Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé Review

Luxury with Panache

A three-quarter front view of a white 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé

In short: A large, powerfully luxurious coupe.

Even in the narrow entrance drive at San Francisco’s opulently moderne St. Regis Hotel, where the finest automobiles in the world are often on display, a sporting Rolls-Royce is worth a second look. At a glance, it seems to display the unpretentious proportions of a handsome, mid-size 2+2 GT (FHC, fixed head coupe, to the Brits). It is an optical illusion created by the vehicle’s 21-inch wheels and exacerbated by the thickness of its windshield and A-pillar triangulated rollover structure. Approaching the car, the deception becomes clear when reaching for the sculptural sweep of a door handle that seems to link the leading edge of the door to the front fender. This is not simply a grand tourer, it is the Rolls-Royce of tourers.

Swinging open the vast rear-hinged coach door to slide into the Coupé’s interior will underscore both its commodious proportions and authentic details. All the car’s controls are conveniently positioned, with the simplicity of the dashboard belying the technology it manages. The Lexicon LOGIC7 sound system can be controlled by just one dial, and an analog clock set in a bookmatched-veneered panel hides the media screen, only to be revealed when called upon. The multi-zone climate control has chromed eyeball vents and traditional organ stop controls, while additional features are accessed using beautifully crafted violin keys—contemporary uses of long established and much-loved Rolls-Royce designs.

This may be the finest BMW product ever, and in what is tantamount to a contrarian spirit, eve
ry system tool on the dash is both intuitive and effortless. In fact, the only thing that is remotely a challenge in the use of the Phantom FHC is its actual size, and that is only true in a parking situation. At full throttle, however, it’s a different story altogether.

A front interior view of a 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé

With the vast power at low engine speeds, the rigid isolation of the structure and the density of its interior appointments, the Phantom Coupé is like a ghost gliding through the air unnoticed. A little unintentional throttle movement can make an exponential change in the vehicle’s velocity, and if one is not paying attention, that can quickly get out of hand. Before departing the St. Regis, it was suggested that we would find the car beginning to shrink as it won our confidence. While neither the wheelbase nor the considerable track were reduced as we gained experience, the level of confidence in its steering precision and its predictable stability led to us to pick up speed on the narrow streets. By the time we arrived at the coast and headed south on even narrower pavement, we were having fun.

The extreme rigidity of the Coupé’s chassis gives magnificent control and precision. It is not a Porsche or a Ferrari, but it is certainly the most comfortable and civilized competitor at the top of that financial category of automobile. It accelerates quickly and delivers a sense of precision on the road. Steering feel is obviously affected by tires the size of a load-bearing truck, but when aimed, the car will follow, remaining solidly on track. Naturally, the braking system incorporates the latest in anti-lock systems that ensure the weighty Coupé is brought to a stop quickly and without drama.

Never mind the obvious interior dimensions you occupy and the beautiful sweep of coachwork withi
n sight, this is a very fast car. Historic badging aside, there is BMW-ness in all the Phantom Coupé’s dynamics. It occupies a lot of space, but its presence is still far beyond its actual dimensions.

A side view of a white 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé

Read a review of the 2006 Rolls-Royce Phantom

Warranty/Service: Four-year/unlimited-mile basic warranty; three-year/unlimited-mile drivetrain warranty.

Base Price: $400,000 (est)

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

Engine: 6.7-liter DOHC V12
Horsepower: 453 hp @ 5,350 rpm
Torque: 531 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Curb weight:
5,798 lbs
Wheelbase: 130.7 in
Length/Width/Height: 220.8/78.2/67.2 in
Turning circle: 43 ft

ventilated disc in front and rear; ABS
Suspension: independent front and rear
Traction: traction control and vehicle stability control

0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph (electronically governed)

EPA City: n/a
EPA Highway: n/a

run-flat tires; two batteries, one on stand-by exclusively for starting; sophisticated chassis accident-collapse control

Likes: almost unbelievable power and performance, luxurious accommodations, turns heads

Dislikes: enormous, no proximity sensors for blind corners, costs nearly a half-million dollars


Check out other Rolls-Royce models
See all of our Automobile Reviews
Visit the Rolls-Royce website

Text and photography by Larry Crane

PSV121908 (Updated 1/9/09 SCV)