It’s not that long ago that Rolls-Royce was what you could call a Phantom company. Under the stewardship of BMW it was only making the super luxury seventh Phantom which lasted for 14 years, a model life cycle that is almost unheard of in the automotive industry.
Since then the famous British marque has produced the Wraith, the Dawn and its first ever SUV, the Cullinan. Along the way it also produced an entry-level model, though calling the Ghost entry-level is somewhat crass and, let’s face it, for many of us it was still beyond the budget that would grant us entry into the exclusive Rolls-Royce owners club.
The Ghost too lived on far longer than most models, at 11 years, and now we have the second generation of what is referred to as the Goodwood Ghost, the affectionate name coming from the site in the south of England where the Rolls-Royce headquarters and production facility are based, alongside the famous Goodwood estate.
It’s based on the same platform as that used for the Phantom and the Cullinan SUV, what Rolls likes to call the “Architecture of Luxury". It’s a spaceframe that can be adapted to suit and in the case of the Ghost means it is available in standard and extended wheelbase versions for those who want to relax even more in the sumptuous back seats.
And it’s that luxury that the new Ghost is all about. Yes, it’s the most technologically advanced Rolls yet and there’s clever engineering like the world first new Planar suspension that features a vibration-reducing damper on top of the traditional damper. There are revisions to the 6.75l twin turbo V12 engine, all-wheel drive and, for the first time, all-wheel steering, but it’s about what this all means for the wealthy owner that counts.
“Clients shouldn’t be concerned about what’s going on beneath the skin, just the result,” says chief engineer Jonathan Simms.
The result is a whisper quiet ride, so quiet in fact that they had to fix the fact the air coming out of the vents seemed too loud. As we wafted along British country lanes, there was barely a sound from outside the vehicle, as it should be.
Accelerate and the large V12 seems muted, even when you pull the steering column-mounted gear shifter into Low for a sportier drive. And the Ghost can do sportier, in spite of its 2.5-ton weight. It quickly dispatches corners and long stretches of road with minimal fuss.
The driving position is spot on, providing a relaxed feel behind that large steering wheel. Sinking into the handcrafted leather seats it’s a different world, though of course one that many owners will be accustomed to. Unlike the Phantom, the Ghost is a car to be driven as much as to be a passenger in and it delivers a surprisingly good drive in all conditions.
But back to the true Roller experience, the one in the back seats. Interestingly, customers said they wanted less but, at the same time, more. Confusing perhaps, but essentially they wanted it to be less opulent while still having all the latest design, technology and luxury.
It still seems rather opulent to us though. The rear-opening coach doors now open electronically from both outside and inside. There are lamb's wool carpets that your feet sink into and the leather seats are more comfortable than my sofa.
The model we drove had a champagne cooler between the seats, perfectly set at 11°C, a starlight headliner replete with shooting star effect, fabric curtains that deploy electronically and an entertainment system that appears from the back of the front seats at the touch of a button. Perhaps more is less, or is it less is more? Either way, it’s all very luxurious indeed.
There are plenty of design changes externally too. The Ghost is the first Rolls to feature an illuminated grille, if you like that sort of thing. The famous Spirit of Ecstasy now sits within the dimensions of the bonnet, the front edge of which now forms part of a continuous line across the facade of the car.
The side profile is an exercise in elegance with just three main lines: the silhouette which rises over the roof and down the tapered rear, referred to by the head of exterior design, Felix Kilbertus as being like a “cascading waterfall". There’s a traditional belt line and then a waft line towards the lower part of the body, designed to make the Ghost look like a yacht rising out of the water. At the rear, the tail lights sit within a seamless piece of aluminium, again clever both in terms of design and engineering.
The brief might have been to have less, but the new Ghost is much more than the last generation. It’s luxurious with an ability to travel effortlessly while making barely a whisper. Like other Rolls-Royce models, it’s all handcrafted and assembled with a level of attention to detail that is unmatched anywhere in the automotive industry. And, of course, at the risk of sounding like a Stella Artois advert, it’s reassuringly expensive. The model we drove had a price tag with options of more than R7m, though in SA the Ghost is currently price on application with first deliveries due early in 2021.