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Wednesday 24th February 2010

Rolls-Royce Ghost - First Drive

Somebody had to try the new Rolls in California last week, and Chris-R said it had to be him...




To waft serenely through tranquil airspace soothed and calmed by the outstretched wings of the Spirit of Ecstasy is a unique manifestation of the joy of motoring. Yet like so many of the finer things in life, it is a pleasure to be savoured by a favoured few.


At a predicted average price of around two hundred and ten thousand pounds - give or take a matte silver-painted bonnet and a monogrammed picnic table or two - the new Rolls-Royce Ghost won't do much to democratise the experience of travelling in the train of the iconic silver lady, but it will open the door to Rolls ownership for a new tranche of customers looking for a more 'everyday' option than the imperious Phantom. Because not only is the new Ghost noticeably more practical than its sibling from the driver's perspective, its presence on the road is distinctly less, (as the populi vulgaris might have it), 'in your face'.


Not too much less, I'm happy to report after spending a day with the car in sunny California last week, because nobody buys a Rolls to travel incognito after all. But enough less to bring the Ghost philosophically within sight of the upper echelons of mainstream motoring, and thus attract the attention of owners currently condemned to drearily while away the miles in uber-spec'd iterations of the 7-series and S-class.

While R-R is reluctant to pigeonhole its customer roster, the Ghost's 'everydayness' seems geared towards three broad (relatively speaking) owner groups. First up are the existing Phantom owners, who presently save their big Rolls for trips to the opera or the races and want something less showy for the run to garden centre, or perhaps even to own a Rolls the wife won't mind driving. Then you've got 'captain of industry' types hoping the price of a Ghost will irk shareholders less than a claim for a Phantom. And finally you've got your 'ordinary' rich folk - the ones who used to buy R-Rs until a decade or so ago, but feel the Phantom's presidential style is a little too obvious for their neck of the home counties. Add a sprinkling of footballers, lottery winners and wheeler-dealing scrap metal merchants, and you've probably covered most of the bases.


Whoever they are, the Ghost's new owners are not going to be disappointed. It's a magnificent concoction, and to my mind utterly convincing in both style and function.

Take style first. The new car features a front end reminiscent of the Phantom's Parthenon grille, but tweaked to resemble something from the jet age with curved edges. The car's designers talk about 'Yacht Line' styling, with large uninterrupted surfaces and finely sculpted horizontal lines, and the classic Rolls-Royce cues of elevated prow, long bonnet, short front overhang, sharply raked A-pillar and elegant tail interpreted in a (relatively) informal style.


Inside the ambience is impeccably Rolls, although again the style is more relaxed than the Phantom. The fascia is lower and less imposing, and while the fit, finish and choice of materials is typically superlative, the overall effect when sitting in the Ghost is of a car designed more for a superior long-haul travel experience, and less for being noticed at your destination.

See the two cars apart and they both loom large, but park the Ghost next to a Phantom and it's immediately obvious why the new model is so much less imposing to drive and look at - it's a good 10cms lower, and 40cms shorter.


Interestingly, the seat height is still roughly 10cms higher than an S-class or 7-series, and the commanding driving position definitely helps you feel at ease with the Ghost on the road. In fact, the driving experience is conspicuously undemanding, particularly on wide-open Californian roads, but I suspect it will be the same story back in the UK too.

You sit in front of a large thin-rimmed wheel (although it's a few mm thicker than the Phantom helm), faced by a classic three-dial instrument pack with central speedo and 'power reserve' meter on the left where you might expect a rev-counter. The dial on the right shows temperature and fuel, and placed artfully around the finely polished dashboard and centre console are the organ-stop vent controls, boutique-style clock and the chromed iDrive control unit. The ZF automatic gearbox is controlled by a wand-like lever behind the wheel, with only Drive, Neutral and Park positions to play with. (In fact the seamlessly shifting unit has 8 ratios, but that's a tiresome detail that will never trouble the driver who should never have to think about which gear the car is in while motoring.) Surrounded by the sensual and tactile delights of fine leather upholstery, lacquered wood and sheepskin floor mats, it's a genuinely delightful environment.


The new 6.6-litre, twin-turbo V12 engine fires with a starter button on the dash, and idles virtually imperceptibly. It becomes a little more audible when extended, but it's not an engine that's been designed for aural pleasure - rather for delivering significant motive force without distracting the driver from his task with unseemly noises. How significant are the forces? Well with 563bhp and 575lb ft on tap, the Ghost catapaults itself off the line to 60mph in just 4.7secs, and pretty much keeps pulling until the electronic limiter at 155mph. The staggering thing about the performance is not the quantity of it, however, but the smooth, seamless and unruffled manner in which it is delivered. Floor the throttle off the lights, and I'll guarantee you'll be doing 80mph while your brain still thinks you're doing 50mph. In the context of that sort of performance, the word 'refinement' has taken on a whole new meaning in the Ghost.


Remarkable too is the car's dynamism and poise through the corners, aided and abetted by an intelligent air suspension system derived from that fitted to the latest BMW 760. But whereas BMW has developed the 7-series system to try and eliminate roll, the engineers at Rolls have been a little more subtle. The Ghost's active dampers are designed to manage the effects of body roll, not simply to attempt to eliminate it - which means a progressive set-up that allows quite a lot of motion at 20mph (a speed at which the human body will heel over comfortably), but gradually irons out the rolling motion as speed increases.


It all works beautifully on the road, where the chassis belies the Ghost's weight of nearly three tons with a full complement of passengers. The steering is light but accurate, so you can place the car neatly into corners with just two fingers on the wheel, and make amazingly deft progress through even quite challenging corners - all the while cosseted by an amazing 'magic carpet' ride, and kept safe by a combination of anti-roll stabilisation, dynamic brake control and dynamic stability control, including dynamic traction control and cornering brake control which gently reins in speed if the car thinks your cornering style is verging on the flamboyant.


Indeed, for the first time in quite a while, this new Rolls feels like a technological tour de force - an advantage which undoubtedly stems from having BMW's R&D department on the team. So as well as the myriad of optional luxury fittings, finishes and features, Ghost buyers will be able to avail themselves of niceties such as head-up display, voice control, night vision assistance, lane departure warning and even all-round cameras for low speed manoeuvring.

"The Ghost embodies 21st-century Rolls-Royce: more than 100 years of engineering and design excellence expressed in modern and uncompromised style", said the blurb handed out to hacks at the launch event last week. I don't think you'd find any of them much inclined to disagree.


Chris-R
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Author Discussion

vintageracer01

Original Poster:

873 posts

60 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
SIMPLY BRILLIANT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MrSpike

1,166 posts

69 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
Fantastic write up, the only thing that irks me is why is it released in California? You talk of old money and footballers being RR target market, which to my mind is back in Blighty. I know the weather is awful there in the Uk, so surely they could of post-poned the first drive?

Probably it's just me, so I'll go back to my corner now.

elster

17,253 posts

95 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
MrSpike said:
Fantastic write up, the only thing that irks me is why is it released in California? You talk of old money and footballers being RR target market, which to my mind is back in Blighty. I know the weather is awful there in the Uk, so surely they could of post-poned the first drive?

Probably it's just me, so I'll go back to my corner now.
The target market is American Footballers, Rap stars, pop stars and the Chinese.

There aren't that many footballers who will be buying one in the UK, or old money.

Pothole

20,260 posts

167 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
so it's a bit retro-styled then? The 'jet age' was the 1950s, surely.

Puk

125 posts

62 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
I like lightweight little fun machines, but this big heavy cruiser is awesome !
Advertisement

Baked_bean

1,044 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
I like it! not alot else to say really, not like i'll own one anytime soon. frown

LuS1fer

31,733 posts

130 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
Why are they trying so hard to make it look like a rival Volkswagen with that chrome bit at the front?


However good this car is, it looks dross and destined to join the Conti GT in the slightly vulgar excess category.

size13

1,968 posts

142 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
LuS1fer said:
However good this car is, it looks dross and destined to join the Conti GT in the slightly vulgar excess category.
So they'll sell bucket load then!

Chris71

20,722 posts

127 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
Great write up and a superb uber barge.

alexpa

540 posts

57 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
Im a light weight, nimble kinda guy, but this barge... i love it! love

Frimley111R

5,682 posts

119 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
LuS1fer said:
Why are they trying so hard to make it look like a rival Volkswagen with that chrome bit at the front?
WTF? Specsavers or a padded cell for you; I can't decide which!

threespires

1,391 posts

96 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
Looks nice, this still leaves a big gap in BMW's line up though. They have no product in the £100K > £200K market that VAG have pretty much to themselves with Porsche / Audi / Bentley / Lamborghini products.
I can see BMW wanting Bristol in their line up to plug this gap.

10JH

2,070 posts

79 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
Great report. I really like it! Like the colour combination too...

shalmaneser

2,882 posts

80 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
I love this car.

And no, it doesn't look like a Volkswagen.

soad

18,964 posts

61 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
Great motor that.

Not something i'll own anytime soon, that's for sure.

MitchT

8,032 posts

94 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
That will site very nicely in the garage next to my Ferrari F458... in my dreams! smile

edinph

310 posts

59 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
Frimley111R said:
LuS1fer said:
Why are they trying so hard to make it look like a rival Volkswagen with that chrome bit at the front?
WTF? Specsavers or a padded cell for you; I can't decide which!
He won't be allowed to read in the padded cell, so no need for Specsavers! I'm not a huge RR fan, but I'll bet there is a long waiting list for this already.

J B L

3,438 posts

100 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
LuS1fer said:
However good this car is, it looks dross and destined to join the Conti GT in the slightly vulgar excess category.
Disagree. It's all in the public's perceptions:
- RR: class (nobody make the BMW connection)
- Bentley: jumped up VW Phaeton

My 2p anyway smile

Smartass

174 posts

77 months

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Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
Fantastic car. I'm on the verge of proposing to my missus just to get a ride in one.

MogulBoy

2,016 posts

108 months

[news] 
Wednesday 24th February 2010 quote quote all
I thought that they planned to launch this at well under £200k but assume that the plan went by the wayside when Sterling was under pressure last year. Sterling is still under pressure but it doesn't look quite so bad against the Euro so this car looks pricey in its home market, not that they will worry too much about that...



Just noticed that the local dealer in Geneva has one in his showroom and it comes with 'visible exhaust pipes' as an option. Note that the reviewed example attached goes for the more discrete alternative!

God bless her and all who sail in her!

Edited by MogulBoy on Wednesday 24th February 12:51

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