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PHANTOM OF THE OPÉRA

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Oct 19, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

PHANTOM OF THE OPÉRA By John Grafman

This is the type of drive that could spell the end of my career, if not my life. Our undeniably scenic route runs by Stinson Beach, along the coast north of San Francisco. I find this to be the most treacherous and unforgiving drive that I can remember in some time. For mile-after-mile, we barrel along not unlike an Olympic slalom skier. Constantly switching back and forth, I turn from one direction to the next - all the while dealing with undulating elevation plus a roadway that twists like a ribbon. While the skier simply has to risk a poor race and maybe a few bruises, we face nearly certain death as the roadway's shoulder ends in a plummet a hundred feet down to the monumental rocks protruding along the cliff sides and the beaches below. The guardrails intended to save lives pose a hazard, along with the oncoming traffic, to the yet to be released Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé. Any marring of the surface of this icon could result in a confrontation with the caretakers of this new product, resulting in tremendous loss of face (if not life), namely mine.

If you feel sorry for us, don't. The Coupé is the final installment of the Phantom line and it's no less amazing than its brethren. All of the pleasures of the Phantom sedan and Drophead Convertible can be found in this dedicated hardtop two-door. What distinguishes this from the others is slightly more focus on a sporting drive. Perhaps a spirited drive would be a better way in which to describe this product. This isn't created to compete with sports cars like the Aston Martin line or even the Bentley Continental GT. This is capable without being aggressive. Upgrades to the similar Drophead convertible include a revised suspension and steering, a remapped shift pattern, as well as a moderately thicker steering wheel. The last item stands out as those that are familiar with Rolls-Royces will note just how thin rimmed the steering wheels are. The diameter of the rim is only beefier by the standards set by the Gaydon factory that creates these works of art. The rest of the world would still find this to be nominal, particularly in comparison to the massive size of the car. So, just why would the manufacturer allow us to risk all on a drive such as this one? I think this is to prove a point. If the Coupé can handle this excessively windy roadway, it can handle almost anything else with aplomb. While constantly pushing the car for hours I find that the response is very intuitive, which allows us to travel a very difficult path without any fatalities or dings to the sheet metal. The huge 14-inch-plus brakes sitting inside unbelievably large 21-inch wheels allow the driver to confidently scrub the numbers off the speedo. All of the related aspects of the suspension and steering provide a nice balance. This might not seem like a big deal normally, but normally we aren't driving a 5,798-pound car with such an aggressive flair.

The agility of such a stately and refined vehicle is reassuring. There are others that accomplish getting from A to B quickly as well, but not in the same fashion. The qualities of the Rolls-Royce family shine through. However, this is certainly for the well-heeled crowd and not intended for those with an excessively heavy foot. Ferraris and the like are far removed from the Phantom Coupé in every way except for price. For the record, this does move with deliberate speed, as one would expect from 453 horsepower. The Rolls-Royce steps out ever so gracefully, so much so it is hard to believe just how quickly this motor car is traveling. The precision built 12-cylinder isn't just a pretty face, but it does have a mission, which it fulfills faithfully. It doesn't require very much patience to get the car into triple digit territory, as it does this all but effortlessly. No surprise that this needs to be governed, limiting the speed to just 155 mph. While performance is gratifying, the beauty is what really clinches this deal. Every small aspect is refined, every part is polished to a high shine. How many companies can boast of a Bespoke program where customers can choose from more than 44,000 different hues. Each body receives five individual coats of paint and lacquer, with hand-finishing between each layer. It is then polished for five hours to create a luster that radiates. Accenting the paint is the available brushed steel bonnet ('hood' to the unwashed masses) and A-pillar surround that brilliantly complements the instantly recognized Rolls-Royce radiator grill.

The interior is awash in high-gloss wood giving this the feel of an expensive humidor. The metal detail creates honesty in material that others can't match with chrome plated plastic. Besides the look, the feel of actual metal parts is reassuring that this is built to last. Boulevard lighting coupled with the optional, full-length starlight headlining, created by hundreds of tiny fiber optics to give the impression of a star-filled night sky create a unique environment in the evening hours. The Coupé is filled to the brim with hundreds of clever parts. Almost all are fantastic. However, the BMW sourced iDrive unit is so perplexing it can be maddening. With time, like almost anything else, it can be learned. With many a Rolls-Royce owner using their car so infrequently, I question if they will spend the necessary time to get the most out of it, or even remember how it operates . In a world of plummeting Dow Jones averages and disastrous sales figures from most car companies, can it be possible to sell a car that costs 400k? Not only will Rolls-Royce be able to sell the new Coupé, a total of one hundred are already pre-sold. For most car companies this represents but a fraction of the annual output. For the factory in England this equals nine months of production. Don't expect to see too many of these Coupés on the streets where you live. With an expected sales volume in the USA to fall below that of the company's Phantom Drophead Convertible this will be the rarest of the rare. In other parts of the world where the climate is less favorable to drop-tops this model will see greater numbers sold.

The ultra limited production figures attribute to the cost of the Coupé over the pricing set for the Phantom sedan. While both models have similar essential ingredients, the cost of tooling such small numbers for this model leads to a price tag listed at $400,000 - a nice round number. Unlike other companies, these Brits build to the numbers of clients available, rather than build all you can and hope to find buyers. The company will have a new model very soon, the R4, which will be entirely new. Pricing will be less than the Phantom models, but north of the current Bentley pricing. Should the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé gain traction in the marketplace as sure-footedly as it does along our coastal route, this just might be a smooth ride for the brand after all.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT Perhaps the pinnacle of premium luxury hardtop automobiles, if not in substance, at least in price. Find out more at www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé Price: Base $400,000 Engine type: 6.749-litre, V12, 48-valve, direct injection EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway/Combined: 12.2/25/18 (non-US version est.) Horsepower: 453 @ 5,350 rpm Torque: 531 lb.-ft @ 3,500 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive Transmission type: Six-speed, ZF (6HP-32) fully automatic with low range button Suspension: Front: front double-wishbone featuring a hydraulic mount, self-leveling pneumatic Rear: Multi-link rear with anti-lift and anti-dive technology, anti-roll bar, self-leveling pneumatic Wheels and tires: Front: 8 x 21", Goodyear EMT 255/50 R21 106W Run-flat Rear: 9.5 x 21", Goodyear EMT 285/45 R21 109W Run-flat Brakes: Front: Ventilated disc 374 mm / 14.7" diameter, twin piston alloy calipers Rear: Vented discs 370mm / 14.6" diameter, single piston alloy calipers Advanced Dynamic Stability Control System Overall length: 5609 mm / 220.8" Overall width: 1987 mm / 78.2" Overall height: 1592 mm / 62.7" Curb weight: 2,630 kg / 5,798 lb 0-60 mph: 5.6 Top Speed, mph: 155 (governed)

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