2000 Rolls-Royce Corniche
First off, don't even look at the price. For 99.9 percent of us, it's irrelevant. Once you hit the first $100,000, the rest is just fluff, anyway. This is the latest splendid fantasy from the world's premium automobile builder, Rolls-Royce. The Corniche is Rolls' flagship, a big, beautiful convertible that exudes heritage, tradition and wealth. Lots of wealth. What a great car. I'm continually amazed at how quickly I become accustomed to the finer things: cruising up Central, top down, head back, feeling just oh-so-lucky to be alive, and soaking up the awe and admiration of all who behold my passage. New for 2000 after an absence of several years, the Corniche has been gorgeously restyled, looking trim and fit despite tipping the scales at 3 tons. Though it's as big as a battleship, it's shapely as a yacht. According to a Rolls spokesman, the tall prow and sloping rear deck mimics the profile of a seagoing cruiser. The style is beautiful and timeless, like a piece of vintage machinery rendered in modern form. Here's a trick feature: If anyone tries to steal the "Flying Lady" hood ornament, the spring-loaded mount shoots the figure downward behind the grille at the first sign of strong-arming. The interior is incredibly lush, including the most beautiful wood trim these jaded eyes have ever seen. It takes 150 working hours to fabricate each Corniche's triple-inlaid masterpiece of furniture craft, created from slabs of burled walnut. Oh, and the leftover slabs are labeled and stored so that if a Corniche owner ever should suffer a splintering mishap (heaven forfend), he or she can be assured of matching wood being available for repairs. The leather seating is as soft and supportive as any lounge chair in a London men's club. It's fascinating to look around in this elegant cabin and know that every stitch in the leather, every contour in the wood, was crafted by human hands. The leather and wood combine into one intoxicating aroma. The switchgear is soft to the touch, including the smoothest automatic-transmission stalk ever. The gauges are rich and traditional, including a small analog clock and a very appealing analog thermometer that measures outside temperature. There's a notable absence of gadgetry. No GPS navigation, trip computer, or other computerized gewgaws, just the sense of being in a special place. Driver and passenger room is generous, as well it should be, though headroom in the back (with the top up, natch) is somewhat limited. A few clinkers in here: I was disappointed in the look and feel of the steering wheel, which really should be walnut-rimmed and classic, instead of thick-rimmed and padded. And at night, there is no light shining on the broad center console, where switches and controls are hard to find in the dark. The top cranks up and down with the single touch of a button, unlatching from the windshield and dropping down into a space behind the back seat. Not unusual, b ut beautifully rendered on this big car. Uh-oh, another surprising clinker: The rear window is made of plastic instead of glass. Hardly what you'd expect in a car that costs as much as a mansion. Performance is stately, but this mighty craft will pick up her skirts and run. Acceleration is strong, and so are the brakes. The horsepower figure for the turbo V-8 seems routine, but the massive tractor-pull torque explains the get-up-and-go. In the past, Rolls-Royce has been reluctant to release performance figures for its superb engines, but not now, not since everything has changed for the venerable motorcar company. Volkswagen and, eventually, BMW own the famed automaker (along with sibling Bentley), and the 2000 Corniche is most likely the last pure example of a breed that stretches back to 1907. This is probably the last time that a Rolls model will be powered by a British V-8, tuned by Cosworth. Already, the new Silver Seraph is powered by a BMW en gine, and th at's likely to be the trend in the future. Back to that price: If you start saving up for the $360,000 entry fee, don't forget to add about $25,000 for sales tax, $4,500 gas-guzzler tax and about $12,000 to license the beast. Pretty soon you're talking real money. Perfect? No. Magnificent? Yes. For those fortunate few who can afford it, the Corniche is everything it's cracked up to be. 2000 Rolls Royce Corniche Body type: Five passenger, two-door convertible, rear-wheel drive.
Base price: $359,990.
Price as tested: $359,990.
Engine: 6.75-liter turbocharged V-8, 325 hp at 4,000 rpm, 544 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,100 rpm.
Transmission: 4-speed automatic.
Curb weight: 6,031 pounds.
Wheelbase: 120.5 inches.
EPA mileage: 11 city, 16 highway.
Highs: Aura of a magnificent thoroughbred. Splendid styling. Seamless performance.
Lows: Monumental price tag. Plastic back window. Interior glitches.
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