MONTEREY, CA — It takes some gumption to drive around in a Rolls-Royce, particularly the top-of-the-line Phantom. Reason being, these cars are very large, very imposing and very expensive — and they take some getting used to.

The first time I drove a Phantom was a nerve-wracking affair. I was responsible for piloting the Drophead Coupe version to a photo shoot in Cherry Beach in a driving rainstorm. As I pulled out of the showroom from whence the big Roller was borrowed, Grand Touring Automobiles in Toronto, the representative from the dealer stopped traffic in both directions to ensure my safe exit.

Then, for the first of the drive, I was left yearning for similar assistance at every turn, worried that some other driver — somehow — would not see the mammoth car in the rain and would attempt some ill-advised move or another. It didn’t happen: The Phantom arrived at the photo shoot unscathed and was returned to its proper home that same day in the same condition.

RollsRoyce_Phantom_dash.jpgThe point is this: it’s only after extended time behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce that things begin to feel a bit more relaxed. Fortunately for yours truly, last year’s edition of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance afforded me the chance to secure precious time in the revised edition of the Phantom line, dubbed Series II.

More specifically, the stately sedan and drop-dead gorgeous Drophead Coupe versions of the Rolls were made available for a leisurely drive along the California coast from Monterey south to Big Sur. For the uninitiated, this drive is a particularly picturesque one and it’s tailor-made for tourists seeking that perfect coastal snapshot. On this test drive, I learned that the perfect snapshot includes a Rolls-Royce Phantom II in the foreground.

Under the massive, stainless steel hood, the new Phantom line retains the 6.7-litre V12 engine from the previous iteration. This behemoth generates 460 horsepower and 531 lb-ft of torque, big numbers for a big car. The engine is linked to a new, 8-speed automatic transmission, a serious upgrade from the old car’s 6-speed auto. The new transmission delivers more refined shifts and an estimated 10% improvement in fuel efficiency over the previous model.

Out on the open road, the Phantom II played the smooth card to the hilt. The sedan felt marginally livelier under power as it’s slightly lighter, but both cars tip the scales at over 2,500 kg — these are no lightweights. In either two- or four-door form, the Phantom is certainly capable of keeping pace with traffic and that’s all that really matters; its raison d’être is effortless performance.

RollsRoyce_Phantom_seat.jpgIn fact, everything about the Phantom II appears to be designed and engineered to make the driver forget all about the many tedious aspects of driving. Armed with a new dynamic package with a “sport” setting, the Phantom features a more firm suspension system with stiffer anti-roll bars; body roll has been reduced and the car’s ability to corner was surprisingly good. More importantly, the car’s ability to iron out imperfections in the road is flat-out awesome.

Inside the passenger cabin, premium materials such as real wood, leather and metal are everywhere, as is evidence of impeccable workmanship. The pop-open console between the front seats is an original looking feature, if somewhat annoying as it conceals some of the controls including the power seat switches.

The other unique aspects of the Phantom, including the narrow black steering wheel, rear-seat tables and power reserve meter, still manage to impress. There are countless ultra-luxury touches everywhere you look, but the defining characteristic of the cabin may just be what you hear — next to nothing. While driving the sedan along the Pacific Coast Highway, my co-driver asked about a ticking sound that dominated the space — it turned out to be my wristwatch.

In terms of visual revisions, they comprise a minor collection that, nevertheless, manages to give the Phantom a more cohesive and less brutal look. The front light cluster includes rectangular headlamps in place of the former round ones and a narrow running light bar placed in between. The coupe versions have been given a new single-piece front grille, while the sedan has a slightly revised front and rear fascia. 

RollsRoyce_Phantom_gps.jpgThere’s no question that the coupe/convertible version of the Phantom II is the more impressive model. While the sedan is a Rolls-Royce in the more classic sense of the word, the two-door is a visually arresting design that continues to stop traffic some five years after its debut. The Drophead Coupe, in particular, is wildly impressive; lowering the top and stepping inside through the coach doors of the white-on-white version we drove never failed to draw an appreciative crowd

The distinctive convertible is also the most expensive Phantom in the range and by some margin; while the saloon is priced at USD $403,970 to start, the Drophead Coupe begins at an even loftier USD $474,900. For sure, the experience of driving the 2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom is as far from tedious as one can get; behind the wheel, the only thing to worry about is dirtying the lamb’s wool carpets with the soles of your shoes.

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