18 February 2008

Coupe master general

Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe arrives. Respectful proles bow accordingly

Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe

If sir could be respectfully distracted from plying that well-known actress with expensive cocktails and promises of saucy weekends on his luxury yacht in Monte Carlo, there is some news that may interest sir. Your Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe has finally arrived.

Yes, the sporty Rolls is here. 'Sporty Rolls', of course, is a relative term much like 'benelovent dictator', but when the Phantom Coupe is unveiled in Geneva next month, it should instantly become the de facto tourer for every billionaire with a penchant for the recreational lifestyle.

Looking near-identical to the 100EX concept we saw back in Geneva two years ago - right down to the brushed aluminium bonnet and A-pillars - the Phantom Coupe is a huge, imposing beast. Don't be fooled by the 'coupe' name or the two-door profile - backward-hinging, naturally - this is a big car: over 5.5 metres long and with the sort of road presence that causes other drivers to veer into lampposts as a mark of respect.

Rolls-Royce boss Ian Robertson describes the Phantom Coupe as a grand touring vehicle. "It will take four on a long journey comfortably," he says, "and you can't say that of most other luxury coupes."

Comfortable it may be, but expect the Coupe to provide something a bit livelier than a gentle waft through the Riviera. The Phantom Coupe retains the Drophead's 6.8-litre 453bhp V12, but the automatic transmission has been re-mapped for more sporty changes. It also gets stiffer springs, heavier steering and a fatter wheel - this is, no question, the sportiest Rolls of the range. Perhaps ever.

But B-road blasting isn't really in the Rolls lexicon, and the Phantom Coupe has every bit the interior presence of its big brother saloon. Our favourite touch is the cabin headlining - a fibre-optic array creating a virtual galaxy over the passengers - and naturally there's still space for sir's umbrella.

All very nice, but it does leave you, oh oil-rich oligarch, with one tricky problem: Phantom Drophead or Phantom Coupe? Rolls-Royce expects the Coupe to be the car of choice in hot countries, while those of us in cooler climes will favour the DHC. The most sensible solution, however, would obviously be to get both, but with prices on the steep side of £300,000 you might have to flog a refinery or two first.

That's all, sir. Pray recommence your masterly seduction.

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