In its 116-year history, the most successful model Rolls-Royce has ever sold is the Ghost. Created a decade ago in response to a new generation of clients — in terms of age and attitude — who asked for a less ostentatious way to own a Rolls-Royce, the Ghost became the ultimate expression of the venerable British marque. Of course, the Phantom is a stunning piece of automotive engineering, easily spotted from miles away and the pinnacle of automotive luxury, but it was a bit of a big deal. Younger customers wanted the best of both worlds, really, asking for the same experience of being in a Phantom but also, not quite.
The Ghost Series 1 is an incredibly agile car, designed to manoeuvre easily even along London’s tight streets. It is made to both drive and be driven in — sit in the back on weekdays but when you are headed out to the countryside, the driving experience is so pleasurable you would be more than happy to sit behind the wheel yourself.
In creating a Series 2, dubbed Ghost Extended owing to its larger wheelbase, the team at Rolls-Royce went back to the winning formula that worked so well before — listening to what its customers wanted. “We set new standards in customer-centricity by creating a completely new motor car for a unique group of Rolls-Royce clients,” says CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös. “These business leaders and entrepreneurs demand more of their Ghost than ever. They require a new type of super-luxury saloon that is dynamic, serenely comfortable and perfect in its minimalism. Ghost is this product.”
Despite having successfully built and sold other models in the intervening years, Rolls-Royce engineers looked at no previous plans, refusing to rely on any precedent. Instead, they considered today’s demands afresh: the indulgence of enhanced rear space with no compromise on driving dynamics and a duality of purpose that augments both business and lifestyle requirements. Customers wanted it all, and Rolls-Royce has delivered with a design process that focuses on simplicity, delivered through cutting-edge engineering and manufacturing techniques. Only the Spirit of Ecstasy and its iconic foldable umbrella are retained, everything else is new.
Changes notwithstanding, the new Ghost is as majestic as its predecessor. Despite the added 170mm, the car looks elegant and sleek as the marque’s designers cloaked the extra length by only extending the rear door and body around the rear door apertures, preserving the lines of the car. It sits on big 21in wheels, bearing the RR logo that always remains upright while the vehicle is in motion, a feature on all modern Rolls-Royce vehicles. At the front, you will see that the bonnet shut line is now further forward and is in line with the illuminated Pantheon grille, allowing the Spirit of Ecstasy to sit in her own lake of metal. Individually handcrafted for each car, this hood ornament is virtually impossible to steal, retracting into the car as soon as it senses any tampering.
What has also been retained are the reverse-opening coach doors and, within are details like lambskin wool carpets, butter-soft leather seats and the Starlight Headliner, which recreates a glitering night sky with 1,340 hand-woven fibre optic stars. The Ghost goes from business to leisure very quickly as the attention shifts from massage-enabled seats, WiFi and personal touchscreens to neatly hidden crystal flutes and a champagne bucket, set at sommelier-approved temperatures too.
We get some music going to test the sound system, and the car turns into a mobile subwoofer as sound thrums from the stars in the ceiling — a really unexpected touch. But even with the audio player switched off, the engine remains silent. Thanks to 100kg of acoustic damping materials incorporated into the chassis, bodywork and tyres, it delivers exhilarating performance without disturbing the serenity within. Sleeping child, Zoom meeting with the boss — expect both to go on without any disturbances.
This being a car born in a pandemic, it comes equipped with a new micro-environment purification system, which enhances existing air filtration systems. Highly sensitive sensors detect ambient air quality, automatically activating fresh air intake into recirculation mode. If unacceptable levels of airborne contaminants are detected, the air is passed through a nanofleece filter that is capable of removing nearly all ultra-fine particles in the cabin in less than two minutes.
Making the switch from rear passenger to driver allows a clear view of the cockpit. An easily navigable layout — thanks to a version of BMW’s iDrive system with twin instrument and infotainment screens — takes out much of the intimidation of driving a car quite this large. But once the pedal hits the metal, it’s a smooth ride. The official term is Magic Carpet Ride, and it is courtesy of a new Planar Suspension System, where the front upper wishbones have their own dampers for an even more stable ride. Featuring continuously variable, electronically controlled shock absorbers, self-levelling high-volume air strut assemblies and a world-first upper wishbone damper, this technology has never been previously applied to a production motor car. Ghost Extended also benefits from all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering for the first time.
Silky smooth acceleration and quiet, elegant power are provided by a 6.75L twin turbocharged V12 engine, developed exclusively for the Ghost, and produces 571PS and 850Nm of torque. The eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts gears without one ever feeling it, even with wide-open throttle acceleration, and is so stable (its kerbside weight of 2,495kg has something to do with this) it could easily achieve the 0-100kph sprint in 4.8 seconds without one spilling a drop from one’s filled champagne glass. The calm roads of Putrajaya were the perfect place to put this big girl to the test, and she passed on all accounts — whether manoeuvring through small roads or eating up the kilometres on the highways, it was full marks all around.
The 500L carpeted boot is spacious and includes a small light that can be activated should the owner of the car be kidnapped with it — simply yank the cord and when the light comes on, there is a lever to open the boot from the inside. Some people may find this morbid, but it’s a very thoughtful thing for Rolls-Royce to include, knowing the very real risks some of its owners may face.
Among other bells and whistles the Ghost Extended comes with are laser headlights with more than 600m of illuminated range and safety enhancements, including vision assist with day and night-time wildlife and pedestrian warning; alertness assistant; a four-camera system with panoramic view, all round-visibility and helicopter view; active cruise control; collision warning; cross traffic warning; lane departure and lane change warning. An industry-leading 7x3 high-definition head-up display and self-park ensure absolute effortlessness whatever the driving conditions.
Rolls-Royce cars can be infinitely personalised, from the body colour to leather type and tone, fascia and even the shape of the stars in the cabin. Do these enhance the driving experience? Perhaps not, but this is true of many of the tricks and toys in the Ghost: once tried, one would not want to be without. It is incomparably friendly, immeasurably luxurious and, as asked for by Rolls-Royce clients, does indeed have it all.
This article first appeared on Nov 29, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia 2021.