Can the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé offer enough extra driver appeal to make it a viable sporty alternative to the saloon or convertible?

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Ten years after BMW first acquired the Rolls-Royce name, the Phantom Coupé you see here joined the saloon and Drophead Coupé to become the third, and final, body style in the Phantom line-up.

It's the most driver-oriented motor car in Rolls-Royce's range of 'full-size' – gargantuan by any other carmaker's standards – models, although the smaller Ghost could have the edge here as it is merely as big as a Bentley Mulsanne.

This is the most driver-oriented car in Rolls-Royce's 'full-size' range

In truth the huge, 2.6-tonne Phantom Coupé is still as far from a sports car as you’re likely to get, but it has the stiffest bodyshell of the Rolls trio and it also offers the least space and comfort for passengers.

It promises to be marginally firmer-riding than the saloon, with less space in the rear. And it denies occupants the luxury of travelling in fresh air that the Drophead Coupé convertible offers.

Which begs the question: can a 5.5-metre-long car really offer enough extra driver appeal to make it a viable sporty alternative to the saloon or convertible?



Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé bonnet

Ostensibly, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé shares most of its underpinnings with the saloon and Drophead. But of the two, it’s the convertible with which it shares more. Its rear-hinged doors are the same, for example, as is the bodywork from the nose to the A-pillars.

From the doors backwards, things are rather different. The aluminium panels are draped over a welded aluminium skeleton like other Phantoms, but the rear bodywork kicks up behind the driver’s seat from where an aluminium roof is formed forwards, meeting the steel header rail above the windscreen not entirely smoothly if (as in our test car) the two are the same colour. It works rather better if the windscreen surround and bonnet are finished in the optional brushed steel.

The Phantom Coupé is an imposing piece of design

Otherwise, rather like the saloon, the Phantom Coupé is an imposing piece of design; there’s no denying its presence. At 5609mm long, it is only 225mm shorter than the saloon, and at 1592mm and 1987mm respectively, it gives very little away in height or width.


Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé starlight interior

It’s probably best to start with what’s bad in the Phantom Coupé, as it won’t take long. There is too little rear leg and shoulder room, the iDrive-style control system (derived from BMW’s and developed too little from there) is a pain to operate, and the seat adjusters require too much time and attention to operate safely on the move. There’s also a surprising amount of wind noise at speed for a Rolls-Royce, and the boot should be a little larger.

There the complaints end. For all the inefficiencies in packaging, which mean the Rolls has less rear room than a typical D-segment saloon, those who do fit into the rear will find its seats sumptuous and the fittings exquisite.

The Phantom Coupé is a conspicuously large car to pilot

Front-seat occupants will care not a jot either, because the driving or passenger experience is second to none, enjoyed in seats that are slightly more bolstered than the saloon’s. Otherwise the front-seat experience mimics the saloon’s and convertible’s.

The dashboard and other trim feels beautifully constructed, with a pleasing weight to all major controls. The stereo is quite possibly the finest-sounding system fitted as standard to any current road car, the heater controls look a little odd but work well, and the organ stops for the air vents work with silken precision.

The Phantom Coupé is a conspicuously large car to pilot, but forward visibility is helped by thin A-pillars and the front edge and corners are relatively easy to place by virtue of the Spirit of Ecstasy and some flattish sides.

Less impressive is the view to the rear through the narrow window, but that does at least help to create a cosy atmosphere in the rear seats, especially with the optional Skylight roof lights dimly aglow.


Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé front quarter

Identical to that of other Rolls-Royce Phantoms, the 6.75-litre V12 engine makes a solid 453bhp and a not-insubstantial 531lb ft of torque, driving through a six-speed automatic transmission. That sounds sufficient for plenty of performance – but maybe 'performance' is too vulgar a word for such a monumental car. ‘Propulsion’ is perhaps more fitting.

Nevertheless, quantify and rate its performance we must. So here are the figures: 0-60mph in 6.1sec and 100mph in 15.7sec. How does this feel in a car weighing 2655kg? At first, frankly ridiculous. So majestic does the Phantom feel at pedestrian speeds that when the moment comes to extend the throttle fully, the vigorous, if still entirely dignified, progress comes as some surprise. With familiarity, though, comes the realisation that the Coupé’s pace is more brisk than truly rapid. In fact, our figures trail Rolls-Royce’s claims for the car (by 0.5sec for 0-60mph) and those we achieved for the saloon in 2003, a consequence, perhaps, of the Coupé’s additional 70kg.

There’s no manual control over the excellent six-speed automatic gearbox

But does the Phantom have enough performance? In almost all circumstances, yes; only on prolonged high-speed ascents would more power help. That is something BMW could almost certainly provide, but perhaps not without damaging the one element that defines Rolls-Royce more than any other: the sense of achieving without ever really trying. The 6.75 V12 never sounds strained, there is no hint of vibration or stress, just a gentle, distant and refined hum as the 531lb ft of torque goes to work.

As with other Phantoms, there’s no manual control over the excellent six-speed automatic gearbox, except for the addition of a wheel-mounted Sport button. By sharpening the throttle mapping and holding each gear longer, this commands the Phantom to tap into its reserves with more zest. It helps in the rare circumstance of a spirited drive, but its more relevant value is in selecting first gear from standstill – handy for a brisk but measured response.

Measuring 374mm and 370mm, the Coupé’s brakes are identical to those of the saloon, and pedal travel is likewise long, at first giving an (incorrect) impression of dead travel and insufficient stopping power. The Phantom will stop from 70mph in a respectable 49.3m, and the travel is there to help eradicate jerky stops at town speeds. It just takes a little getting used to.


Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé cornering

It is in this area that the Coupé promises to differ most from any other Rolls-Royce Phantom. And while hardly revolutionary – we are still talking about a car that rides delightfully and rolls when pointed at a corner – there are certainly differences. With broader rear tyres (and narrower front ones), stiffer rear dampers and springs and a thicker rear anti-roll bar, the Coupé is noticeably sharper than its saloon and Drophead relatives, even though the latter shares with the Coupé a wheelbase 200mm shorter than the saloon's.

The Coupé might weigh a mammoth 2.7 tonnes, but that mass is perfectly balanced front to rear. This means that beyond the initial body roll it progresses through a corner with remarkable poise. It is still inadvisable to go throwing this £300k car about, but with the tighter body control the Phantom Coupé can be powered through a corner without fear of any unseemly lurches.

The Coupé is fabulously comfortable and luxurious, but still rewarding and involving to drive

The improved steering helps – at 3.3 turns it still requires a degree of twirling –but with added feel and a thicker wheel to grasp it’s possible to place this huge car with uncanny accuracy. And doing so is deeply satisfying.

The unavoidable flipside to the improved handling is a slight deterioration in ride quality, most noticeably at low speeds. By any normal standard the Coupé rides very well, but where a Phantom saloon’s passengers wouldn’t notice the slightest movement, the Coupé’s may register a small, far-away thud. Things improve at speed, and shown our sternest ride route the Coupé simply soaked up the evil, compound bumps and lumps in one fluid, controlled movement, the long body remaining remarkably level. Although blessed with its own character, the Coupé remains true to the Phantom DNA: fabulously comfortable and luxurious but still rewarding and involving to drive, without becoming intrusive.


Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé

Typically, running costs on a Rolls-Royce will be less relevant on the Coupé than the Phantom saloon, because it is less likely to be run by luxury hotels or fleets and instead be used by private buyers. Most of whom will have more cars than you can count on one hand.

Service intervals are a generous 25,000 miles, but its 14.3mpg average could be better. With as many as 44,000 colour options, it’s unlikely that many Phantom Coupés will ever be the same, so the level of depreciation they suffer will depend partly on the specification and the tastefulness of the exterior colour.

Most Coupé buyers will have more cars than you can count on one hand


4 star Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé

 It is easy to be overwhelmed and awed by the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé, a car that cossets wonderfully and goes out of its way to make the driver and his passengers feel special like no other car on sale. But it would be naïve to leave it there; this is a £300,000 coupé and, as such, should stand up to the absolute strictest scrutiny that you can level at a car.

To our eyes, this is a car that imposes more than it impresses with grace and elegance. It is also almost inexcusably packaged for rear passengers, who may be prepared to swap a modicum of their snugness and feeling of wellbeing for a greater feeling of circulation in their legs.

This is a car that imposes more than it impresses

A tad more compliance in the ride and a little less wind noise should be expected, too. Beyond that, the Coupé is all it should be: a wonderful way to travel and a car that feels as exquisite as any made today.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe 2008-2016 First drives