Heritage permeates the cabin. However, much of it seems destined to impress the Rolls-Royce faithful rather than any neophytes. On the upside, real chrome accents interact tastefully with the polished wood, supple leather and patterned aluminum. There's a superb 15-speaker, surround-sound audio system, DVD navigation, rear pop-up rollover hoops, twin courtesy umbrellas and a slick, fold-down 'picnic area' panel that facilitates access to the 11.1 cubic feet trunk while creating an impromptu mini seat. Conversely, some quirky ergonomics and the presence of an analog 'power reserve meter' in place of the tachometer still defy anything but the most staunchly British logic. Thankfully, its hideaway-integrated controller is a bit less Byzantine than the iDrive unit used in BMWs. But proficiency still demands a similarly steep learning curve.

Comfortable and supportive, the Drophead's front buckets are slightly slimmer than those in the Phantom, expanding rear legroom and ensuring true four-occupant accommodation. Activation of its five-layer power fabric top requires just one pull/push of a console-mounted lever and about 25 seconds to fully transition in either direction. Although shifting into panoramic mode does bump wind and decibel levels noticeably, it also puts you into the preferred see-and-be-seen configuration. And, be of no doubt, you will be noticed.

As with any Rolls Royce, one 'motors' in a Drophead, one does not flog. Drive at its naturally resonant pace (an admirably brisk clip) and all seems well with the world. The BMW-sourced V12 purrs complacently, an electronically activated ZF six-speed automatic transmission shifts seamlessly and you glide along effortlessly, buoyed by the knowledge that you've obviously arrived-even when you're still miles away.

On those special occasions when exuberance reigns, just tap the L (for launch) button on the steering wheel to select first gear and tag the accelerator. A computer-controlled air-strut suspension gives the car a reassuringly confident feel through corners and massive ABS-equipped discs do an admirable job of shedding speed. Only at the limit, when the normally dormant but resolutely undefeatable stability control system swings into action, does the car begin to make its 5776-pound curb weight evident. At that point, anyone who really belongs behind the wheel of this $413,000 dream weaver will take the hint and slip back into motoring mode.

2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe

Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
6.75-liter V12, dohc, 48-valve
Six-speed automatic
Front double wishbone/rear multilink, self-leveling air shocks
Peak power: 453 hp @ 5350 rpm
Peak torque: 531 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.7 sec. (est.)
Top speed: 149 mph (est.)
The Price Tag
Base: $413,000
As tested: $431,000

By Bob Nagy
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