"We were always intending to build a somewhat smaller, more agile car," explained Tom Purves, the wildly successful former head of BMW North America and current Rolls-Royce CEO, excused from mandatory retirement just to see this project through. Small is a relative term at Rolls-Royce. The Ghost sedan (it sounds so ordinary) still packs a load at 5445 pounds. The exterior may be 17.4 inches shorter overall, 1.7 inches narrower, and 3.5 inches shorter in height than the 5622-pound regular-wheelbase Phantom, but the Ghost is still half a foot longer and 1.8 inches wider than a BMW 760Li, from which about twenty percent of the Ghost's components are derived, including its V-12 engine block. More on that fire-breather in a moment.
Without the Phantom for visual comparison, a normal person will quickly adjust to the Rolls-Royce cues embodied in this less-sculpted yet sleeker Ghost. The chrome-faced prow is more three-dimensional, beautifully flushed into the Ghost's sheetmetal (the hood and the windshield frame are aluminum), but it's still an imposing whack of shine leading the charge, topped as always with the flying lady.
The Ghost's silhouette - with requisite formal suicide doors - shows a racier windshield rake. The paint - which takes seven days to apply, hand-sand, and hand-polish - is so deep and lustrous that you could count the freckles in your reflected image. Virtually every control in the cabin - from traditional organ stops and violin-key switches to air vents and door handles - is of such heavy chrome that you will forever snort at cheap imitations. The cabin showcases wood veneers from a single tree and eight supple, hand-stitched hides of bulls raised in barbed-wire-free pastures. You will be encouraged by the juxtaposition of the quaint analog clock and the art-deco instruments with modernities such as iDrive and its large menu screen - reminders that parent company BMW is overseeing operations. Not to mention space-age technologies like a night-vision camera, a head-up display, lane-departure warning, high-beam assist, active cruise control, active brake intervention (for hill descent), and a curve-speed limiter working in concert with the Ghost's stability control system.
The luster and the pride of workmanship extend under the hood, where the most powerful engine - a direct-injected, forty-eight-valve, twin-turbocharged twelve-cylinder - ever found nestled within a Rolls is topped by a large chrome V-12 badge on a shining bed of black paint.