Breathless

Sirish Chandran  /
25 Jul 2013 14:23:54 IST

Serene doesn't even begin to describe it. We're doing 90 (miles an hour, around 140kmph), a perfectly acceptable 10mph above the speed limit, cruise control set, heading for some highly recommended fish-and-chips on the coast near Rolls-Royce's home at Goodwood. As is to be expected of England it's freezing and raining, the hostility levels of both ramping up as we near the cost. Traffic slows proportionately but cars also seem to be going out of the way to get out of the fast lane; a Rolls-Royce closing up in your rear-view mirror is at once a glorious and intimidating sight. I wriggle my butt into the decadently absorbent seats, fingers lightly working the helm, the only sound being that of nothingness (modern Rollers don't have a mechanical clock to go tick-tock). Ahead of me stretches an impossibly long bonnet, polished steel in this case, the bonnet itself weighing and costing as much as my house, the flying lady perched so way out in the distance she could almost be in another country. The isolation is magical. I'm completely disconnected from the road, from everything. And then I glance down at the power reserve gauge - nothing so vulgar as a tachometer on a Rolls - and am shocked to see there's 90 per cent power in reserve. At 140kmph I'm using ten per cent of the power and I think that's justification enough to feature the Phantom Coupe in OVERDRIVE's Fast Show special. Oh and it has two doors. And there's a V12 engine lurking somewhere out there.
Now before you go and think this is a sporty Rolls-Royce, let me correct you. Yes, the Phantom Coupe is a slightly more dynamically inclined Roller but the idea was never to make a sports car. This is a statement if there ever was one; it says you can indulge yourself with a Phantom to be sat at the back and paraded in front of your subjects and a Coupe to indulge your occasional driving fancies and for when the sun comes out the Drop Head Convertible. And apparently many Rolls customers have so much disposable cash that they have all three completing the set.
Visually the Coupe is very much like the Phantom but the cliff-like grille is now recessed and raked back at a sportier angle. The wheelbase is also reduced by 25cm but that doesn't make the Coupe any less imposing - at 5.6 metres in length it is massive and it rides on enormous 21-inch rims. The Phantom has been around for a while and if this were any other car the overall shape would be familiar and thus warranting little attention. But, my god, the opulence and visual drama of the Phantom Coupe makes jaws drop. There is a reason why the maharajas all drove (or rode) in Rolls-Royces and the Coupe keeps in step with that heritage. As I pull up by the shore, fishermen drop their rods and surfers forget to surf. I half expect them to fall to their knees and shower me with roses.
And when I open those doors I swear I heard the pavement crack as a hundred jaws fell to the floor hard and fast. The two doors are as big, as vast and as hefty as a bank vault's and swing outwards most dramatically, which Rolls claims is the most elegant way to disembark. Suicide doors on a series production two-door haven't been done in 50 years and it's an extraordinarily flamboyant touch. Good thing also that the doors close at the tap of a button, and at the same speed at which you'd shut it had you the biceps to do it yourself. And those doors reveal a cabin that takes opulence and completely redefines the term.
The seats, the carpets, the wood, the metal, everything looks and feels unimaginably expensive. Which it should considering the Phantom Coupe costs a staggering Rs 4 crore on road in Mumbai. But for that money you get beautiful attention to detail. For instance even the surfaces you don't see like the centre console lining are swathed in expensive hides while the rear ashtrays are cast of metal to look like organ pipes. Then you notice the headlining that has a gazillion LEDs embedded in it to give the effect of a starry night. I'm not sure why anybody would need the roof of their car to look like the Milky Way but this is such an extravagantly indulgent accessory that if it doesn't make you feel like a maharaja I don't know what will.
Unlike the Phantom where owners would invariably be sat at the back, this is a Rolls to drive (the rear quarters are very plush but you can't imagine a maharaja going through the trouble to squeeze himself in back there). So the steering wheel is a slightly meatier unit than on the Phantom but it is still thin-rimmed and its operation asks for delicacy and fingertips, not muscle. The seats are awesomely comfortable. And the view out, taking that long bonnet in, is one the more glorious in the automotive firmament. Some flaws remain. For instance the electric seat adjustment is hidden away under the armrest and the BMW-derived iDrive is the old and not-very-intutive first generation one. But then you can buy a nuclear scientist to program the iDrive for you.
Under the never-ending bonnet lurks the same 6.75-litre V12 engine (six-and-three-quarters) which cranks out a staggering 460PS of power and 720Nm of torque. All of which hurries the Coupe along to a 0-100kmph time of 5.6 seconds. Floor the throttle and the nose lifts, the rear squats, you hear a faint rumble from the engine and without so much as feeling it you're at the 250kmph speed limiter. Even the suspension is tied down to give it a slightly more sporty drive (and there's even a sport button for the transmission) but this is not a sports car. Get ungentlemanly with the steering and throttle and the stability control emits a polite cough and reins things back in - but that's not how Rollers are meant to be driven. In a Rolls you waft along in unparalleled grace, luxury and opulence. There's so much torque - 75 per cent comes in at just 1000rpm - that just breathing on the throttle is enough for her to shoot across continents. And you feel nothing. No undignified g forces pinning you back in your seat or forcing your supermodel girlfriend into your lap. You're completely isolated, in your own (vast) cocoon of wood, leather and money, impervious to whatever is happening outside. You might even be tempted to wave at your subjects. A gloriously spectacular way to travel, fitting for what is without question one of the finest automobiles in the world.

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Rolls Royce Phantom 2013

Price (Delhi)
  • Rs. 8.9 Crore Ex-Showroom
  • -NA- On Road
Engine
  • Model
  • 6749cc Displacement
Mileage
  • -NA-
Transmission
  • Automatic

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