The looker of the Phantom range
The looker of the Phantom range
Words: Karl Peskett Pics: www.ozcarsightings.com
It's a feeling of serenity, one of being completely removed from the outside world. It's being carried on a bed of air while the world's most luxurious interior cossets you and relaxes you. It's having a V12 powerplant at your right foot's disposal, yet only calling on it if necessary. Really, it's about having the absolute smoothest drive possible in a motor car.
Waftability is a hallmark of all Rolls-Royce's cars; having driven the latest Phantom Coupe, we can assure you that it's evident in every facet of its drive, but at $1.26m (plus options) you would certainly hope so.
It's that price tag which is one of the greatest keys to coming to know this car. When we booked in our Rolls-Royce press car, we knew we had to have a decently sized chase car, so we approached Land Rover to use a Discovery for the week - after all, it’s big, comfortable, can go anywhere, and could swallow all our photography gear and luggage with ease. But after spending time with both cars, something became strikingly apparent - for the same price as one Phantom Coupe, you could buy 16 Land Rover Discovery 4s.
So why wouldn't you? You could have a Disco in 16 different colours, and use each one for one day a week, for over two weeks. But then you'd just be another person driving a Land Rover Discovery. You'd just blend into the crowd. But with a Rolls-Royce, well, things are very different.
If you're someone who doesn't like attention, then the Phantom Coupe is not the car for you. It's not the sort of vehicle that goes unnoticed. Largely that's due to the styling. It's instantly recognisable as a Rolls-Royce, with its large chrome grille and Spirit of Ecstacy adorning the front end, but also by its long, brushed steel bonnet and windscreen surround.
A highlight is the crease-line which runs the from the back, underneath the doors, and kicks up, curving into the fender panel, echoing the door's cutline. There's also the swage line which follows the fenders from the front edge and curves up and then along towards the rear, continuing underneath the door handles. The two opposing verticals serve to make the Phantom Coupe seem shorter than it actually is.
Despite its compact looking dimensions in photographs, in person the Phantom Coupe is simply massive. Riding on 21-inch wheels with fairly high-profile rubber (in comparison to the wheel size), it's difficult to imagine how big it is. But at just over 5.6 metres long and 1.99 metres wide, it dwarfs most passenger cars and indeed most SUVs.
Transforming the stately Phantom into a coupe also called for endowing it with a more sporting presence, working around its imposing size. The grille is slightly sloped back, the roof blends into the boot via an enormous C-pillar, while the long doors are rear hinged - a Rolls-Royce trait if ever there was one - making entry and egress for all passengers extremely easy. But the designers have imbued both the Coupe and the Drophead Coupe with their own personality; the look of the front has been modernised, replacing the plain lights with rectangular LED daytime running lights surrounding the indicators.
It makes the Phantom Coupe the best looking car in the four-car Phantom line-up. When it comes up behind you and fills your rear view mirror, it's utterly intimidating, daunting you with glowing mechanical eyes, staring you down. It's possibly the best car ever built for getting rid of right-hand-lane hogs. But rest assured, the Phantom Coupe does a lot more than that.
It's the drivers car of the Phantom range. People may scoff, saying that it's impossible to be sporting with something that weighs 2.6-tonnes. After all, just giving a car two doors doesn't make it sporty. So the coupe receives revised suspension which is slightly stiffer than the regular Phantom, but the bodywork, using that impressively strong brushed stainless steel A-frame which comes out from the A-pillar, is also immensely stiff.
Over 130 metres of welding is used to create the aluminium spaceframe, which all contributes to a chassis which doesn't twist or wobble. As a result, it turns in and feels completely solid, planted. Now, of course, it's no Lotus Elise, but the Phantom Coupe handles in a way that no luxury car should. The steering is light, but still gives feedback, and with the optional, smaller and thicker steering wheel, it responds quite well. There's no dead-zone around the centre, and the steering stays linear, with less power-assistance as you get faster.
It will wallow a little when really pushed, however for a car to absorb the bumps and the miles, you can do no better. It rides with such perfection that despite Sydney's cracked and scarred roads, only the worst crevices were heard, rather than felt. The rest of the time is the magic-carpet ride that Rolls-Royce is so famous for. The regular Phantom's ride is almost too soft, while the Coupe's is just perfect. Braking feel is brilliant, too, with the Coupe hauling up surprisingly quickly, although a few high speed stabs will see them fade a little – it is a heavy car after all.
The engine, too, is a gem. Although it's been in service for the past seven years, it's still a masterpiece of engineering, illustrated no better than when you press the start button. It whirrs into existence without offering a hint of vibration and settles into a completely silent idle. Electric cars could learn a thing or two about quietness from the Phantom Coupe.
When you've pulled up to a stop, you literally cannot hear a thing. And even when driving, the Phantom Coupe was so quiet that when our photographer received a phone-call from his girlfriend, she refused to believe we were travelling down Spit Road, surrounded by cars on each side of us. We had to be in a quiet room somewhere, she said. But no, we were doing 60km/h in the hustle and bustle of the suburbs.
Even at highway speeds, wind-noise is non-existent, while tyre roar is muted and only expansion joints would offer a distantly dull "thump-thump". On the roll, the Phantom Coupe's 338kW and 720Nm come into their own, and the car responds with amazing alacrity.
It downshifts without being felt, and while you hear the engine, sort of, it just whirrs away in the background, getting on with the job of supplying power in the fastest and smoothest way possible. Upshifts are almost seamless and the power is delivered in such a linear fashion that you have to keep checking your speed.
Like the Ghost we tested a few weeks ago, if you stand on it from rest, the Phantom Coupe starts out slowly, but gathers pace alarmingly well and continues building, like a speed crescendo. It just never gives up and keeps on adding digits to the speedometer, climaxing at its 250km/h governed limit. It'd be even quicker still if it didn't start in second gear every time.
And that's why the Coupe has an "S" button on the steering wheel. Press it and you get first gear and the briefest starts possible in such a heavy car. It then passes 100km/h from rest in a very brisk 5.8 seconds, all the while seeming completely aloof to the whole ordeal.
You buy a Rolls-Royce for more than just its engine and chassis, though. There is simply no finer cabin anywhere on sale today. The dash and instrumentation is lifted straight from the Phantom sedan, while the seats are sculpted to suit the coupe style. Using toggles under the centre armrest, the electrically adjustable seats are fitted with leather that surpasses anything else you can buy.
Buttery soft, yet still supportive, back problems are a thing of the past – there’s a distinct emphasis on kidney padding. Even the rear seats are like one big lounge; headroom could be improved by lowering them a little, but it’s only a problem if you’re very tall. Legroom for the rear is excellent, while for the front it’s almost excessive – if your front seat passenger wants to have a lie-back to sleep, they’ll be snoring in seconds.
Despite travelling hundreds of kilometers at a time, we still felt like we just hopped in, which was the aim of Rolls-Royce interior designers; they wanted owners to always emerge refreshed.
Of course, mirror-like wood and gleaming chrome is just the start of describing the quality of fittings on offer. It’s the marriage of juxtaposing materials that really blows you away. Running your finger across where the metal meets the wood on the door tops, for example, shows no gloss difference. There's just an even fold from one into the other, which is echoed on the entire window surround - even the underside of the top window edge features the same craftsmanship.
Look up to the headlining and inserted into the perforated leather are 1600 hand-fixed fibre optic points, backlit by LEDs, giving the illusion of a starry-night sky – it’s called the Starlight Option and it can be adjusted to cast a warm glow, or to be bright enough to light the entire cabin for reading.
In fact, with Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke programme, the stars can be arranged to suit your company logo, or even a family crest. Amazing stuff. Then there's the five coats of paint plus five coats of clear; in between each application, the car is hand sanded. It's then hand polished for not just a few minutes, but rather for five hours to bring it to a shine not seen anywhere else in the automotive industry.
Again, that’s the difference between this car and any other. It’s also completely tailored to suit you as the owner. You want a certain type of wood? Not a problem sir. A certain colour leather? Can do. Paintwork to match one of your other cars? Anything you want.
There are a couple of things we’d like to see updated. For example, in comparison to the Ghost’s beautiful high definition screen, the Phantom’s looks decidedly old-school. The reversing camera is also shockingly low resolution, not really lit well enough, and completely whites out when a car is shining its headlights onto it.
However, the sat-nav is ridiculously accurate, even keeping track to the millimeter in Sydney’s long underground tunnel network – we used it just about everywhere we went, and it never put a foot wrong.
The Logic7 Harman/Kardon stereo is also unrivalled for clarity, with such clean bass and no distortion at even high volumes – it’s so tight and composed. And yes, it’s also iPod connectable.
As a car that makes a statement, the Rolls-Royce Phantom cannot be surpassed. To make it more involving, sleeker and still maintain Rolls-Royce’s core values is no mean feat, yet the Phantom Coupe does exactly that.
It’s also brilliantly tactile; you find yourself running your fingers over the different surfaces, enjoying the comfort of the seats, relaxing in the serenity of complete silence. Feeling the mirror-gloss of the paintwork, seeing the grain in the brushed stainless steel bonnet, looking across it to the Spirt of Ecstasy - and the sometimes intangible wow factor.
For a cool $1.26m, you expect that. But what you probably don’t expect is a vehicle that acts as your own personal therapist – this car takes you away from the stress and anxiety of the outside world.
Yes, the Phantom Coupe stays true to the Rolls-Royce philosophy – it makes driving a pleasure again.
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