Two doors, luxurious seating for four adults, a powerful V12 engine all wrapped in a sleek package capable of quenching the costliest desires of any person on the planet. I could see it now. Driving the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe through the rain slicked streets of London; I realized this was going to be a rough crossing of the English Channel on our way to Paris, France. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team.
The starlight headliner twinkled above our heads as dawn slowly gained the upper hand. It was important to get a head start leaving London town as traffic builds quickly on the “M” series highways encircling the city.
The Channel Tunnel, (commonly referred to as The Chunnel) begins at Folkstone, Kent near Dover in the United Kingdom. It presented us with a 2.5 hour drive from our current hotel in the downtown core. Arriving on time was critical as we were booked on the 11:30 am crossing with little extra time for getting lost or stuck in traffic. Power and comfort wasn’t the issue, it was simply a matter of covering enough real estate without getting stuck in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of London.
Performance for the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe comes in the form of a 6.7-litre V12 48-valve engine. Power numbers indicate 453 horsepower at 5,350 rpm and 531 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm. Top speed is governed at 250 km/h with 0-100 km/h achieved in 5.8 seconds. With a robust gross vehicle weight of 3,050 kg, this is a truly remarkable achievement and one I am certain to enjoy at every opportunity over the next five days.
Words cannot easily describe the feeling of driving a Phantom Coupe at speed. It is mesmerizing and intimidating all at the same time. I am stunned at how easily we navigate tight city streets and the ease with which I change lanes on the highway. Given its rather impressive length of 5,612 mm, it drives much smaller than I had first imagined. This is truly a coupe meant for driving.
Arriving in Folkstone, we check-in at the main booth and meander our way cautiously into one of eight rows to await our turn to board the train. Traveling from one country to another requires passport approval in both as we leave England and drive over one speed bump to arrive in France.
What follows next is a series of twisting orange pylon bordered lanes worthy of an AJAC TestFest circuit. The Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe proves nimble once again as we leave the lane to drive onto the train.
A tight left turn is followed by an equally snug right-hander, but soon we are driving straight ahead inside the railcar making our way forward before parking the car together with three other vehicles in our section.
At its lowest point, The Chunnel passage reaches a depth of 75 metres. I am captivated by the relaxed atmosphere we experience given the fact we are traveling at high speed through the longest undersea tunnel in the world. The trip across takes only thirty-five minutes to complete.
Arriving in Calais in the north of France, it is now time to stretch our legs and those of the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe. With few limits on speed, I push the pedal to the floor and spend the next two hours cruising at speeds exceeding 200 km/h. This is where the Phantom Coupe really shines as it responds effortlessly to each request for power, stopping just as fast when needed. Taking curves at speed is a graceful exercise in planning ahead, the kilometres fly by as we reach the outskirts of Paris just in time for rush hour.
The drive downtown to our hotel takes nearly as long as the trip in from Calais. Paris is a city of magnificent boulevards surrounded by small two or one-lane streets, some cobblestone. Our navigation system alternates between both and I am confronted on numerous occasions with the dubious task of guiding a half-million dollar automobile between character buildings on roads barely wide enough for a much smaller vehicle.
Topping it off, motorcycles with two riders, bicyclists and pedestrians all want to inspect the Phantom Coupe, getting uncomfortably close as I try to focus on reaching our destination. Eventually we are waved through the last traffic circle by a very friendly taxi-driver and we arrive at the hotel unscathed.
Built in 1860, Hôtel Scribe Paris features 200 rooms and 13 suites decorated with Parisian flare and elegance. Our room is comfortable in size, especially for a European hotel, with a king-sized bed, oversized bathroom and relaxed furnishings. Breakfast is served buffet style in the downstairs dining room.
A full service Spa completes the package and we enjoy the next five days exploring the best of Paris from this ideal location between Place de la Madeline and the Paris Opéra. With all the pomp and ceremony of a Parisian escape, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe seems equally at home on this side of the English Channel.
2011 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe
Price as tested (before taxes): $408,000 US
Options on test vehicle: Starlight headliner
Configuration: front engine/ rear-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 6.7-litre V12/6-speed automatic
Power/torque: 453 hp/ 531 lb-ft
Fuel (capacity): Premium Unleaded (100L)
Fuel economy ratings: 18.1 L/100km city; 11.4 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 13.6 L/100km over 1,200 km
Competitors: Aston Martin DBS, Bentley Continental GT, Ferrari California, Maserati GranTurismo S
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
Where to Stay:
Hôtel Scribe Paris
1 rue Scribe, 75009 Paris, France