If your next car just has to be a hand-built convertible, the Corniche may be the model for you. Be prepared to pay top dollar for the pleasure of open-air motoring, however. The base price is a buck shy of $360,000.
Rolls-Royce and fellow British luxury marque Bentley are currently sister brands within the same company, and the Corniche comes from the same design used for the Bentley Azure convertible and Continental R coupe.
Rolls and Bentley will belong to new families starting in 2003, when BMW assumes all rights to the Rolls-Royce name and Volkswagen takes over the Bentley brand.
With the traditional, stately styling expected from Rolls, the two-door Corniche is 213 inches long 2 inches shorter than the Lincoln Town Car sedan. In another bow to tradition, Rolls mounts whitewall tires on the 17-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment.
The fabric top can be custom ordered to match or contrast the body color, and it stows beneath a flush-fitting, power-operated chrome lid behind the seats.
Connolly leather the same kind used in the House of Lords covers the furniture in the four-seat Corniche. The power front bucket seats have four-position memory settings, and the eight-speaker audio system allows remote control by the rear passengers.
Even with front bucket seats, the transmission lever mounts on the steering column instead of the floor.
Under the Hood
The Corniche comes with a 400-horsepower 6.7-liter turbocharged V-8, the same engine used in the similar Bentley Azure convertible, and a four-speed automatic transmission. Antilock brakes, traction control and automatic ride control are standard.