Is it still the best car in the world?: It's a while since Rolls-Royce could claim this title, but the latest Phantom is a contender, says Sean O'Grady


Model: Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé

Price: £307,398

Engine: V12, 6.75 litres

Performance: 149mph(limited); 453bhp at 5,350rpm; 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds; 17.6mpg

CO2: 377g/km

Worth considering: Bentley Azure; modest yacht; buy-to-let property portfolio

Rolls-Royces weren't always the best cars in the world, even when they were assumed to be. Some even challenge the claim to that title of the Edwardian Silver Ghost, the progenitor of the legend. Car magazine shoved the flying lady off her pedestal 40 years ago, when the Silver Shadow was judged inferior to a Mercedes-Benz.

By the time BMW established the "new" Rolls-Royce operation in Goodwood, the Rolls-Royce brand had become tarnished. The cars were as finely crafted as ever, but were behind technologically.

The Rolls-Royce had become an anachronism.Well, BMW has been restoring the brand's corporate fortunes. The original (2003) Phantom line of limousines was enriched by longer-wheelbase, armoured and bespoke variations – and now those ships of state are joined by the more playful Phantom Drophead Coupé, the most fun Rolls-Royce since Lady Penelope's.

Rolls-Royce may or may not have reclaimed the title of best car in the world, but looks one of the better-run car companies – and one of the more imaginative. Who else has fitted sisal floor mats in their new convertible? Or used teak decking for the panel that covers the hood? Or offered a stainless steel (that is, unpainted) bonnet? Few, if any. You see what I mean by playful.

There's also the rearranging of the famous Rolls-Royce face, with that distinctive grille now more raked on the Drophead Coupé. I'm gratified, too, that Rolls-Royce, alone, persists with a delightfully slim steering wheel. You could hop out of your 1950s Silver Cloud or 1980s Silver Spirit and into this model and feel at home. The quietness, the "organ stop" controls, the typeface on the instruments, even the air-conditioning dials, are nods to an illustrious past.

But the BMW-sourced mechanicals and electronics and the advanced aluminium space-frame of the Phantom are nods to a more illustrious future. Best car in the world? Debatable; but in its character, ability and appeal, this convertible is sui generis.

The Verdict

Riz Pervez, 33

Regional trainer, Leicester

Usual car: Audi A6

A dream to drive, it oozes retro style and elegance, but is functional. The controls were easy and it was very comfortable. As you'd expect, there was a fair amount of roll on sharp bends, so you had to take care. Not easy to park, but the parking assist helps. Motorway driving was easy and safe, but town driving could be difficult due to the car's size. The only negative while driving the car was that when using the indicators, unless the sound system was off, I wasn't aware they were on; the lights weren't easily visible on the dash. The door-closing system was fantastic; just press a button and they shut. The hood's one-touch button made it very easy to raise and lower. The car is a real head-turner.

Paula Ross, 35

Chief executive, Market Harborough, Leicestershire

Usual car: Porsche Boxster

Having been one of the few lucky enough to have driven its nearest rival, the Bentley Azure, I can honestly say that I prefer the Rolls. It's not just the heady aroma of leather, the teak decking or even the discreetly hidden umbrellas in the uninterrupted A-pillars. It's the marriage of old and new: heritage combined with the very latest in gadgetry. But this car has its drawbacks. Alongside a fuel consumption that can drop to 10mpg, it's huge. I made myself decidedly unpopular by taking up an entire forecourt to refuel it. Yet out on the road it's an effortless drive; it simply glides along. At £307,000, it's the price of a house. Weirdly enough, I could definitely live in it.

Stephen Howie, 52

Teacher, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire

Usual cars: Citroen Xsara Picasso, Mercedes Benz 230E (W123)

Having admired stylistic references to previous Rolls-Royces, it's possible to take this car for granted. No need to consider whether you have time to overtake before oncoming traffic – you have. It'll get out the way, anyway. Hard braking is achieved with firmness and lack of drama. Comfort is exemplary and handling assured. The only time I found its size intimidating was when overtaking on a narrow B-road. I liked the motorised "suicide" doors and quiet engine. I was less keen on the indicator stalk; it was tricky to cancel manually. Everyone looked at this car. It's politically incorrect, but I'm glad it's around. Very.

If you would like to take part in The Verdict, email or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

Search for used cars