Life as an automotive writer is more than a little surreal sometimes. Here I am, committed cycle-commuter and grandson of a Ulster diesel-bus mechanic, swanning about town in a near$600,000 drop-top Roller like my last name was "the Third."
Adding to the weirdness of the experience, I distinctly remember the exact moment I received the invitation to come drive this, the latest iteration of what many consider the ultimate automobile: high atop Deep Cove's Quarry Rock, sweaty, dirty, and thanks to a malfunctioning diaper, somewhat pooped-upon.
But I digress. Let's make with the wafting already.
Rolls-Royce now has two lines, the Ghost and the Phantom. My Phantom test-vehicle for the day is the larger of the two, and the only one available as a convertible-it also comes as a coupe, sedan and long-wheel-base limousine.
While the smooth near-silence of its V12 and a wraith-like glide would make you think "Phantom" is a perfect name for this beautifully crafted machine, I disagree. A phantom is something one just catches out of the corner of one's eye; a semi-invisible trick of the light.
By contrast, the Rolls-Royce version visually smacks you upside the head like an ACME frying pan.
It is as colossal as a cathedral, as imposing as a triple-decker ship of the line with all the guns run out and every man jack armed to the teeth.
While AMGs and BMW Ms and Audi Ss cruise around flashily with gills and grilles and huge-diameter rims, they are just background noise compared to this. The Roller doesn't have a driver's seat, it has a throne.
In the long-wheelbase versions, for which Vancouver has the largest percentage of ownership in North America, that throne can be found in the back, where plutocrats and potentates are whisked about in anonymity. In the coupe, command position is moved up front.
This Drophead model feels a bit like a mobile version of the balcony at Buckingham Palace. Hello, hello there, happy and adoring proles! Enjoying yourselves? Jolly good show.
It's a crisp autumn day, but a sunny one, and as the Phantom plies its way through the madding crown and then out around Stanley Park, let's tick off what few changes there are. Firstly, the Series II gains LED-based lighting up front and a new one-piece grille. Underneath, the BMW-sourced V12 is now joined to an eight-speed automatic transmission for added smoothness.
In many ways, you don't drive a Rolls-Royce, you sail it. Press on the accelerator and there's a sense of working against a great deal of inertia, like trying to rouse a member of the House of Lords after a large lunch.
The gleaming bonnet inclines slightly and the Phantom glides forward with purpose-one practically expects to see a wake in the tarmac behind you. It's surprisingly fast for such a behemoth, and there's even a sport button (ridiculous), which will spur the transmission into greater action.
As if. You might as well suit up Her Majesty in No-mex and have her enter a drifting competition-while 453hp is perfectly, as Rolls-Royce used to classify their power outputs "adequate", there is almost no instance in which you would use even half of what's on tap.
Instead, drink in the luxurious touches that you have carefully selected. Yes, I said "you": a Rolls-Royce is not some off-the-peg Germanic business suit, it's a carefully tailored affair. Rolls like to refer to the process as "bespoke," which term sounds a bit strange coming out of the mouth of a California-accented PR person.
Essentially, you can have an interior designed anyway you wish, far beyond the bounds of good taste or sensibility. Care to chuck out the rear seats for a car-sized humidor? Not a bother. Want to upholster the floor in leather and put carpeting on the seats? As sir/madam wishes. I think mine would be plaid, with teak hardwood floors. And maybe cannons.
Silliness aside, four-door Phantoms are more likely to be black-tie affairs, but the coupes and cabriolets are icons of individualistic expression, and they certainly capture the attention of passersby.
The pure white flanks of my (for the day) Drophead are slathered in extra-thick Carrara White paint, but they might as well have called it Eyeball Magnet for the gazes it gets. Having popped home to don a flat-cap, I'm hamming it up as Laird of the Glen.
Mooring the thing in the driveway briefly, I get to meet most of the neighbourhood: everyone wants to stop and check out the Rolls.
With a grandmother called in for babysitting duties, I squire my wife off around North Vancouver, feeling like a toff and fiddling about with the switch that retracts the nose-mounted Spirit of Ecstasy ornament.
At an eye-watering $585,000, the Roller is worth more than the 10 closest cars we're driving alongside. And then, just as I'm feeling rather smug, I spot somebody driving the other way in a million-dollar Ferrari Enzo. Sigh. Only on the North Shore.
Back to the dealership, and a more than usually reluctant relinquishing of the keys. What a unique thrill. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Bucket-list item checked. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.