The Rolls-Royce Ghost is a driver’s car. You know, the type of driver who is paid to wear a suit, always be early, and smile even on his worst of days. As such, the ride is so supple that you might imagine the massive twenty-inch wheels dancing around potholes rather than just soaking up the impacts. The twin-turbocharged V-12’s 563 hp and 575 lb-ft of torque are massaged for gentle yet firm delivery through the eight-speed automatic. The engine never feels aggressive, yet there’s always jet-like thrust at the ready.
The small Rolls affords plenty of room for rear-seat passengers, and the trunk could swallow a small Chevy. As you might imagine, the rear seats are just as comfortable as the fronts, and the lambs’-wool carpet under your feet feels like it’s three inches thick. I was surprised, though, to see how much equipment was optional, rather than standard on the Ghost. A panoramic sunroof-standard on a $46,355 Acura ZDX-is a $7000 option on top of the $248,700 base price. Passive entry costs $1700 while those iconic wood tray tables cost $2800.
The navigation and entertainment system is borrowed from BMW’s iDrive, which means that Rolls doesn’t have to curse high-dollar cars with inferior electronics, like so many other niche manufacturers do. The center stack is kept free of clutter by burying a few settings (such as stability control) deep in the iDrive-like system. There’s also a neat interactive owners’ manual that can be accessed when the vehicle is stopped.
Rolls-Royce executives are hoping that the Ghost will draw in new customers and alter how existing owners perceive their cars. As a smaller and more affordable car, the Ghost is designed to be more approachable and more accessible, so that owners take it out of the garage more often. What Rolls-Royce has created, though, is a perfect replica of the Phantom experience. For that reason, I don’t see the Ghost as a new and unique vehicle, but simply a more affordable way to get into the prestige and indulgence of a Rolls-Royce. Then again, I think it’s a small victory when I can save a dollar on a box of cereal.
It’s difficult to offer a thorough evaluation of cars like a Rolls-Royce Ghost without having a bank account that rivals the GDP of a small country or two. What impresses me, a mere mortal, is how easy it is to drive a Ghost. It’s huge, heavy, and incredibly powerful, but the Ghost is also fairly nimble and relaxing from behind the wheel. As you’d expect, the suspension is tuned to keep passengers in complete comfort, so only the largest bumps are felt inside the car.
Infotainment is one area where the Rolls blows away any competing cars from Bentley or Maybach. Not only does everything work, it’s as modern as you’ll find, and the interface is easy to figure out. Passengers in the rear seats can easily take control of the infotainment system without getting up from their reclining seats or messing with a finicky remote control.
Anywhere you drive in a Ghost instantly becomes a bit more glamorous. Although nobody gawked at the sedan the way I had imagined they might, that sense of anonymity might be exactly what Ghost buyers desire. Inside, the car feels very special, and outside, at least in this shade of gray, the car isn’t too flashy or quick to draw unwanted attention.
I know that the Ghost is technically the junior Rolls-Royce, but it sure doesn’t feel small when you’re driving it in traffic, as I did during a Philadelphia rush hour a few weeks prior to this Ghost’s arrival in Ann Arbor. Steer the Ghost toward some winding back roads, though, and you’ll be impressed by how well it handles for a supersmooth-riding big boat with such light steering. Drop the hammer to pass another car, and a tidal wave of thrust rockets the car forward at an eye-opening rate.
Speaking of eyes, the understated Ghost is easy on them (unless you’re trying to see around the giant A-pillars and sideview mirrors, that is). The newest Rolls also treats one’s sense of touch, what with its luscious red leather interior (which even stretches all the way up the A-pillars) and cushy lambs’-wool floor mats; I shared the Ghost with some friends and family, and they all loved those items, as well as the umbrellas in both front doors and the acres of wood trim in the cabin. Some interior materials, however, were less well wrought, like the lid of the center console, the trim around the steering column, and the sun visors. Nonetheless, the Rolls clearly exudes elegance and brilliance while making a slightly more reserved and conservative statement than the Phantom.
According to Rolls-Royce, a full 80 percent of Ghost customers are new to the brand. That’s a very impressive number indeed. Hopefully those customers won’t find that their cars’ sideview cameras don’t work properly, as was the case with our test car.
The quickest model on the Rolls menu impresses with its effortless speed and amazing grace. My favorite affectation is the power reserve meter, in spite of the backwards sweep of its needle. The handy head-up display is a comforting modern break from staunch traditionalism. The semi-fixed hub caps are entertaining. That said, there are irritations. Swinging a door feels like opening a bank vault. The entry step over the sill is nearly a foot wide. And I’d prefer not to hear a BMW chime or to have to pull the door handle twice to exit my $305,750 chariot of the gods.
A somewhat different perspective here, since I never drove the car on the road (only up to the garage roof to photograph it). I did, however get to ride shotgun and in the back seat, and it is every bit the experience you expect from a Rolls-Royce. This car is more than easy on the eyes; it draws you in. At a glance it’s understated and might even be mistaken for a (giant) Chrysler 300C, but then you realize you are looking at something special. And the next step is a compulsion to touch. Everywhere. The handles, the body creases, the hood ornament when it’s not hiding. This car demands a total sensory experience. Climbing inside only adds to it. Every button and control, the seats, the plunger vent controls. It’s all amazingly solid and substantial feeling. The headliner material was less than impressive however. It didn’t measure up to the other finishes.
I was sorry I didn’t have more time with the car, because one could spend an infinite amount of time capturing all the unique details and features of the car with the camera.
And the fixed hub centers are a photographer’s best friend. Totally cool to see the “RR” staring at you when the rest of the wheel is spinning, and once parked, they are always facing the right way!
Base price (with destination and guzzler tax): $248,700
Price as tested: $305,750
6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 engine
8-speed automatic transmission
Rain sensing wipers
Electronic variable damping control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Dynamic traction control
Cornering brake control
Dynamic stability control
Electronically retracting Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament
Electronically controlled rear coach doors
Soft close latches
Heated front and rear seats
Wood veneer on fascia, center console, armrests
Premium audio system with 600-watts, 16-speakers, subwoofer
CD/DVD-player and AM/FM HD radio
Auxiliary input and USB input jack
12.5 GB hard disk
Automatic 4-zone climate control
Options on this vehicle:
Driver’s assistance 3 — $9950
Rear theatre configuration — $6200
Camera system (front and rear) — $3200
Comfort entry system — $1700
Panorama sunroof — $7000
Front and rear ventilated seats — $3500
Front massage seats — $1100
Individual seat configuration — $6000
Rear massage seats — $1100
Adaptive headlights — $1100
Picnic tables — $2800
Lambswool footmats — $1000
Color-keyed boot trim — $700
Polished stainless steel tread plates — $1400
Extended leather & door pocket lighting — $2100
Chromed visible exhausts — $3200
Key options not on vehicle:
13 / 20 / 15 mpg
Size: 6.6L twin-turbocharged V-12
Horsepower: 563 hp @ 5250-6000 rpm
Torque: 575 lb-ft @ 1500-5000 rpm
Unladen weight: 5368 lb
20 x 8.5-inch front; 20 x 9.5-inch rear aluminum wheels
255/45R20 front; 285/40R20 rear Goodyear summer tires