Introduced for model year 2010 as the second all-new Rolls-Royce under parent company BMW’s ownership, the Ghost is a slightly smaller, sleeker and less-costly alternative to the statelier Phantom. Of course “less-costly” is a relative term when referring a car that, starting around $250,000, costs as much as a nice house or condo in many areas of the U.S. As with the Phantom, the Ghost is a combination of contemporary German technology and classic British artisanship. The car’s spaceframe body and engine come from Deutschland, while the interior trim and final assembly continues to hail from England.
We got to spend several days living with the Rolls-Royce Ghost, and truth be told it made us feel like a media mogul rather than a mere automotive journalist.
Unlike the Phantom, which is also available in a “Drophead Coupe” convertible, the Rolls-Royce Ghost is only offered as a “saloon,” as four-door cars are called in the U.K. It comes wrapped in broad-shouldered styling that is both formal and aggressive. The automaker’s traditional upright chrome grille caps the front end, flanked by narrow Xenon headlamps. A tall beltline runs the length of the car with a bit of a curve to it and meets the gently sloping roofline at a well rounded rear-end treatment. At a massive 212.6 inches long, the Ghost fit in our garage with only a few inches to spare.
Wide-opening rear-hinged “suicide” doors make ingress and egress into the Rolls-Royce Ghost’s voluminous rear cabin easier; an electronic lock prevents these doors from being opened while the car is moving. As the car’s heritage warrants, the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament resides just above the front grille. However, in a high-tech nod to the realities of modern motoring, it automatically retracts into the vehicle when the Ghost is parked for the sake of security. A cap at the center of each wheel is engineered to rotate separately so that the “R-R” logo remains upright at all times.
Our tester came in a Claret (i.e maroon) paint treatment with the extra cost ($5,750) silver satin bonnet (hood) treatment that we found a bit garish, though it proved to be an attention getter.
Under the Rolls-Royce Ghost’s long hood resides a 6.6-liter V12 engine that generates a generous 563 horsepower and is strong enough to propel this nearly 5,500-pound vehicle to 60 mph in a claimed 4.7 seconds. All those horses are channeled to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, and tradition dictates that it’s operated via a column-mounted shift lever. In this case it’s BMW’s electronic gear-select system in which you push the lever up for reverse, down for drive and depress an end button in to put the transmission in park; it works well enough but half the time we accidentally engaged the windshield wiper stalk instead. The powertrain delivers smooth and stunningly quick acceleration on demand, yet remains docile around town so as not to overpower a driver. The Ghost is rated at meek 13-city/20-highway mpg fuel economy, which should be of little consequence to a well-heeled buyer.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost rides on a sophisticated double wishbone suspension up front with a multi-link array at the rear and automatic damping height-adjustable shock absorbers at all four corners. It delivers a smooth ride yet remains surprisingly tractable through the curves. While the car’s easygoing steering creates a certain disconnected feeling from the road, hairpin turns and sudden curves didn’t seem to unnerve the suspension, with only a modest amount of stability control intervention coming to the fore during the most-extreme maneuvers. The car was rock solid and smooth sailing at highway speeds, with the ability to leap fairly athletically from one lane to another when called upon. We felt a few bumps and jolts over pockmarked pavement, due largely we suspect to the standard run-flat tires (which by nature are stiffer than conventional rubber), but by the same token the ride is never floaty or bouncy, which will certainly spare rear-seat riders from ever feeling seasick in this land yacht.
Our tester came with a full array of the latest high-tech safety systems as part of a $9,950 option package. A head-up display projects the car’s speed and other pertinent data onto the windshield in the driver’s line of sight, while a lane departure warning system subtly vibrates the steering wheel to warn the driver if the car is veering across highway lane markers and a night vision camera projects an appropriately ghostly infrared view of the road ahead to help see beyond the range of the car’s high beams.
Though its performance is more or less without question, the Rolls-Royce Ghost’s handsomely trimmed cabin is its hallmark and truly offers an elegant escape from reality. Ironically, the wood inlays are so impeccably finished they look artificial and both the hand-stitched upholstery and leather-trimmed dashboard are finished so precisely it looks as if the work were done by machine. Even the inside of the Ghost’s trunk is better finished than most cars’ interiors. The company says the hand-built Ghost passes through no less than 60 pairs of hands and their slavish attention to detail is nothing short of amazing.
We found Rolls-Royce Ghost’s seats to be the most comfortable we’ve ever enjoyed, bar none. Our tester came with the extra-cost individual buckets in the rear (an additional $6,350), with ventilated cushions front and rear ($3,500), and buyers can add a massaging function to all four seats ($1,200 per row) for extreme decadence. What’s more, our tester came with the so-called rear theater configuration ($6,500) in which all settings that do not directly affect the driver can be controlled from the back seat, including the front passenger-seat adjustments. While this is obviously for the benefit of Ghost owners who prefer to be chauffeured, in our case it was used primarily for the younger sibling in the rear to annoy his older brother sitting in the front passenger’s seat.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost’s dashboard is styled after luxury yachts, with prominent round aluminum air vents operated by metal rods the company calls “organ-stop plungers.” The steering wheel is large and thin, and comes finely wrapped in leather with embedded controls for the cruise control and audio systems and the hands-free interface that are nicely chromed and easy to operate. Instrumentation is tastefully presented as chronograph-styled black-on pearlescent white gauges. Instead of a conventional tachometer, however, there’s a gauge that indicates how much of the engine’s power remains available. An analog clock situated just to the right of center on the dash is the only spot on the car upon which the Ghost moniker is emblazoned.
It’s our duty as an automotive journalist to identify nitpicks, and thus we can report the side mirrors on the Rolls-Royce Ghost are so large as to obstruct the driver’s outward visibility. Also, the sun visors are blade thin and incorporate what are only pocket-sized vanity mirrors. But in our opinion the worst flaw to be found in the Rolls-Royce Ghost is the use of BMW’s often vilified “iDrive” multimedia control system that consolidates various settings and systems – including audio and navigation – into a single interface to reduce button clutter.
Here, a video display monitor resides behind a wood panel, with most operations governed by a center-console mounted knob-like joystick that’s surrounded by a series of shortcut buttons to help make operating the array easier. Our tester included separate units in both the front and rear consoles to be able to confound all four passengers at the same time. Proper knobs, buttons and switches, as are already used for the climate control system, radio presets and other select functions, would work better and feel more at home in the Rolls-Royce Ghost’s majestic cabin, and there’s certainly enough real estate on the dashboard and center console to accommodate them.
As one might expect, convenience features are plentiful, with the front doors even including built-in pop-up umbrellas for when the weather suddenly becomes inclement. A wide range of customization is available, with buyers able to have their Rolls-Royce Ghosts fitted with everything from a huge panoramic sunroof ($7,000) wood fold-down picnic tables for the rear seats ($2,800), padded lamb’s wool floor mats ($1,100), a small refrigerator ($2,400) and myriad trim and accessory treatments. Beyond that, pretty much anything goes…at a price. Our tester stickered at $302,250 including a $2,000 destination charge and $1,700 gas-guzzler tax, and at that came only “modestly” equipped.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost may not be the ultimate ride in all respects, but as we were informed the typical owner is wealthy enough to own multiple cars – seven or eight is average – to indulge their specific vehicular whims. It’s not uncommon for a Rolls-Royce to share garage space with a Ferrari or Lamborghini, a Range Rover and perhaps even a Bentley for good measure. As F. Scott Fitzgerald (or Ernest Hemingway, depending on whom you believe) once said. “The rich are different.” To that we would add, “Yes, they drive nicer cars.”