If price is really no object, and you simply must have a hand-built luxury convertible, theres only one place to turn to Rolls-Royce and its Corniche. It comes with a sticker price that reaches well past a third of a million dollars. Todays version of the Corniche convertible debuted early in 2000, but it was by no means the first soft-top model of that name from the British automaker. No details on changes to 2002 models have been announced.
Bentley, Rolls-Royces sister marque, also turns out a handful of convertibles each year, under the Azure nameplate. Both the Corniche and Azure are related to Bentleys Continental R coupe. The Azure is structurally similar and costs less than the Corniche, but both are top-end motorcars.
For the time being, Bentley and Rolls-Royce retain their original ownership, and production continues in Crewe, England. But this will change on Jan. 1, 2003, when BMW takes over the management of Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen ssumes ownership of Bentley. Until then, the companys current owners will produce, sell and service both marques worldwide.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley models differ mainly in the appearance of their grilles, with Rolls displaying a statelier version. In addition, Rolls-Royce is nearly alone in putting whitewall tires on its 17-inch wheels. The Corniche is about 213 inches long and measures a few inches shorter than the Lincoln Town Car. Available in shades to match or contrast with the body color, the flush-fitting power top stows beneath a chrome cover on the rear deck.
The Corniche seats four occupants in sumptuous pleasure and simply exudes luxury just as its predecessors always have. Connolly leather is the same sort used on the seats in the British House of Lords. Power front bucket seats have four-position memory settings, and a remote control unit lets backseat passengers operate the eight-speaker audio system. Despite the use of front bucket seats, the automatic transmissions gearshift lever is mounted on the steering column rather than on the floor.
Under the Hood
The Corniche runs on a turbocharged, 6.75-liter V-8 engine that produces 325 horsepower and mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes, traction control and automatic ride control are standard. Side-impact airbags are not available.