WEST VANCOUVER, BC – It ain’t easy to get noticed in this town, especially not for your wheels. Mercedes-Benzes are as common as sensible shoes, BMWs are everywhere like a rash, and even the iconic 911 stands out about as much as a late-model VW GTi.
All the more impressive then that the machine I’m driving, nay, piloting, draws more eyeballs than Kate Middleton eliminating her tan-lines. One depresses the accelerator, one feels a slight lift of the the nose (of both operator and machine) and before you can say “Grey Poupon”, I’m whisking out of sight behind the wheel of a pure white apparition: the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.
It’s a crisp fall day, and the PR staff is eager to show off the latest enhancements to this ultimate expression of effortless motoring, the Phantom Series II. There are a few cosmetic changes front and rear, some minor interior technology improvements, the addition of an 8-speed automatic gearbox for even smoother wafting. Largely though, all these tweaks are glossed over by the sheer physical presence of this beast.
It is simply enormous. The hood — sorry, sorry, I mean “bonnet” — is long enough to host a small outdoor Shakespeare festival. The wheels seem about the size of Big Ben’s face and the overall heft of the machine is stupendous — she’s got huge tracts of land! A Rolls-Royce Phantom does not simply appear, it hoves into view, like a royal barge. Or the Moon.
Along with a single-piece grille, the new front face of the Phantom is more aristo than ever; a somewhat necessary improvement, as the twin round headlights of the previous Drophead gave it the look of a mildly confused steam locomotive. And yet it’s not a car for sneering down at the proles — the Drophead is an event, and wherever I went, people waved and pointed and smiled. It is, one imagines, what it must be like being a particularly popular regent.
Vancouver, as it turns out, is North America’s top consumer of long-wheelbase Rollers. These are cars not meant to be driven, but driven in, and that speaks a little to the sort of plutocrats who must own them: busy men and women, with their minds on their money and their money on their minds. The Phantom Coupe and Drophead, so say Rolls-Royce, are sportier machines for the playboys of the world. There’s even a dynamic package with uprated anti-roll bars and a stiffer suspension. I find this incredibly distasteful, like forcing a sports bra onto the Queen so she can kickbox.
No, the Phantom in all its guises is a pleasure yacht for the road, and while the clotted-cream-smooth V12 pumps out an easily-adequate 453 hp, it’s not power you will use often, or forcefully. Instead, relax. Appreciate the quality of the materials that surround you and the craftsmanship taken in shaping them. Note that while the technology matches anything produced in a modern luxury automobile, much care has been taken to tuck away uncouth screens and knobs behind polished wood and metal.
Better yet, should you get the opportunity, drink in the experience of being the centre of attention, and of putting a smile on the face of passers-by. It is a priceless feeling.
Well, not exactly priceless, I suppose, but bloody expensive, anyway.
2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II
Base MSRP: $470,000
As tested: $545,000