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Rolls-Royce Droptop Debuts

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2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Photo: Rick Dole
By Ann Job
World debut of the Phantom Drophead Coupe in the Motor City.
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2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Photo: Rick Dole
Due to go into production this summer, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is built on the aluminum spaceframe of the Phantom sedan. Photo: Rick Dole
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2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Photo: Rick Dole
Rolls-Royce officials incorporated some of the design elements of the 100EX concept car from 2004. But they eschewed the concept car’s boattail rear. Photo: Rick Dole
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2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Photo: Rick Dole
The Phantom Drophead Coupe on display in Detroit has unusual windshield pillars finished in brushed steel, which match the brushed-steel hood on the car. Photo: Rick Dole

It probably was the slowest unveil at the North American International Auto Show all day. Late Sunday afternoon, Rolls-Royce slowly, ever so slowly, pulled the cover off its next convertible.


The deliberate pace of the unveiling seemed fitting for such a classy―and exclusive―car. Expected to have a starting price of well over $300,000, the Phantom Drophead Coupe is a 2-door, 4-seat, elegant car that stretches 18.4 feet long and is swathed in wood, leather and chrome inside.


The new convertible will go into production this summer. The version shown on the Detroit stage wears lustrous blue paint accented by an eye-catching, brushed steel hood that matches the brushed steel around the windshield. This brushed steel is an option.


The underpinnings of this, Rolls-Royce’s first convertible since the brand was taken over by German luxury manufacturer BMW a few years ago, are similar to the current Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan.


Like the sedan, the convertible is rear-wheel drive, and the space frame is aluminum, though shortened some 9 inches from that in the Phantom sedan.


Message Board: Is $400,000 too much for a car, even if it is a Rolls-Royce? Voice your opinion.


All-New Body Panels

The grille is similar but also more raked. Every body panel on the convertible is new, yet the car has an unmistakable family resemblance to the Phantom sedan. Probably the most striking difference are the LED side lights above the headlights.


The Drophead Coupe’s two doors are rear-hinged coach doors that provide wide openings for access to both front and rear seats.


The car also uses the same 6.7-liter V12 that’s in the sedan. It generates 453 horses in the convertible and maximum torque is 531 lb-ft.


The power-operated roof is fabric, but this large car still weighs a hefty 5,776 pounds.


The tonneau cover that automatically covers the roof when it’s down is made of teak panels, echoing the pattern on a fine boat. But Rolls-Royce makes sure to get this wood from sustainable forests.


Front seats in the convertible sit up quite high to help drivers see over the large hood. Lounge-style seats that curve at the edges are in the back.


Worldwide Popularity

Rolls-Royce Chief Executive Officer Ian Robertson said the company sold 805 cars worldwide last year. This is the best sales in 16 years.


American remains the No. 1 market, he said. But the company is adding new dealers in China, and last year, the Rolls dealership in Tokyo tied with the one in Beverly Hills, Calif., as top Rolls-Royce sellers.


London ranks right behind, Robertson added.


The company continues to work on a slightly smaller Rolls-Royce that is likely to be priced below the $300,000-plus of the current Phantom sedan. The new car is expected to be out “toward the end of the decade,” he said. Prices will be between $250,000 and $300,000, he said.

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