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2008 Rolls Royce Phantom DropHead Coupe

2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Review
by Ann Job

Even the world’s billionaires have to stand in line and wait their turn these days.

2008 Rolls Royce Phantom DropHeadThe reason? Rolls-Royce's newest ultimate glamour convertible — the 2008 Phantom Drophead Coupé. With the conpany producing only 200 a year, the Drophead Coupé is sold out until the end of 2008.

Don’t worry. This gorgeous, four-seat, two-door, V12-powered convertible with a price tag of $407,000 is worth the wait.

Not only does the Drophead Coupé draw stares from onlookers for its ostentatious style, its luxury accoutrements are without comparison.

For example, the Drophead Coupé is the only production car offering a tonneau covered with optional teak wood, which was imported after being carried out of the Burmese jungle on the backs of elephants. After all, Rolls-Royce officials are attuned to the details of their hand-crafted, ultra luxury cars and would hate to have the 30 pieces of teak needed for each tonneau cover to be floated down a Burmese river and risk taking on an unattractive color from the moisture.

Additionally, this teak isn’t covered by glossy urethane. Craftsmen apply a special blend of oils — which take a month to absorb — to produce a proper tactile finish where the woodgrain can be felt.

The Drophead Coupé can also be selected with a distinctive, brushed steel bonnet (commonly known as the hood). You guessed it — this steel, which stylishly encircles the large windshield — is hand-polished with a consistent appearance.

2008 Rolls Royce Phantom DropHead- Top DownA more carefree Phantom
At its core, the new convertible is a variation of Rolls’ other model, the Phantom sedan.

The two vehicles share their large, high-tech, all-aluminum space frame — complete with more than 2,000 hand welds — underneath the metal body panels. This creates a surprisingly rigid structure, with no convertible shudder in the windshield or shake in the seats.

While the Phantom sedan’s blockish style is formal, the Drophead Coupé is delightfully carefree. This car even attracts the attention of young people. During a recent industry test drive, a couple of college grads volunteered that they aspire to buy the convertible rather than the sedan, which they called “stodgy.”

Coupé shares the sedan's engine
The Phantom convertible uses the same 6.75-liter, direct-injection V12 that rests in the Phantom Sedan. The engine is mated to a silky, smooth six-speed automatic transmission, though Rolls engineers did a bit of tuning to create a more sporty experience for the convertible.

Still, the car feels as if it’s getting up to speed at a gracious pace, even though the speedometer needle shows the Drophead Coupé is traveling faster than the driver realizes. Speeds are deceptive in this car.

The engine develops 453 horsepower and up to 531 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm. The power is needed because at more than 5,770 pounds this convertible has the combined weight of two Honda Civics.

Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that fuel economy for the convertible is poor. Indeed, it’s unlikely that the Drophead Coupé — which weighs some 30 pounds more than the Phantom sedan — will get better than the sedan’s rating of 11 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. Even a Dodge Ram with Hemi V-8 produces better numbers than this.

2008 Rolls Royce Phantom DropHead- InteriorNovel experience with coach doors
Driver and passengers are quick to notice the heft of this car. For one thing, the doors are heavy and oh-so-long. In fact, Rolls has push-button electric close on the convertible’s two doors because they can be impossible to reach and heavy to swing closed once they are open. These unusual rear-hinged doors — often called suicide doors — are referred to by Rolls as coach doors.

It takes some time to get used to seeing the outside mirrors swing out away from the vehicle as the doors opened. However, they latch with a memorable solidity.

Everything about the Drophead Coupé, from its performance to the air conditioning vents on its dashboard, are carefully crafted for a tactile experience.

The vents are chrome-plated metal, not lightweight and cheap plastic like in most vehicles. The chrome even gathers condensation and 'sweats' when the air conditioning is left on during open-air driving on a hot day.

However, the vehicle's front power seat controls are inconveniently positioned. They reside in the center armrest between the two front passengers, causing both to move their elbows if one wants to adjust the seat recline or positioning.

But everyone — even back-seat riders — have sumptuous, roomy seats inside this car. Intriguingly, Drophead Coupé passengers ride higher above the pavement than they do in regular cars. The eye view outside the vehicle is on par with that of many sport utility vehicles.

2008 Phantom Rolls Royce- Soft TopSoft, not hard, top
Surprisingly, Rolls put a fabric top, not a hardtop, on this pricey convertible.

However, as with everything on this convertible, it’s not just any fabric. The material's five layers provide good sound insulation, leaving a classy cashmere blend visible lining for passengers.

Roll-Royce does, however, have a memorable explanation for why the car doesn’t have the more complex hardtop — it can be so romantic for passengers to hear raindrops on a cloth top!

The Drophead Coupé's roof is power operated, and goes up or down in just 25 seconds, resting in its own compartment behind the rear seats. Thus, it never impinges on the car’s trunk, which can hold up to three golf bags.

However, drivers should be aware of the sizable triangle of windshield pillars, which can obscure views of pedestrians at intersections during turns.

The optional front and rear cameras are helpful for remedying this by detecting objects around the big auto.

Don’t be surprised if the Drophead Coupé becomes a collector’s item in many countries, especially the United States. Of the 200 built each year, only 80 are planned for a U.S. arrival, making them special indeed.

The 2008 Drophead Coupé marks the first convertible produced by Rolls Royce since the German carmaker BMW bought the brand and began selling the Phantom sedan in 2003.

2008 Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé

Description: Two-door, four-passenger convertible
Wheelbase: 130.7 inches
Overall length: 220.8 inches
Engine size: DOHC 6.75-liter, V-12 aluminum block and heads
Transmissions/speeds: ZF 6HP32, six-speed automatic
Rear/front drive: Rear-wheel drive
Steering: Rack and pinion, speed-sensitive variable-rate power assistance
Braking: Front ventiliated disc/14.7-inch, Rear ventilated disc/14.6-inch
EPA Mileage: 12.2 mpg city, 19 mpg highway
MSRP: $407,000