Rolls-Royce revealed a new model that combines advanced technology and timeless craftsmanship, the Corniche. The thing that makes it so special is the thought that it could prove to be the last all-new model ever to be hand-built at Crewe. The Corniche is a very pleasant way to travel and it is no machine for routine. It is more like a special occasion of every journey that is selected to undertake. It is built only to order and each motor car individually commissioned to match precisely the personal needs and tastes of its owner. On the outside features a continuously flowing wing line that sweeps the length of the coachwork. The interior has its own way with natural, hand-finished fine wood veneers, featuring a subtle cross-banding boxwood inlay. The model is powered by a 6.75-liter V8 engine that can produce 738 Nm of torque and can reach a top speed of 135 mph. It can reach 60 mph in 8.0 seconds.
Crewe, January 2000.... The ultimate expression of style and refinement in an open-top motor car - and one that, quite literally, is crafted only once in a lifetime.
New cars come and go, but the unveiling of an all-new Rolls-Royce is a rare event. It makes news around the world - because the name is a legend, the reputation is unique. It's a fact that there is no more universally recognised and admired blend of advanced technology and timeless craftsmanship than a Rolls-Royce - and there is no more stylish embodiment of the marque than a convertible.
As an icon of "nothing-to-prove" magnificence in motoring, an open-top Rolls-Royce has always been the way to go. Right now, the first week of a new century, a new millennium, feels to be quite an auspicious time for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to announce its latest, all-new convertible - the Corniche.
It is well placed to acknowledge the fanfare of excitement. There can be no doubt at all that the Rolls-Royce Corniche is eminently worthy of this or any other great occasion. It is a gloriously stylish, effortlessly capable machine, every inch a hand-built Rolls-Royce. In recent years, a lot of investment has been put into making these motor cars as technically advanced as they are flawlessly hand-crafted. And in every detail, from the mirror paint finish to the dynamics of ultra-smooth handling on the road, it certainly shows.
At any time, you would expect the Corniche to be much sought-after by that select band of cognoscenti (more than a third of them ladies) for whom a Rolls-Royce convertible is the ultimate object of desire. But what will make this Rolls-Royce even more special is the poignant thought that it could prove to be the last all-new model ever to be hand-built at Crewe, the company's world-renowned English home.
As things stand, the illustrious name of Rolls-Royce is destined in 2003 to separate from the now Volkswagen-owned Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars and to become part of BMW. It could be that for collectors and afišionados of the truly hand-built, Crewe-built Rolls-Royce motor car, this one might prove to be quite literally its ultimate expression.
There is certainly more than a hint of historical poignancy in the decision to adopt the name of Corniche. It will not be lost upon the Rolls-Royce fraternity that it carries the evocative echo of the classic convertible built for more than a quarter of a century at Crewe. Indeed, ever since Henry Royce and the Hon. Charles Rolls founded the company in 1904 and introduced the legendary Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost in 1907, a flawlessly appointed motor car for driving al fresco has been its most stylish signature. Work the fully-powered convertible hood with a touch of a single button and you are in the mood!
Corniche captivates, too, through its associations with the C˘te d'Azur, with la Grande Corniche, a breathtaking strip of road that clings to the South of France's Alpes Maritimes, between Nice and Monte Carlo. Along this quintessentially opulent coast that takes in Cannes and St Tropez, life is illuminated by warm sunshine for an average 300 days a year. A convertible motor car seems desirable to the point of necessity. Elegance is de rigueur. It is true, the C˘te d'Azur today combines fashionable Provence with what amounts to Manhattan-on-Sea, but its house rules are unchanging: to have a conspicuously glorious time meandering at leisure through one of the world's most scenically spectacular and romantic locations.
It sounds a pretty special way to travel - and it assuredly is. The Corniche is no machine for routine, everyday use. Rather it is one that makes a special occasion of every journey that it is selected to undertake, that is clearly in its element on the most spell-binding of occasions. Chief stylist, Graham Hull, says the new Corniche "is best viewed in motion." He is absolutely right about that.
The Corniche is built only to order, each motor car individually commissioned to match precisely the personal needs and tastes of its owner. In sharp contrast to the methods of mass producers, Rolls-Royce craftsmen have only ever built a grand total of a few hundred convertibles. Each has been so personally distinctive that it might fairly be described as a limited edition of one. The Corniche will reward its owner with a sense of satisfaction that matches his or her success in acquiring it. Wise investments do not come more seductive than this.
Certainly, the new Corniche looks the part. Its external style is characterised by a continuously flowing wing line that sweeps the length of the coachwork. At first glance, it's very contemporary, but afišionados of the marque will recognise that it pays certain homage to the classic design studies of Osmond Rivers, acknowledged as the maestro of design at the historic Hooper coachworks. It is as if Rolls-Royce stylists have selected a favourite quotation from their rich library of coachbuilding studies and subtly reinterpreted it to excite the pleasure of a new generation.
To step into this Rolls-Royce is to enter another world. Interior furnishings and appointments of the Corniche demonstrate levels of workmanship and refinement that no other manufacturer in the world can match. Rolls-Royce has its own way with natural, hand-finished fine wood veneers, featuring subtle cross-banding and boxwood inlay.
Upholstery is in finest, hand-stitched Connolly hides. Deep-pile Wilton wool carpets grace the floor. It really does feel appropriate to describe the air-conditioned interior of a Rolls-Royce in terms more usually applied to a lovely home. Maybe we should put more emphasis on the ergonomic excellence of the responsive controls, on the wealth of precise instrumentation. But there is no escaping that what most sets apart a Rolls-Royce interior is the effect on all the senses of its sumptuously refined ambiance. The Corniche is quite simply a magical place to be.
Performance, the aspect of motoring that most usually excites headlines, has its own distinctive meaning also in the context of a Rolls-Royce. Perhaps the best way to describe it is that it is taken as read, unspoken, quietly assumed. The company modestly chooses to describe the performance of its Corniche convertible as "more than adequate". That has to be something of an understatement when it has a Crewe-built, 6.75-litre, light pressure charged V8 engine with prodigious reserves of torque - no less than 738 Nm (544 lb.ft) between 2,100 and 2,300 rpm.
There lies the clue. Even when the V8 is scarcely more than ticking over, its Engine Management System working with a precision adaptive automatic transmission system, the potential power on tap is enormous. The Corniche is effortlessly capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in a decidedly quick 8 seconds and it will whisper on, should a suitable occasion arise, to a maximum speed of 135mph.
"Effortlessly capable" is the point. Every system of the Corniche, from its power train to its hydraulically controlled suspension, from its 340mm micro-alloy brake discs to its unique 17-inch alloys shod with 255/55 WR 17 whitewall tyres, has been developed and refined to ensure that performance on the road is as unobtrusively swift as it is safely assured. "More than adequate" perhaps says it all in this context, but the Corniche actually has truly remarkable agility. Its state-of-the-art programmable alarm system makes sure that only owners get to discover that.
This most graceful and well-mannered of convertibles is never going to be a common sight. The company anticipates that in all the world, no more than about 200 exceptional people will celebrate their year 2000 by commissioning the ultimate expression of Rolls-Royce style and refinement.
Those who do will likely be accustomed to appreciation of life's most exquisite pleasures and will have a high regard for artistry in all its forms. The Corniche will become part of their collection of most treasured possessions, a motor car that is - quite literally - crafted only once in a lifetime.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars is located in Crewe, England, and for almost a century has been dedicated to hand-crafting of uniquely refined motor cars, commissioned to reflect the wholly personal needs and tastes of individual owners. To experience Rolls-Royce at first hand more than a thousand owners visit the factory each year to commission their own motor car or maybe just to take friends or family to visit. Such is the special relationship between the company and those who cherish their fine motor cars.
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