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2009 Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe Review

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WE have had it wrong all along.

By “we”, I mean the automotive press. When we consider the price tag of a 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, the majority of us strain are necks when looking from the ground up at a sky-high price. It’s only natural – the great silent majority share the same standard, land-locked P.O.V.

“Oh, I’d rather buy a Ferrari and keep the change for that kind of money,” one curbside critic told me, lifting up his nose in a not-so-subtle display of snobbery, reverse-engineered.

But, like the song says, it bears repeating: we have had it wrong all along.

The snobby bystander, like me and all those auto scribes who are prone to reciting their dream list of the umpteen Vettes and million- odd Kawasaki Ninjas you could buy for the MSRP of one Rolls-Royce, are looking at the matter cross eyed.

If we consider that the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe is a) without peer as a rolling statement this side of a Bugatti and b) the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe isn’t really a car … it all starts making sense.

FOLLOW ME

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The Phantom Coupe’s stats are by law formulated and publicized much like any auto. Long gone are the days of describing power as “adequate”, so now they read as follows:

  • 0-60 in 5.6 seconds
  • Direct Injected -48 valve-411.8 cu in. V12
  • 531 lb-ft of torque@ 3500rpm
  • 453 horsepower
  • 0.36 Drag Co-efficient
  • 18 combined mpg (I managed 15-17 mpg over five days)

And so on…

Yes, you can pile four people and luggage into it; tipping the scales well past its 5,771 pound curb weight. Yes, you can pick up the groceries, the kids at practice, go to work, commute, go through the drive-thru, but never the automated car wash, etc.

And yes, if you consider that in a world of GMC Yukon XLs the proportions of this Coupe at 220.8 X 78.2 X 62.7 inches are still within the parameters of really big  (U.S.) vehicles, it can still be classified as a “car”.

That’s where the commonalities end.

ONE, IF BY LAND

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But as luxury transport statements go, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe is not only the biggest bang for the proverbial buck, it’s also a bargain.

What else besides a yacht or your own private jet or helicopter can transport you in such comfort while conveying to all asunder that you’ve made bank, one billion fold?

Trouble is, with a yacht – I’m speaking of something akin to a Riva ’92 Duchessa or a Palmer Johnson 123 no. 1 Alter Ego – these boats not only come with multi-million dollar purchase (or finance) costs, their annual upkeep (staffing, maintenance, docking, marine insurance, yacht club fees, deck bunnies ;-)) and staggering depreciation are also multi-million dollar expenditures.

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A Sunday cruise around the bay in a comparatively modest cigarette boat won’t cost less than $500 in gas. A Sunday tour by Phantom Coupe in the countryside shouldn’t cost more  than fifty bucks (as of 5/09).

Consider that a helicopter or private jet – your own Sikorsky chopper or Gulfstream -or better, Boeing – are not only multi-million to billion dollar endeavors subject to the same kind of expenses as a yacht – they’re also liable to stricter oversight by terrorist sensitive governmental authorities – Heaven forbid your aircraft stray too close to a no-fly zone…

In both cases, neither conveyances of air or sea allows you, the master-of-your-own-dominion , to show off to 90% of the traveling public. You’re either out to sea or in the sky and in either case, out of reach.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe has you traveling in luxuriant style at a fraction of the cost and within clear eyesight of everyone else.

HOW DOES THE ROLLS PERFORM?

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Brilliantly, 90% of the time.

I like to focus on the bad and finish with the beautiful, so let’s start with the rough 10%.

The Phantom Coupe’s technology is BMW circa 2007. Fine, in general. In another time, Rolls-Royce used to buy all the unseen sparky bits from GM.

What the older Bimmer kit does mean, however, is that your stuck with the old iDrive; an in-car computer system that’s beyond irritating and worth avoiding whenever possible which is rarely possible, sorry to say.

This particular Phantom Coupe also suffers a possessed park control system that wouldn’t deactivate even when engaging park. The system emits a constant, ear splitting noise when you’re close to something or someone crosses in front of your bumper. Chances are you could adjust the volume setting somehow, or deactivate it entirely, but that would mean delving deep into iDrive’s labyrinths.

There’s also a real visibility issue. The Phantom Coupe is filled with blind spots and your aft vision is blocked by the car’s (fabulous) architecture.  Incorporating BMW’s Active Blind Spot detection system would be beneficial.

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This Rolls also has a faint wind noise coming from the driver’s A-pillar and there’s loose wood paneling under the rear central air vents.

And that’s it. There ends the list of complaints. Aside from hiring a minder (or bouncer) to ensure that no one keys your stunning Diamond black on black Rolls with brushed metal bonnet, the troubles end there and here’s where the Phantom Coupe’s magic begins.

BRAVO!

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I’m firm about the Phantom Coupe not being just a car because it really feels like no other car – new or old – on the road. You could draw similarities to a late-20s coupe – except that this 2009 model is more voluminous and far more sophisticated than anything pre-war.

The interior is a minimal if elegantly appointed Art Deco sitting room in which you feel and watch yourself “waft” disconnectedly from one location to the next. You’ve never experienced a quieter car, though, you understand that owing to full frame doors, the Phantom saloon is an audio file of what heaven must sound like to a librarian.

Because the Phantom Coupe is Goodwood’s closest interpretation of a “roadster” it features the now infamous “S”port button (much derided in Brit press) to allow for more assertive shifting.

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In practice, since the autobox won’t let you manually select a gear, pushing the S button helps you stay off the brakes in long hill descents by holding the behemoth back in a lower gear.

Stomp on the go pedal and the ever-ready V12 produces a remote growl through two chrome exhausts as the Rolls launches towards the horizon. In normal driving, the engine stays hybrid-quiet. Progress – like every tangible function in the Roller -is silky smooth and slippery in its silence.

That said, you can – as my girlfriend did – “raise” the starlit roof with the Coupe’s incredible Logic 7 sound system. You notice the system adding volume incrementally as the Rolls attains higher speeds but cabin noise maintains its hush.

While driving does feel like a remote activity, the steering which is executed through a thin-rim helm is remarkably precise and talks to you about the most pressing issues your tyres face. Everything else is deemed superfluous and is muted.

You’ll notice that dialing the Rolls into a mean corner does promote tall lean , but the Goodyears supporting 21 inch alloys hang on without much complaint. Had you dared to drive anything near 7/10ths in any older Royce, the Rolls would have listed wildly; risking the chrome hub caps and rolling the soft Avons’ onto their sidewalls.

RIDING ON AIR

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The Phantom Coupe’s ride quality is, well, the Rolls-Royce of rides. It’s neither waterbed squirmy like an old Caddy nor is it firmly dampened like a taut-new Bimmer. You feel like you’re riding on a cushion of air when in truth you’re actually riding on four.

The only moment that this sumptuous system falls down is over speed bumps. For whatever reason, the air shocks won’t adjust comfortably to those parking lot annoyances that any Mercedes-Benz can absorb.

Approach a sleeping policeman at speed or crawl over wheel by wheel, and in either case there’s an audible –thump- that makes it into the cabin with the accompanying vibration to your posterior.

Remarkably, you’ll notice that parking lot maneuvers are tight for such mass. And tight is a good descriptor for the rest of the car.

Traditionally, Rolls-Royces of yesteryear felt heavy, over-stuffed, and loose. As my good friend Hardy Drackett noted, it’s like you could sense that the open door weighed heavily on its hinges.

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While the Phantom Coupe’s suicide doors are heavy, they’re nonetheless fluid, and electronically operated by the press of a button. There’s no sense of strain in the structure’s (substantial) weight.

Everything feels so light yet so secure to point of seeming armored. Which is what it must be – for a luxurious statement this bold must at least appear to secure its occupants from the wide range of emotions that the outside world will offer your Phantom Coupe.

And offer, they will.

EVERYONE’S GOT ONE

Sometimes it’s an open-mouthed stare; a thumbs up or a middle finger. Sometimes it’s a truck that will deliberately swerve to kick up a cloud of dirt that you’ll proceed through. Sometimes it’s a goop-haired tool driving an ill-gotten CL65 AMG who finds a way to cut you off because you have loudly upstaged him.

Sometimes it’s an ecstatic gear head who’s gotta get this on his cell phone camera – while driving next to you on the highway. Sometimes it’s those reverse-engineered snobs who are very careful NOT to notice your eminently conspicuous arrival.

And then it’s the wonder of watching a dad inform his son that what the little guy has just witnessed for the first time is a Rolls-Royce.

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Anyway you look at it, for $441,000 the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe is the most sublime and imperious way to roll. For those who can, it’s worth every penny.

May 08, 2009
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About the Author: Gunnar Heinrich is publisher of Automobiles De Luxe online and is executive producer of the Automobiles De Luxe Television series on PBS member station CPTV.

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Filed Under: ROLLS-ROYCE

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RSSComments: 3  |  Opine Freely, But Smartly.  |  Trackback URL

  1. Usually the adage goes “quality over quantity”, in this review, you have given us both.

    I am shocked at not hearing of the integrated RR umbrellas in the door jams. I guess its a cute little tidbit. And when I was in the car…I took 2 seconds to play with iDrive and gave up, and I work with computers for a living…

    A fine review with a underlying tone of respect and admiration. I am sure the Rolls misses you as much as you miss it.

  2. Gunnar,

    A wonderful review of course. It’s what we’ve come to expect. Your inimitable style is what keeps us coming back for more. I have no doubt that Niel is correct that the R-R misses you as much as you miss it.
    Best regards, Brad.

  3. Ah, the iDrive. A good idea in concept wrought miserable in execution. And if that is the iDrive controller mid dash in the 6th picture, then it is also an ergonomic nightmare in the Phantom.

    Nice minimalist review of a maximalist automobile.

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  1. From 2009 Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe Review : Automobiles De Luxe | Robust Reviews on May 8, 2009
  2. From 2009 Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe Review · Charter A Prive Jet on May 10, 2009

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