First Drive: 2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé

I’d venture to guess that, when the word ‘motoring’ was coined, the author was referring to the Phantom Drophead.

The process of surprising someone for a birthday has always been a challenge for me. Ask my friends; I’m just not that great at keeping secrets. So, when my partner told me that his dad – a car guy – was turning 70, and that he wanted to arrive at a surprise party with a surprise gift, I told him that we’d have to sequester me away from friends, family, and the internet.

We perused the list of vehicles that I hadn’t yet reviewed by year’s end, looking for something jaw-dropping, that we could also drive all the way to Florida. They’re the times like these when I’m reminded that my better half has become all too spoiled with the perks of dating an automotive journalist.

The Drophead Coupé is 15 inches longer than Mercedes-Benz’s full-size S-Class sedan.

I presented the new Stingray, but that “wasn’t expensive enough.” The BMW M6 “looked like every other BMW,” and the Porsche 911 “seemed too understated.”

Personally, there are few things that I wouldn’t do to drive any of those cars, but the people-pleaser in me accepted the vetoes and kept looking.

The car that would qualify for all of the criteria laid out in front of me wasn’t even in Atlanta; it would require me to fly down to Miami and drive north to Daytona Beach. However, this vehicle would also be the single most expensive car that I’ve driven all year, clearing the LFA, Continental GTC, and V12 Vantage S by hundreds of thousands of dollars. We decided to surprise Dad in a 2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé, valued at $570,000.

Size Matters

It didn’t take much to spot the Phantom in the valet line.

Even tucked amongst full-size pickup trucks, its flat nose stuck out several inches from the parking space, leaning into the drive aisle. At 221 inches, the Drophead Coupé – a four-seat, two-door convertible – is 15 inches longer than Mercedes-Benz’s full-size S-Class sedan.

From the outside, the Phantom is simply rectangular, making no bones about its brick-like shape and mammoth proportions. It sits atop chunky, 21-inch wheels with ‘RR’ logos that stand vertically, even at speed, and there’s a mix of chrome, shimmering paint, and cloth that all convey fortune to the outward observer. Most notable is the Phantom’s tremendous slatted grille, and our car also came equipped with the brushed stainless steel hood and teak decking–a $20,000 option package.

Inside, the Phantom Drophead was dressed in tri-tone leather; white ‘Seashell’ hides on the seats, ebony on the dash, and red piping around the headrests. While the convertible deck was covered in stunning teak, all harvested from a sustainable forest, the dash included layered black ash and stainless steel inserts.

Rolls-Royce suggests that the Drophead is inspired by nautical themes and yachting – hence the teak – and there are small styling cues within the convertible that might leave you lusting for time on the big, blue sea. In addition to the decking, our clock was styled like a compass rose, and the latitude and longitude for the factory in Goodwood were inlayed in silver into the ash glovebox lid–both special requests from Rolls-Royce’s any-way-you-want-it Bespoke collection.

While the Drophead is undoubtedly serene and detached from the road, it never feels unmanageable behind the wheel.

Looking through the lens of a site focused on technology, the Phantom may seem a bit lacking. BMW’s iDrive system has been dressed up with Rolls-Royce logos to provide navigation and general infotainment controls, but there weren’t many other driving aides in our nearly-$600,000 ride. Yes, it comes standard with LED headlamps and taillamps, around-view cameras and parking sensors, but we went without radar cruise control, lane departure assistance, or any sort of blind spot monitor.

That’s not to say that I necessarily wanted or missed them, but it’s a curious thing to realize what a palette full of cash won’t buy you. I’ve seen many of these technologies in the Ghost and Wraith earlier this year, though, so they’re likely optional. However, there’s an argument to be made that the traditional Phantom sedan is intended for a chauffeur whilst riding in rear, so those aides may be of less importance to shoppers in the first place.

Making a Statement

I’d venture to guess that, when the word ‘motoring’ was coined, the author was referring to the Phantom Drophead. There really is no classier way to make your way down the road, than adorning a pair of Wayfarers, letting the top back, and cruising gently up the highway for all to see. Sheikhs get it, I think.

On my drive north from Miami, I realized exactly how much larger I was than just about anything else on the road. Honda Fits shifted lanes to make way, and the only vehicles similar in size were Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado trucks that saddled up next to me for photo opps. Even filling the entire lane, I cruised comfortably without fear for floating outside the lines; while the Drophead is undoubtedly serene and detached from the road, it never feels unmanageable behind the wheel.

2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe trunk

Racing the clock to arrive for the birthday party, I pushed the big, 6.75-liter V12 up the highway for four hours. Along the way, I made a few calls over the Bluetooth system, which seemed to work well, even with the top down.

Unlike the Ghost and Wraith, the Phantom’s V12 is naturally aspirated, making it the most expensive, but least powerful car in the Rolls-Royce lineup. That’s not to say it’s slow–the car has 451 horsepower and a very beefy 531 lb-ft of torque–but you never really get the big surge of GO that you feel in the other cars.

Instead, it’s more of a traditional onset of power, swelling gradually as you climb up the tachometer, with a little less rush, and a little more grace. You won’t likely win any drag races in a Phantom, but you will make it to the end of the strip without spilling a drop of champagne.

Surprise

Aside from arriving in a Rolls-Royce, I wasn’t exactly sure what role I was to play in this surprise party. “Park the car in the deck, and hide behind the elevator.” Ok, I can manage that. When our folks walked up the stairs, Dad spotted the car quickly, and pulled everyone over to see it. He’s one of those guys who reads all of the magazines, so he already knew what he was looking at, the value, the rarity.

Even then, he didn’t realize why the car was sitting in the parking structure, only that there was a Phantom Drophead Coupé in Daytona, and “Oh my God, I’ve never seen one in person…” So, hiding behind the elevator, I unlocked the door. Silence. My partner smiled and simply said, “we’ll chauffeur you to dinner tonight,” and the tears came streaming.

I spent the next 24 hours driving the family around town, making sure all the neighbors could see Dad and his fancy birthday present, answering a million and one questions about the car. People fawned over it, but none so much as Dad, who could not stop thanking us for making a car guy’s dream become a temporary reality.

Overnight, he became a Rolls-Royce enthusiast, talking on and on about the craftsmanship of British cars, and the head-and-shoulder stature that Rolls has above other luxury brands. It’s a funny thing, I think, watching someone claim a soft, supple car over the supercars Dad normally touts, but I guess that means I’d walk away surprised from this trip, too.

Highs

  • Ultimate motoring stature
  • Serenity in the sun
  • Smooth power delivery
  • Sky’s the limit customization

Lows

  • Damn, that’s a lot of money
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