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Rolls-Royce Drophead coupe - Behold the Coupe!


It’s incredible. On the one hand, there are launch drives that I attend that stretch for three days, with unearthly flights, stupid connections, lost luggage, boring presentations, excessive lunches, snoring colleagues, luxury rooms with weird pillows, more boring presentations and then a drive. There are times when I am ready and willing not to drive yet another super-mega-all new-hatchback with 3cc and 1.5 bhp more than the predecessor. And of course, the said all-new hatchback will be all of 30 per cent stiffer than the uncouth designer who copied the lines from the original designed by someone called Bangle. And yes, all these hatches have McPherson struts ‘upfront’ and a twist-beam suspension borrowed from locomotives ‘at the rear’. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to template journalism – if you have driven one, you can write about almost all of the cars rolling out of Europe and Japan. Trust me, all of them understeer and some, with diesel engines especially, will ‘exhibit some torque-steer’. That is it – if you can cleverly use these words, your road test is over and done with. 

And then there is today. I take an Ambassador taxi to a dealership from where I am carted to yet another dealership in a Chevrolet Tavera and given a key to, hold your breath and stand up, a brand spanking for heavens sake new, Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe. And I haven’t had a cutting chai, let alone caviar and champagne as I thumb the starter. Bloody brilliant day indeed then. Alas, I have two hours with this little ghost on wheels as against the three days that I  spent writing about yet another transverse engined, front wheel driven, insipid bit of automotive insignificance. But guess what, you don’t need even two hours to understand this car. It took me 5.8 precious seconds only, because that is the time it took for the massive V12 to hoist the speedo above 100 kph. And trust me, the silent series of swear words that I uttered was more audible than the engine.  

If you have not got the point yet, then here goes. Photographs cannot convey the size of the Phantom Coupe (now that is how you name cars – beats saying Nissan Micra any day!). This is a seriously big car, which weighs two and a half tonnes easily. It actually wears 21 inch wheels with enough rubber on them to send contraceptive companies scurrying for fresh procurement of raw material. And you don’t expect it to bolt out of its serene stand-still stance to 100 kph just like that. Imagine a decked-up elephant suddenly deciding to do a sprint and you get the picture. After adding a few worry lines to the face of the chauffeur (who was now seated in the back seat), I decided to stop experiencing the sheer acceleration and the rush that the Phantom Coupe offers. I got off and asked a colleague to go insane behind the wheel soon after. Why? Just to watch the magnificence of the whole thing. The sight of the Phantom Coupe lifting its nose as the direct-injection, 6749cc, twelve-cylinder monster of an engine summons all of  72 kgm of torque and 453 horses!    Inside the car, there is no rev-counter. That position, next to the speedo dial, is occupied by a power reserve dial. When the Coupe is doing 100 mph, the power reserve dial will show that 90 per cent of the engine’s power remains untapped. Enough of performance talk, right? This is the fourth car in the Phantom line-up after the Phantom, the long wheelbase Phantom and the stunning Drophead Coupe. The coupe idea came up in the form of a concept car coded 101 EX,   after the unprecedented success of the 100 EX that resulted in the magnificent convertible. Naturally, the Coupe shares a lot with the Drophead – from the polished metal bonnet to the ‘spirit of ecstasy’ who can be sent hiding at the touch of a button. Also shared are the rear-hinged doors that can be closed using switches operated from inside the car. This, if I may say so, is the only annoying feature in the Coupe as far as I’m concerned. As in, why bother with a spectacular bit of door kit when the idea is to have a stunningly fast cross-continental tourer? Now that is being rational, and rational thinking is something you leave at home when you venture out doing anything in Rs 4 crore worth of  Phantom Coupe, right? Even writing about one?
This is the most driver-oriented Rolls-Royce yet. It is meant for the billionaire who drives – in all probability with his sweetheart – and hence it is equally romantic. What else can explain the cozy rear seats (in case you are chauffeured around) and the Vegas inspired starlight headlining, which gives the impression of a star-filled night sky? And then there is the picnic table for a well thought-out surprise marriage request or a tail-gate party at Bordeaux after you place an order for the entire lot. Apart from this streak of glitz, the Phantom Coupe has only ‘adequate’ instrumentation and the switches and knobs that you don’t normally use are hidden away nicely. This is the car you drive from Paris to Zagreb and back the same day – with interesting activities thrown in between. 

The suspension of the Coupe is sportier than that of the Phantom – but hey, this is still a Rolls-Royce and you don’t expect a Roller to crash through speed-breakers and potholes, right? The tauter suspension, I am sure, will be a boon on tighter mountain roads as the driver tries to come to terms with the enormous torque from the engine. I would have loved to drive it between two continents, minimum, but my time was over as the car needed to be shipped back to Singapore the very next day. So how do I complete this story? Those who can afford to buy the Coupe are certainly not waiting for my advice in any case. But if that lonely billionaire who is reading needs it, here goes – buy one in Madeira Red with Seashell leather and Zebrano veneers. Trust me, no Nissan Micra comes in that combination.