Used 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Convertible
Edmunds' Expert Review
At 400 large, who really cares what we say? If you want it and can afford it, there's nothing else that can top this topless Roller.
Apart from dining with Her Majesty Elizabeth II aboard her royal yacht "Britannia," there's nothing that can compare to driving a 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe. Every nook and nuance concerning this two-door convertible version of the venerable Phantom sedan is positively regal: in size, in luxury, in sheer presence. Although 10 inches shorter than the standard Phantom, the Drophead Coupé (pronounced coup-ay in fine British tradition) is still 15 inches longer than a Mercedes S-Class and 8 inches longer than the Bentley Azure. It's also incredibly wide, which in total makes maneuvering in tight spots akin to piloting the "Britannia" through Piccadilly Circus.
So while the Drophead is uniquely large, it is unique in plenty of other ways as well. Most notable are the rear-hinged "coach" doors that have essentially been extinct on two-door cars since the 1930s. Not only are they tremendously nifty, they make exiting this convertible a much more graceful exercise. Of course, nothing but the finest materials go into creating its truly one-of-a-kind cabin. No fewer than 18 supple hides are cut into 250 pieces covering almost every interior surface not occupied by wood or chrome controls -- plastic is a rare sight. Those hides are tanned in nine standard colors (with two contrasting colors). Rolls' bespoke services can also match the leather color to anything you wish, and the same goes for exterior color. Along with the six interior veneers available, you can literally have the Drophead Coupe in whatever fashion you fancy. And if you create a unique color, the Goodwood factory will name it after you -- Gary Jones Bronze has a lovely ring to it.
As an extra-special touch, the tonneau that covers the five-layer soft top (available in six colors itself) can be finished in 100-percent genuine teak. Resembling the deck of a luxury yacht -- not unlike the "Britannia" -- Rolls-sourced blonde green teak is grown in hilltop regions of Southeast Asia where the wood apparently has the cleanest grain and rich coloration. Each "deck" features 30 separate pieces of teak cut from the same tree to avoid any variation in grain patterns. Those pieces are bonded, then black caulking -- the same used by yacht builders -- is applied to the grooves before the entire deck is sanded and finished with a liquid wax. It's recommended that the teak be oiled at every service interval. Sound posh? It bloody well is.
Unlike past Rolls-Royce motor cars, the new Phantom line no longer relies solely upon its name and image, whilst the rest of the car is engineered to specs established when Her Majesty was still in her 30s. Meticulous engineering by BMW has created an automobile that perfectly blends the virtues of a modern German car with the style and panache expected of a classic British luxury cruiser. It makes the Bentley Azure seem Jurassic by comparison.
Having said that, there really is no comparison for the 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe -- not even in regards to the length of its name. At more than $410,000, this is no ordinary car purchase. If you can swing it, though, you'll find no other convertible that will provide the same regal automotive experience. Even Her Majesty will take notice.
2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe configurations
The 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is a four-seat convertible with two rear-hinged doors. All the usual luxury car refinements are standard, along with 20-inch wheels with a run-flat tire system, an adjustable air suspension, power-closing doors, bi-xenon headlights and LED running lamps, a two-piece "picnic" trunk lid, a five-layer convertible soft top, parking sensors, front and rear heated seats, power front seats and steering column with memory, and multizone climate control. Rolls-Royce Assist telematics, a multitask controller with LCD screen, keyless ignition/entry, voice controls, Bluetooth and a navigation system are also standard. The audio system is a 15-speaker Logic 7 surround-sound system with in-dash single-CD player, a six-CD changer in the glovebox, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio with lifetime subscription.
Rolls-Royces are intended to be customized and as such, the company provides countless bespoke variations to its customers. Most notably, the number of exterior and interior colors is infinite -- for an added fee, Rolls will paint the Drophead Coupe and tan its leather in any color you provide. There are also numerous standard leather, wood trim and convertible top options. Other optional features include 21-inch wheels in chrome or alloy, front and rear camera systems, visible exhausts, brushed stainless hood, teak "deck" tonneau cover and the $17,000 brushed stainless/teak deck combination. Rolls will also try and meet whatever requests customers may have.
Performance & mpg
The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is powered by a 6.7-liter V12 capable of 453 hp and 531 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission sends that prodigious amount of thrust to the rear wheels. Rolls-Royce estimates that the Drophead Coupe will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.
Safety equipment includes run-flat tires, antilock brakes, traction and stability control, a pop-up rollover protection system, active front head restraints, front knee airbags, front side airbags, and full-length side curtain airbags. Front and rear parking cameras with innovative front split screen are optional.
Big. That's the best word to describe the 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe, a vehicle that is enormous in every dimension despite being 10 inches shorter than its sedan comrade. As such, piloting it through tighter streets can be daunting, with its wide body and huge front end far in the distance like the bow of a ship. (The Spirit of Ecstasy perched atop the grille may start to look like Leo DiCaprio yelling, "I'm king of the world!") Thankfully, the optional split-view front camera provides a left-right side view of the crossroad ahead to prevent any titanic disasters. Furthermore, the sensation of sitting in a vehicle this large with no roof exaggerates the yachting feel.
Despite all that size, though, the Phantom Drophead Coupe features exemplary steering and handling. The Drophead is definitely happiest out on the open road, where it cruises down high-speed thoroughfares with the powerful authority of a Royal Navy dreadnaught. The ride is smooth but not floaty, absorbing the nastiest bumps and road imperfections with nothing but a muted thump. You could probably hit a land mine and barely notice. Unlike other convertibles -- especially large ones -- there is no body flex or creaking, which perpetuates the feeling of spectacular, indestructible quality.
As nice as one may think the inside of a Rolls-Royce is, it's nicer. Plus, with the infinite number of customization possibilities, buyers have the opportunity to make their Drophead Coupe even nicer er.
Almost every surface is adorned in beautifully crafted veneer, the shiniest chrome, soft cashmere and the sumptuous hides of between 15 and 18 Bavarian cattle. Unlike the Phantom sedan, the four-person Drophead Coupe is more likely to be driven by the vehicle's actual owner rather than their chauffeur. As such, the driver is greeted by a thin-spoke steering wheel, classically simple gauges and a minimalist control panel. The climate controls are mounted a little low on the dash, however, and some may lament that they are not of a typical automatic variety. More complex functions like the navigation system are managed by an interface similar to BMW's iDrive system, but with climate and audio controls being separate, it's a more user-friendly setup. Its trademark mouselike controller hides inside the center console when not needed, while the LCD screen disappears behind the stylish analog clock.
Thanks to the rear-hinged "coach" doors, exiting the Drophead Coupe is a much more graceful exercise than in traditional cars, as one slightly swivels and steps forward, allowing for a more lady-like departure. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan should appreciate it. Although not nearly as spacious as the enormous Phantom sedan, the Drophead's rear seat still provides plenty of room and is a treat to spend hours of high-class travel in.
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The 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is the only vehicle on sale today that requires new oil at each service interval.
Here we speak not of the black gold buried conveniently under the land masses of deeply eccentric regimes in Iran and Venezuela, not to mention those in Canada and Texas. Although the nearly 6,000-pound Phantom Coupe with its 6.8-liter V12 will need plenty of this stuff, both as gasoline and as engine lubricant.
No, here we speak of oil derived from the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum L.) or from the seed kernels of the Tung tree (Aleurites fordii). You see, the $410,000 Drophead Coupe is available with a $7,000 optional tonneau cover and upper cowl made from solid teakwood — yes, the stuff of expensive boat trim and patio furniture. Assuming you would like to preserve the warm caramel color of the tonneau, you will have to have your service technician slather it every so often with some penetrating oil, such as linseed or Tung oil.
You see life is, um, different with a Rolls-Royce.
Beyond the Stereotype
For roughly the past 20 years, the standards by which a Rolls-Royce has been judged have been very different from the standards applied nearly a hundred years ago when the brand was new. In the beginning, a Rolls-Royce was adventuresome in its mechanical excellence. Later, excellence had to overcome a lack of the mechanically adventuresome, as a Rolls-Royce came to lack the technological sophistication of far cheaper German sedans.
Of course, people still yearned for the defiantly British spirit of a Rolls-Royce in a way that they never did for a German sedan, and it made the Germans so crazy that BMW bought Rolls-Royce in 1998 and built a new factory in Goodwood, England, to begin producing the all-new Phantom in 2003.
People are still discovering that a Rolls-Royce no longer leans heavily on the snob appeal of being the car of choice for the Third Duke of Crispy Bits and Creaky Floors. And so the moment we took the wheel of the 2008 Phantom Drophead Coupe, we quickly realized that in addition to being neither a coupe nor a drophead, it is neither a technologically disadvantaged old crock nor simply a hollow affectation for old-money wannabes. It is, in fact, a very fine yacht and quite a good car as well.
True, the same thing might be said of the big and brutish Phantom sedan that became the first Rolls-Royce produced under BMW ownership. It is technologically up-to-date and endowed with the stoutness one typically associates with high-end German sedans. But with its self-conscious stylishness and a front grille that could double as a scale model of a neoclassical temple, the Phantom sedan has cut a particularly graceless image in the real world.
The Drophead Coupe, which we have just now decided to refer to simply as the "convertible," is based on the Phantom. The convertible uses a shorter version of the same aluminum space frame, although the drop top uses larger-diameter structural pieces in the rockers. And with only two enormous doors instead of four enormous doors, Rolls has managed to chop a full 10 inches out of the Phantom's wheelbase.
The convertible's overall length has shrunk by 10 inches as well, although this car still measures more than 15 inches longer than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan. As we drove this car in Italy across some of the finest goat paths in the Tuscan countryside, the Phantom Drophead felt more than big; it felt out of scale, like a 1:18th-scale model in a 1:43-scale world. Many a Fiat Panda had to swerve into roadside olive groves to avoid us as we came steaming down the center line.
Indeed, we were not used to ushering something quite so massive through a world apparently designed with a unit of measure considerably shorter than would seem sensible to a Rolls-Royce driver. At a width of 78.2 inches, the convertible is every bit as broad of beam as the Phantom sedan and so almost half the width of a Tuscan two-lane road.
A Great Big Slot Car
The cornering style we employed, therefore, was more reminiscent of slot-car racing than road racing. With not enough pavement to sweep through corners in the accepted style, we had to keep the center line of the car directly over the center of the lane. This we accomplished most of the time and we apologize to our driving partner for the couple of unfortunate moments when we did not.
That is no small accomplishment, driving as we were at intensely extralegal speeds. And it was made all the more difficult since we were guiding this solid ingot of wealth via a comically large-diameter steering wheel that was mounted too high for us. Perhaps Rolls has taken its nautical theme a bit too literally in this case.
We were impressed that any vehicle of the convertible's size and weight can be hustled so smoothly down a road that curves so torturously. The 21-inch tires provide more than adequate grip. The steering is accurate, although the effort is a bit light. And the Phantom Drophead is never nervous at speed — or at least it's not as nervous as its pilot is at speed.
Power? More Than Adequate
Sure we could have simply slowed down, but honestly, we didn't really realize we were going all that fast, at least until we'd arrive at a corner. Thanks to its quiet and smooth 453-horsepower V12 and the near-imperceptible shifts of the six-speed automatic, the Phantom convertible accumulates speed on the sly.
It didn't occur to us until we were finished driving for the day that the convertible doesn't flex or creak as nearly all convertibles do. And long-wheelbase convertibles like this are usually the worst offenders. The Phantom Drophead drives like a hardtop. An absence of vice might be harder to discern than the existence of virtue, but it's more impressive.
The only operational aspect of the convertible that we don't like is the six-speed automatic's reluctance to downshift during passing maneuvers. We understand that Rolls engineers want the transmission to shift as little as possible so as not to distract an owner with his mind on the finer things, but even a car with 531 pound-feet of torque occasionally needs the torque-multiplying magic of a shorter gear. Passing Italian big rigs, the drivers of which take it as a personal insult, is such an occasion.
So the gentlemen who design and construct Rollers under the BMW regime have gotten all those driving-style aspects of prestige-car ownership almost exactly right. There will be no need for owners to make any excuses for the car's performance. But what about the other side of the Roller experience? What about the details that a car must evidence to make a half-million price tag seem like an appropriate measure of value?
The Phantom Drophead Coupe has them. Start with the interior, which is trimmed in wonderfully soft leather, a wide variety of wood veneer choices and possibly more chrome than was applied to a 1959 Cadillac. No plastic buttons here. Every control switch, knob, hinge and assorted doodad has been finished in chrome. And each bit of switchgear feels heavy and pleasantly mechanical, like a well-oiled latch.
How's the 15-speaker stereo? Well, as we played the intro to David Bowie's "Space Oddity," with its two overlapping vocals, we were convinced that it was our driving partner who was singing along. It wasn't until we screwed up the courage to look over and see that his mouth was shut that we realized it was a recorded voice. Moments later, he said, unprompted, "God, I thought that was you singing!" That's a good stereo.
Value vs. Cost
For curbside theater, one can't underestimate the Phantom Drophead's rear-hinged doors. If onlookers aren't sufficiently impressed enough just by the configuration of these doors, the push of the automatic door-closing button will surely elicit an eyebrow-raise from all but the most phlegmatic.
And we can't imagine any Phantom Drophead Coupe buyer not opting for the optional stainless-steel hood and teak-covered tonneau, which give this convertible its unique visage. Some might view these elements as gimmicky, and we suppose on some level they are. But, along with the rear-hinged doors and triangulated A-pillars, they are what give the convertible its visual impact, its specialness, and part of the justification for its obscene price. In other words, you just can't get this kind of thing on a Chrysler Sebring convertible.
In its defense, we should note that the Sebring convertible is offered with a retractable hardtop, while the Drophead Coupe is not. This is not really a problem, since the thick five-layer fabric of the Rolls-Royce top perfectly transforms the convertible's interior into a hushed, weather-proof environment. Still, why shouldn't a car that costs roughly a half-million dollars offer the same technology as a sub-$40,000 car? Well, Rolls-Royce tells us, "You don't need a reversible jacket if you've got the money for two jackets." In other words, if you need a hardtop that day, just pick another car from your stable.
As we said, life is different with a Rolls-Royce. And with the 2008 Rolls-Royce Drophead Coupe, it's a good kind of different.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Convertible Overview
The Used 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Convertible is offered in the following styles: 2dr Convertible (6.7L 12cyl 6A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe?
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