Settling into the plush leather seats of the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, it dawns on me that even the smallest vehicle in the Phantom line is still as large as a small truck.
Rolls had invited us to test drive its entire vehicle lineup at an event in Los Gatos, Calif., including the Phantom Sedan, the Phantom Extended Wheelbase, the Phantom Coupe, and the Phantom Drophead Coupe.
Inserting the smartkey into its receptacle and pressing the Start button, I expect to hear the 6.75-liter V-12 roar to life. Instead, I hear almost nothing. And it's not just because the cabin is so isolated. Even from the outside, the sound of a Rolls-Royce cranking is less of a roar and more of a commencement of combustion.
Back in the cabin, my hands grip what feels like the thinnest steering wheel I've ever felt--which, even here, is 4mm thicker than the tiller in the Phantom Sedan I'd just finished testing. A quick tap of the column mounted shifter to choose my direction and we're off.
What I first notice as I pilot the Coupe down lazy residential roads is how light the greater than 5,000 pound vehicle feels. The steering isn't at all truck-like, the brakes shave off speed with next to zero regard for the Coupe's mass, and the turn radius is small enough to make U-turns on four-lane intersections without doing the three-point shuffle. I'm impressed.
Then we find ourselves on the highway, a long stretch of empty pavement ahead of us. The Rolls-Royce representative in the passenger seat says, "Go on, open her up" and I do.
The only way to describe the acceleration is "effortless." There's no drama, no revving and posturing of the engine. I simply mashed the accelerator and the leather seat returned the favor, gently, but firmly, pressing into my back as the Power Reserve meter dipped down and the speedometer steadily climbed up. Large vehicles aren't supposed to move like this, but 531 pound-feet of torque has a way of rewriting the laws of physics.
Once the blood had returned to my extremities, I was able to take a look at the Phantom's cabin tech situation, which is very well hidden. The LCD for the navigation and media center is hidden behind the analog clock. The control knob is hidden in the center console.
Poking around in the interface, I was disappointed to find that the Phantom is using a reskinned version of BMW's old iDrive system. Even more confusing, the redesign manages to be even more difficult to use, replacing many of the text menus with odd and cryptic icons.
While it may take you all day to find your music using this system, once you do you, will be treated to a 7.1 surround sound system featuring 13 speakers and 2 subwoofers hidden beneath the floorboards. There's nothing like feeling the bass in your toes.
Bluetooth hands-free, DVD playback, satellite radio, and iPod integration round out the Phantom's tech options.