Rolls-Royces weren’t always the best cars in the world, even when they were assumed to be. Some even challenge the claim to that title of the Edwardian Silver Ghost, the progenitor of the legend.
Car magazine shoved the flying lady off her pedestal 40 years ago, when the Silver Shadow was judged inferior to a Mercedes-Benz.
By the time BMW established the “new” Rolls-Royce operation in Goodwood, the Rolls-Royce brand had become tarnished. The cars were as finely crafted as ever, but were behind technologically.
The Rolls-Royce had become an anachronism.Well, BMW has been restoring the brand’s corporate fortunes. The original (2003) Phantom line of limousines was enriched by longer-wheelbase, armoured and bespoke variations – and now those ships of state are joined by the more playful Phantom Drophead Coupé, the most fun Rolls-Royce since Lady Penelope’s.
Rolls-Royce may or may not have reclaimed the title of best car in the world, but looks one of the better-run car companies – and one of the more imaginative. Who else has fitted sisal floor mats in their new convertible? Or used teak decking for the panel that covers the hood? Or offered a stainless steel (that is, unpainted) bonnet? Few, if any. You see what I mean by playful.
There’s also the rearranging of the famous Rolls-Royce face, with that distinctive grille now more raked on the Drophead Coupé. I’m gratified, too, that Rolls-Royce, alone, persists with a delightfully slim steering wheel. You could hop out of your 1950s Silver Cloud or 1980s Silver Spirit and into this model and feel at home. The quietness, the “organ stop” controls, the typeface on the instruments, even the air-conditioning dials, are nods to an illustrious past.
But the BMW-sourced mechanicals and electronics and the advanced aluminium space-frame of the Phantom are nods to a more illustrious future. Best car in the world? Debatable; but in its character, ability and appeal, this convertible is sui generis.
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