Entry Level Exotics: Rolls-Royce Ghost

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Take the platform of the BMW 7 Series and then add a standard V12 along with plenty of wood trim, leather and other Rolls-Royce essentials. Don't forget to add $100k to the price tag.

It's not just supercar makers who see the advantage of offering a cheaper car, luxury brands have something to gain from it as well. In the case of Bentley, one could say that the Continental Flying Spur is a cheaper alternative to the Mulsanne, but that is a somewhat more complicated issue. A clear-cut example of an entry-level luxury exotic is the Rolls-Royce Ghost, a car which is both cheaper and less imposing than its big brother, the Phantom.

The name of the car comes from the Silver Ghost, which dates all the way back to 1906 and was eventually replaced by the original Phantom in 1926. In its day, the Silver Ghost was actually Rolls-Royce's bigger flagship model, and the Twenty occupied the position where the Ghost now finds itself. But this isn't all that important, carmakers do things like this all the time, and Ghost really is a better name than Twenty anyway. With the Phantom pretty much in a class by itself (Maybach is no more and the Mulsanne isn't quite the same thing), the Ghost is intended as an upmarket alternative to the more mainstream and mostly German luxury sedans.

However, these sell in much bigger numbers than anything ever made by Rolls. In fact, this is almost literally the case. The Ghost is actually built on the same platform as the BMW 7 Series, although Rolls insists that you remember that it shares no more than 20 percent of its parts with the cheaper car. Of course, we're talking about the top-end V12-powered 760i here, but those RR badges add about $100,000 to the price, so it wouldn't do for the cars to be too similar. What's more, most of the similarity is in things you can't possibly notice. The shared parts are mostly in the climate-control internals and electrical architecture.

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Yes, there is some sharing in the engine, but most of the internals are different, and even the displacement isn't the same. The engine is a 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 which produces 563 horsepower and 580lb-ft of torque. This is quite a bit, and in spite of the Ghost's 5,450lbs of mass, it can get to 60mph in just 4.8 seconds. These aren't the sorts of things which one traditionally worries about in connection with a Rolls-Royce. Things like speed and handling are more Bentley's area of expertise, but the Ghost actually offers up a certain amount of sportiness.

One could therefore think of it as competing more directly with the Flying Spur than the S-Class, being more similar to the Bentley in every way, including price. But the approach taken to these cars is nonetheless different. Bentley will tell you that the Flying Spur is a four-door grand tourer, and they even offer a Speed version of the car. The Ghost, on the other hand, has things like rear suicide doors, a long-wheelbase version and rear air suspension designed to make minute adjustments depending on the position of anyone sitting in the rear seats. In short, Rolls-Royce expects many of these to still be chauffeur-driven.

Just the same, the car is designed to be equally enjoyable for drivers and passengers, and the cabin is refined and sumptuously comfortable as Rolls-Royce customers demand. There are other differences between the Ghost and Phantom as well. The leather used for the interior has used a different tanning process to make it more durable. This means it isn't quite as comfortable as the Phantom's, but Rolls knows that Ghost customers probably won't be able to just buy a new car as quickly as Phantom customers, and the interiors will therefore need to last longer.

But you would never notice this without a side-by-side comparison or someone telling you, it's not as though the folks at Goodwood are asking you to sit on recycled baseball gloves. Platform sharing aside, this is still very much a Rolls-Royce. From a business perspective, the case for the Ghost is pretty clear. It slots in nicely in what would be an otherwise gaping hole in BMW's lineup, costing about $100,000 more than a 7 Series and about $150,000 (at least) less than a Phantom. Its introduction for the 2010 model year saw a huge jump in RR's sales figures, and last year Rolls sold more cars than any other year in its history.


The Ghost, unlike some other cars in this series, does unfortunately feel a bit like a watered-down Phantom. The styling is sufficiently different, and the bit of added sportiness does help make it a bit more distinct, but chances are that most people who have even been driven around while sitting in the back seat of a Ghost were all wishing at least a little that they were in a Phantom. When you aren't driving, it really does come down to luxury, and the Phantom just has more of it. But the Ghost's big selling point is that the difference in luxury isn't huge, while the difference in price is. And that is how you make a popular entry-level exotic luxury car.


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