Get behind the wheel of a new Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead and it changes your perspective of motoring life.
Not just because of the quality and craftsmanship that goes into each model, not even because of the millionaire’s bank balance that you need to buy one.
It’s simply that you know you are driving a one off.
Like a Savile Row suit, it’s tailor-made to one person’s requirements and you know you won’t see an identical model on the road.
Indeed, the price tag alone – the drophead coupe tested here cost a jaw dropping £416,000 – ensures you will rarely see another Phantom of any description.
Snobbish as it sounds, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar all become second class citizens when you drive a car with the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy statuette on the bonnet.
And the ability to create bespoke products means Rolls-Royce can think outside the box.
Beautiful as the company’s traditional, classic models are with their black exterior and hand-crafted wood veneer dashboards, the Goodwood factory now produces some stunning alternatives.
With its retro-style white metal dashboard, powder blue bodywork and matching leather upholstery, navy blue hood and whitewall tyres, “my” drophead coupe had one foot in the past while discreetly hiding away the latest hi-tech equipment it had on board.
The style was definitely not to everyone’s taste, and opinions of friends and colleagues were split down the middle.
Some preferred the more traditional style for the model, others loved the newer, more radical look.
But like every Rolls-Royce I have driven it generated interest like nothing else on the road.
Complete strangers came up to me in the street and in car parks asking for details, for a look inside and – more often than not – asking whether they could take a photograph.
That Rolls-Royce is held in such esteem in Britain is testimony to both the heritage of the marque and the awe in which new models are still held.
Other unusual features on the car tested included a brushed stainless steel bonnet and – on the surface around the rear passenger seats where the hood rests on the bodywork – teak decking, reflecting J-class yachts of the 1930s.
Like all Roll-Royce models the Phantom Drophead Coupe has doors which open the opposite way to most conventional cars. In this case two very large doors to make it easier to access the rear seats.
And in keeping with tradition the car still has large umbrellas in spring-loaded compartments in each doorjamb, as well as the organ stop ventilation controls on the dashboard. Carpets and mats so thick your feet disappear into them adorn the floor while the multi-adjustable seats – each one has a separate control joystick hidden beneath a centre armrest panel – looked splendid in hand sewn powder blue leather with navy blue piping.
A neat, retro-look analogue clock sits in the middle of the white central dashboard panel and flips – 007-like – to reveal a control screen with 3D mapping as soon as you access the central control knob which is hidden away in the armrest.
Push the starter button and the giant 6.75-litre, 12-cylinder engine bursts silently into life as the Spirit of Ecstasy figure rises ladylike from the tip of the bonnet – a long distance from the steering wheel.
The eight-speed auto gearshift is on the column and – apart from neutral – offers just two choices: drive and reverse. Nothing complicated here then.
As you move away from the kerb the world falls silent as the big V12 engine takes over in serene silence.
The ride, too, is what you would expect from such a car. A friend of mine aptly described it as riding on a cushion – and it certainly cushions you from the outside world. It’s a little on the soft side but still compliant so you feel very much in control.
And for all its grandeur, proportions and weight (2.6 tonnes) this elegant royal of the road is superbly fast when you put your right foot down hard.
But in truth this car is not about speed. It’s about elegance, tranquillity and style – particularly with the hood down.
If you are looking for one-upmanship the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe has to be the ultimate .
Model: Rolls-Royce Drophead Coupe
Mechanical: 5,749cc, 453 bhp, 12 cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 8spd automatic gearbox.
Max speed: 149 mph
0-62mph: 5.8 secs
Combined mpg: 19.1
CO2 emissions: 347 g/km
Insurance group: 20
Warranty: 4 years/unlimited mileage