Two new British luxury cars from Rolls Royce and Bentley, now owned by BMW and Audi respectively, offer sensuous comfort on the road but at markedly different prices. Given the price deferential, a direct comparison might be unfair, but both new vehicles offer plenty of bling for the buck. And like a bacon sandwich smothered in brown sauce for breakfast, both cars exhibit a few British quirks.
Rolls Royce Coupe
Driving the new Rolls Royce Coupe through the rolling of the northern France’s Champagne region, east toward Geneva, is a trip that can be punctuated by an overnight stay at the sumptuous Chateau de Courcelles near Reims. It’s a journey that puts you in mind of those old films where long-distance travel escapades took place in luxury automobiles, and everyone met on the way was an aristocrat. That’s because the Coupe covers vast distances in a hurry—and in extreme comfort. Just like a character in those old films, you emerge unruffled from the hand-built leather and wood interior after a long day of driving, fully prepared to sit down to a champagne dinner.
Ah, yes, life is tough when you’re behind the wheel of a $405,000 car. The Coupe is the latest incarnation of the Phantom and follows hard on the heels of the Drophead Coupe, aka convertible, launched last year. Some of the characteristics are similar: the Greek temple grill, the brushed steel “bonnet” that’s so long cameras are installed under the license plate so the driver can see around corners, and the rear-hinged front doors that close at the touch of a button. The Coupe is less of a cruiser and more of a hard-charger, however, thanks to a 453-horsepower, 12-cylinder engine that seems to be only beginning to purr at 100 mph (and out of sight of French gendarmes). Add a “sport” mode that alters the car’s handling characteristics from the stately to the sprightly, and you have a vehicle that can deftly navigate at speed the winding roads of the Jura Mountains leading into Geneva.
But even a beauty such as this has its small flaws. Rolls Royce calls the rear seating “intimate”—which is to say short-legged twins joined at the hip would be very comfortable. More disconcerting from a driver’s viewpoint is a rearview mirror that, due to a low, rear roofline, offers a backward glance of just a few feet and a side-view mirror that tries to compensate by making objects seem farther away than they appear. Still, these are minor inconveniences. Looking out may be a bit of a chore, but looking in, everyone will be all smiles.