar and the door will close itself. There is also a button to shut the passenger door so they don't have to bother to shut the door when they get out either.

The interior is a striking symbol of automotive opulence.

Your first feeling is of wonderment, dashed with some nerves. It is like coming across the most expensive leather couch at one of those expensive furniture stores. You want to sit in it and see how good it is, but you don't want to risk scratching it.

Overcome this and you will soon become at home in the cocoon of leather, wood and aluminium.

I don't want to think about how many cows line the interior. Almost everything is lined with leather – grab-handles, dash sections, the iDrive-style controller ball and even the War-and-Peace-thick owner's manual are all lined with the softest leather you could imagine.

The seats in the front are extremely comfortable, but what about in the back? Normally the rear seats of a coupe are no place to get comfortable, but those in the Phantom Coupe break the trend.

There is a lot of headroom and legroom back here for large passengers and you could imagine sitting back and enjoying a long cruise.

Cigarette lighters (or perhaps in this case cigar lighters) and lighting controls for each passenger are located on either side of the seats.

You could lounge around in the Phantom Coupe for hours and you can even watch the stars, or something simulating stars. If you are prepared to shell out $18,600, Rolls-Royce will fit 1600 fibre optic lights in the ceiling.

Called the Starlight Headlining, it looks interesting in the part-darkness of a car showroom, but would look pretty special at night. While it is proving popular, we don’t imagine that traditional Rolls-Royce customers would be impressed with something so easily described as kitsch.

The rest of the cabin is a mixture of old and new, with rich woodgrain covering the dashboard, doors and centre console. Dials for the sound system and heater controls are visible, but the iDrive roller ball is hidden in the centre console and the control screen is sits behind the clock on the dashboard.

When you are ready to go, you press the start button located to the right of the steering wheel.

But you could be forgotten for hitting it twice as you simply cannot hear the engine. Release electric-hydraulic handbrake and select drive with the column-mounted shifter and it’s time to go.

Low-speed driving in the Phantom Coupe is a remarkable experience. In one way it is like driving a Toyota Prius at low speeds.

Why? Because it is silent. Not quiet or fairly serene - the big Rolls-Royce is silent as it cruises through the city. You find yourself turning off the air-vents so you can enjoy the lack of noise.

It is also incredibly smooth, with the engine remaining quiet even when you accelerate hard. You can of course hear it when it’s working hard, but there is not a hint of sportiness in the note.

Not that I was expecting a rorty performance note, but the Coupe is a sportier model than the sedan, so it would be reasonable to expect a hint of V12 muscle.

The big two-door Roller’s acceleration itself is pretty impressive and the pace at which is can surge off the line tends to defy both its kerb weight and the law of physics.

Sadly, however, our ability to thoroughly test this crucial aspect out for ourselves was extremely limited given we drove it on Melbourne city roads.

So while the sportiest Rolls-Royce yet produced under BMW ownership does indeed seems fast, the idea that it can blast to 100km/h in a claimed 5.8 seconds appears optimistic.

That’s just one-tenth of a second off a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo’s pace, which certainly feels a lot quicker. That said, there’s no way you would describe the monstrous torque of the coupe as inadequate.

There is no tacho in the Phantom Coupe, instead there is a power reserve meter to show how much grunt you have left. Don't tell an owner, but it’s little more than a reverse tacho.

The coupe may have been developed with sportier driving in mind, but it is still incredibly comfortable. Just like the sedan, you feel like it glides over the road unlike any other car.

The suspension is still quite soft and there is a lot of suspension travel at low speeds. The two-door Phantom doesn't like speed humps and you have to go over them very slowly or risk hitting the underside.

At higher speeds the coupe seems to sit fairly flat in corners compared to the sedan, revealing a lot less body roll as cornering speeds quicken.

With a limited run it is hard to give a detailed view on the handling characteristics of the Phantom Coupe, but it certainly seems as though it would be able to run through a twisty section of road with far less fuss than the cushier Phantom sedan.

The coupe certainly does seem like more of a driver's car, but is still comfortable beyond description.

Yes, $1.1 million is a staggering amount of money to spend on a mansion let alone a car, but the Phantoms are truly unique cars and after a short drive in the new Coupe version, it’s clear where much of the money has been spent.

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