It's when you find yourself saying things like: “Beauty — a roundabout!” that you know the initial numbing awe of piloting the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is passing. Even something so mundane as a circle of concrete assumes landmark significance when its being negotiated in 2.6 tonnes of lovingly handcrafted land yacht — one that just happens to have been sold already for a not altogether negligible $1.25 million.
Bevin Clayton of Trivett Classic gave Carsguide an Australian first last week, allowing us access to the only Drophead in the country not already in private hands — although it soon will be.
This pristine example with low double figures on the clock is being shipped to Adelaide where a gentleman will become the first in that quaint town to own this model Roller.
If membership of the Australian Rolls-Royce owner's club is gradually expanding — Clayton expects to sell eight Phantom sedans, eight Dropheads and three of the new hard-top coupes due in September — it's hardly in danger of becoming less than exclusive. Certainly the sense of occasion on simply approaching the Drophead is unlikely to diminish in a hurry.
The sheer blackness of this example, set off by the distinctive burnished silver bonnet, to some extent disguises the Roller's imposing lines. The fabric roof is the longest of any modern auto, a bespoke, five-layered lid that insulates the interior from noise of the madding crowd almost as effectively as the sedan's hard top. Indeed, as Clayton says, it's clear that the Drophead remains “in the Phantom family”.
Notwithstanding one client who bought a sedan to complement his new Drophead — as one does — the Drophead's DNA is immediately evident on opening the rear-hinged door.
It's a sea of Indian rosewood and the creamiest leather set off with polished, to the point of reflectiveness, stainless steel fittings. A singular ambience almost seduces you as you take hold of the skinny, old-world steering wheel.
The Drophead is, of course, hand-crafted using top-drawer materials to Rolls's exacting standards and is modelled on the J-class racing yachts of the 1930s. Indeed, the rear deck is teak.
The bonnet is machine-brushed before being hand-finished to ensure a uniform grain.
A picnic boot has a split tail compartment that opens in two parts, giving easy access to 315 litres of space. The lower tailgate provides a comfortable seating platform for two adults when folded, revealing a luggage compartment that's more lushly upholstered than the cabins of certain luxury sedans Carsguide has tried.
Unlike almost all of them, but very much like its sibling sedan, the Drophead contrasts the immense power of a 6.75-litre V12 with an aural note that's entirely in keeping with the Phantom moniker. Indeed, attempting to start the thing after pausing near Clovelly for pictures proved to be superfluous. The engine was, in fact, running.
Roof down in a tunnel, you might be driving a hybrid, so subdued and refined is the note, for all its 338kW and 720Nm. Almost no Dropheads are chauffeur driven, but sitting in the rear pews is easily the most civilised such experience that can be had in a convertible.
As we've said of the sedan, the Roller is simply too enjoyable to be left to Jeeves.
Such is the alacrity with which it leaves the mark and immediacy of response to steering inputs that it's impossible to believe the thing outweighs all but the heaviest SUVs.
Where a lesser luxury car — that would be all of them — might float seasickeningly, the Phantom “wafts” in that legendary, almost patented Rolls-Royce fashion.
If the Drophead costs more than a million, driving it is a one in a million experience.