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The guards at National Cemetery waved it through security without a glance away. Asheville honeymooners took their picture alongside it. An entire Chili’s in Roanoke, Virginia, whipped around and watched its top-folding acrobatics while their baby-back ribs grew cold.
You see, a $359,900 vehicle virtually paralyzes every one else on the road with surprise. "It’s really a Rolls!" It morally bankrupts the driver too: by the end of our 800-mile holiday weekend in the newest edition of the Rolls-Royce Corniche, we were half serious about pasting a "WON BIG GAME" sign on the tail and soaking up all the good will — or envy.
If it’s only attention you crave, save yourself $339,000 and buy a PT Cruiser. But if you want to shout "Money!" without ever opening your mouth, just drive the Corniche.
The latest two-door, four-seater to wear the black-backed Rolls badge is amazingly free of any zeitgeist from current parent company VW. You’d never confuse this for a Audi TT Roadster, and that’s exactly how VW would have it. Smartly, they realize that motor cars like the Corniche have less in common with the performance crowd’s 911s and SLs, and more in common with the big-ticket items favored by the truly rich — third homes, personal airplanes, yachts and powerboats.
In particular, the Corniche feels most like the latter choices, because of its immense size, its handcrafting (just 200 are constructed each year) and particularly, its on-road amble.
Even the sound from its 6.8-liter V-8, with its supercharged sturm und drang, sounds more akin to a watercraft than a road-going roadster. It motivates the Corniche quickly, but not exceedingly fast; Rolls quotes figures of 8.0 seconds to 60 mph, and a top speed of 135. The transmission is a four-speed automatic, a sturdy and smoothly responsive unit that’s a strong contrast to the ever-hunting five-speed autoboxes common in less expensive convertibles such as the Benz SL600.