by Mark Smyth
The world has changed dramatically in 2020, even for the super-wealthy, many of whom are choosing to be slightly less extravagant with their money. They're still flying in private jets, using their yachts and counting their millions but they are perhaps slightly more discreet than in years gone by.
Things are certainly very different to the way they were in 2009 when Rolls-Royce debuted its new Ghost, the so-called Goodwood Ghost, as the first to wear the famous name built at the respected marque's headquarters and production facility in the south of England.
The more affordable but no less luxurious Ghost lived on for 11 years, a lifetime in automotive terms and became the most successful model in the company's 116-year history. Now Rolls has launched the new generation and we spent a day living the high-rolling life.
Unusually in this era of more technology and over-designed models, Rolls-Royce customers said they wanted less, but without losing out on all the essentials and of course the luxury. Designers were tasked with providing more but less, undoubtedly something of a challenge.
6.75L Twin-Turbo V12 Gas
There are big but subtle changes to the Ghost. It's the first to feature a down lit pantheon grille and the famous Spirit of Ecstasy now sits within the hood dimensions, the shutline of which is now itself a design feature as it flows into the line across the entire front of the car above the new daytime running lights and headlights.
The sculpted curves in the bumper and valance all create a feeling of symmetry, with what Head of Exterior Design, Felix Kilbertus describes as a "friendly smile", although he was reluctant to describe the car as a friendly ghost.
There are three simple but effective design lines in the side profile. These are the silhouette line, running seamlessly across the roof and down the new tapered tail which Kilbertus describes as cascading like a waterfall. Normally we wouldn't quote these fluffy design terms, but it's a Rolls, so we can be a bit superfluous.
The beltline across the flanks and doors and the waft line, a curved crease lower down the body, is designed to make the car look like it is floating, as a Rolls is engineered to do.
At the rear, the taillights now sit within a clean piece of aluminum, again a masterstroke of engineering as are many other elements of the all-aluminum body and the spaceframe platform that also underpins the Cullinan and Phantom.
The doors can now open electronically both from the inside and the outside. There are systems in place of course to make sure the doors don't open into someone but it adds to the feeling of effortlessness.
Beneath the hood lies a 6.75 liter twin-turbo V12 that produces 563 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. It's no slouch, even in a car weighing well over two tons and will do the 0-60 mph sprint in an effortless 4.6 seconds en route to a limited top speed of 155 mph. The Power Reserve meter glides elegantly through the revs and in response to requests from customers for more instant torque, the whole whack is available at just 1,600 rpm with peak power at 5,000 rpm. Fortunately, fuel consumption numbers are not an issue for Ghost owners, as you'll be lucky to see over 20 mpg.
This is a Rolls-Royce so for most owners it's not about the latest engineering or elegant exterior design, the real experience is all inside and it's rather impressive. The dashboard features a starlit panel, itself something of an engineering achievement we are told, although frankly, The Gallery art space in the Phantom seems way more impressive.
There's a typical simplicity to all the controls, even with the inclusion of technology like the head-up display and BMW's iDrive controller and infotainment screen. For the driver, it's all very comfortable and sedate.
But it's all about the rear passenger experience. Sink into the hand stitched leather, let your feet nestle into the thick lambswool carpets and let your stresses just fade away. Push a button and tables glide down from the back of the front seats, as does a touchscreen entertainment system.
Speaking of entertainment, the audio system is superb. There are speakers beneath the seats that feature vents into a cavity in the front doors to widen the sound. Speakers, referred to as "exciters" by chief engineer John Simms, are bonded to the roof lining, effectively turning the whole ceiling into a speaker. There's a theater to the engineering as much as to the experience itself.
Not surprisingly there's plenty of head and legroom and many features are available at the simple push of a button. There's no tablet in the central armrest or unnecessary clutter, it's all simple, elegant, an ambience of tasteful luxury although no doubt some will order less than tasteful colours and accessories. But that's the thing about a Rolls, you can have pretty much anything you like, although you might be politely encouraged away from anything too gaudy.
The trunk is absolutely huge at almost 18 cubic feet. We're told it will take six bags of golf clubs in case you need to carry any for your golfing buddies. It will easily swallow all the luggage you need for a week away in Aspen or Florida and still leave space for a case of champagne or two.
There's plenty of storage inside too. The door pockets will take various odds and ends as well as your cool drinks. There's a cooled compartment between the front seats, and the option of a fridge behind the rear armrest. The armrest itself has space for your phone or other items and there are two adjustable drinks holders that pop out at the touch of a button.
You'd expect the Ghost to waft along like a yacht. It does. But it's also rather clever with a new all-wheel drive system, rear-wheel steering and a world first suspension development, a damper on top of a damper. That's a bit simplistic of course, but after making the suspension as comfortable as possible, the engineers found there was a vibration that they wanted to eliminate and they did so by putting a damper on the top of the multilink set-up that negates it. It's perfect to ensure you don't spill a drop of your champagne, perfectly cooled in the optional chiller at 11-degrees of course.
While the Ghost has sports car like performance numbers, there's no drama to the way it moves. Push the throttle and there's a near silent response from the engine and unless you keep an eye on the head-up display you'll quickly pass legal speed limits without feeling like you are going quickly at all. Should you feel the need to hustle though, pull down the shifter on the steering column into Low and you'll find the Ghost enters a more dynamic mode. The all-wheel drive and rear wheel steering help to hide the car's bulk and we found ourselves sprinting along back roads as though the Spirit of Ecstasy was training for the Olympics.
Price, pah, who asks about the price of a Rolls-Royce? Oh you want to know? You peasant, but ok, as you've asked, it starts at $332,500 and first deliveries start early in 2021. Let's face it though, no owner is every going to pay sticker price for their Ghost. Most will add tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of extras to the base price.
To give you an example, the model we drove was fitted with such niceties as fabric curtains and an entertainment system for the rear occupants, a champagne fridge with glasses, the shooting star headlining and of course, bespoke umbrellas. Together with other options, the price rose to well over $400,000.
And trims? Well there aren't any to choose from, only an almost infinite list of possible extras. You can however choose to have more legroom in the back as there is an extended wheelbase version available with reclining business class style seats so you can relax even more.
Rolls-Royce describes the new Ghost as a carriage that reflects post-opulence, but for most of us it seems like the epitome of opulence itself. It has plenty of presence on the road, is a great piece of engineering when it comes to the driving experience, technology and quality, but it's all about how it feels to shut the world way inside that luxurious interior.
Surrounded by the ultimate in British craftsmanship, the best quality materials and the latest technology, it's a serene world that is as seductive as it is luxurious for those fortunate enough to live in it.