It’s really difficult to explain the joy of motoring through city and country in the new Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé to someone who has not experienced conveyance in a machine of similar stature. True classic coupés, such as Bugatti’s Type 57, would certainly count and the up-to-date Bentley Brooklands must be considered in this league, but that’s about it.
Glamour photography, accompanied by glowing superlatives, is not nearly enough to convey the feeling of Phantom Coupé motoring. First, this car is big, really big. For a sense of pure scale, this coupé is just two inches shorter and one inch less wide than a Chevrolet Suburban. And although it’s constructed of lightweight aluminum, this substantial machine tips the scales with an unladen weight of 5,710 pounds —100 pounds more than the giant Suburban.
So when you arrive in a Phantom Coupé, the impact is a lot like entering the yacht harbor with the most important vessel the members have seen in some time. Recognition, along with deference to the occupants, is instant. This is not a car for the shy or retiring. Indeed, most Rolls-Royce buyers are enormously successful entrepreneurs, and most own an important yacht and private aircraft.
Of course, big and important cannot be the essence of an honored marque, there must be substance to justify the lofty price. Our Phantom Coupé delivered that substance with voluptuous precision.
Entry into the luxurious interior, where only flawless leather hides and perfectly matched burl wood reside, is accomplished through a big door that is rear hinged for easy access to the spacious interior. In the 1930s and ’40s, the front-opening doors were called suicide devices from the potential of opening at speed. The Phantom’s doors only open at rest or at a crawl pace, and they open wide, yet can close at a touch of a button.
On the road, the big coupé reminds the driver of its size, filling the lane with plenty of road presence. But it does not drive like a near three-ton car. Steering is reasonably light, yet accurate — the 453-horsepower V-12 engine makes easy work of the weight and the brakes seem capable of bringing an airliner to rest.
Since a coupé is designed to be owner-driven and a bit sporty, Rolls-Royce designers have spent some time stiffening the already strong space-frame chassis and tuning the suspension. The result is a nice balance of luxury and control. You won’t be tempted to chase Ferraris with your Phantom Coupé, but you will arrive at your destination in far better condition than the occupants of the Italian sportscar.
And isn’t that the whole point of owning a machine like this? Any nice coupé will get you there, some in nice style. But people truly arrive in a Rolls-Royce. BRIAN DOUGLAS
Type: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: 6.75-liter, DOHC V12
Horsepower: 453 @ 5,350 rpm
Torque: 531 foot-pounds @ 3,500 rpm
Base Price: $400,000
As Tested: $431,150
Fuel Economy: 11 city, 18 hwy