The Rolls-Royce Ghost has been revised. Subtle is the word as Jonathan Crouch reports.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost is 5.4 metres of twin-turbocharged V12 elegance. If the Phantom doesn't offer the requisite discretion, the lower key Ghost might well be just the ticket. The Series II part doesn't add up to much in the way of material change, merely tidying up a few flaws of the original. It remains a very special experience.
When Rolls-Royce launched this version of the Ghost back in 2010, it's fair to say that it was like flypaper for those with an axe to grind. The costs of modern car development are such that it makes sense for a company like Rolls-Royce not to have to reinvent the wheel, designing, fabricating and testing its own chassis and engines. Cynics descended on the Ghost, calling it a BMW 7 Series with a posh frock on and clucked over minor pieces of interior switchgear that bore the mark of Munich.
The cynics, as ever, were looking at tiny details and missing the bigger picture. Here was a car that offered a more modern, relevant take on what Rolls-Royce was about as a 21st Century manufacturer. The Ghost was powerful, athletic and pitched a fine balance between presence and discretion. It's been revised with the unveiling of the Ghost Series II. As is often the way at Rolls-Royce, progression here has been measured.
Aiming to provide the fabled Rolls-Royce ride and refinement on the Ghost is a full air-suspension system with its damping levels continuously varied by the car's electronics to suit the road surface and the driving style. The system is so sensitive that it can detect tiny changes in the car's weight distribution caused by extra luggage in the boot or a rear-seat passenger moving to the opposite side of the vehicle and compensate accordingly. There's a whole catalogue of additional electronic driving aids designed to maximise stability and composure even when the Ghost is pushed closer to its considerable limits. The suspension has been uprated with re-engineered front and rear struts, new steering gear and adjusted dampers in this Series II model for a smoother ride.
Even the Ghost's sophisticated stability and traction control systems will be working ten to the dozen once its engine is let off the leash. It's a twin turbo V12 with a 6.6-litre capacity and monumental reserves of torque adding to the effortless feel. There's a maximum of 563bhp on tap at 5,250rpm but it's the 780Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm that will really count towards the car's domineering performance. The unladen weight of a Ghost is getting on towards 2,500kg but introducing the finely crafted throttle pedal to the luxurious lambs wool carpet with your hand made Italian loafers will see the eight speed ZF gearbox slur through the gears and past 60mph in a supercar-like 4.7 seconds. The Ghost can cover a kilometre from a standing start in just over 23 seconds.
The styling changes to this Series II version of the Ghost are subtle in the extreme. The headlights are now all-LED units with a slightly different profile than before. There's what Rolls-Royce calls a 'wake channel' on the bonnet, twin swage lines emanating from the Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet mascot that are designed to evoke the sight of a jet vapour trail or the wake of a fast yacht. The bumpers have been re-sculpted to give a stronger stance and a more defined effect of visual width and there are now chromed air intakes, with better cooling to the front brakes. There are also revised paint and wheel options.
The interior remains beautifully finished. Accessed through the electrically powered side doors, with their integrated teflon-coated umbrellas, the cabin is a shrine to top class materials and craftsmanship. The leathers, wood veneers and deep-pile carpets bestow a traditional feel, but this is far from a Luddite carriage. With the Spirit of Ecstasy Rotary Controller, you can access directions, the internet or music and even scribe letters onto the touchpad with a mere swipe of your finger. You can enter navigation instructions or call up contacts simply by using your voice. The Head Up Display projects driving information such as directions and the speed limit directly onto the windscreen, allowing you to concentrate on the road ahead. This version of the Ghost is more comfortable than its predecessor thanks to redesigned front seats and re-angled rear seats. Revised wood veneers offer a choice of traditional or contemporary design themes, while the dial faces on the dash have also been updated.
You get a choice of two different wheelbase lengths with the Ghost, the Extended Wheelbase version tacking another 170mm between the front and rear wheels. You'll pay just over £200,000 for the standard-length car with the longer version adding almost £30,000 to that asking price, but nobody pays as little as list for a car like this. Nor do they ask for discount. Instead many customers will tend to specify their cars via Rolls-Royce's bespoke programme, selecting their own veneers, appliques and leather finishes.
The standard Ghost comes well equipped with features like on-board Wi-Fi, whilst Satellite Aided Transmission (SAT), ensures the car automatically adapts to its surroundings, augmenting the drive experience. Updates to navigation systems and the car/user interface ensure accessing the Ghost's features remains an effortless experience, whilst the optional audio choices are just amazing. And amazingly expensive if you get too carried away. You can even opt for an illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy emblem if you feel you're not getting enough attention.
As the most mainstream car in Rolls-Royce's range - and all things are relative here - the Ghost can't afford to be a total indulgence. It does come fairly close to that description though. There aren't too many twin-turbo V12 petrol engines that return stellar fuel economy figures and getting just over 21mpg from the Ghost isn't bad going. That's on the NEDC test though, and in real world conditions, even adopting some fairly feather-footed chauffeur driving tactics, you'll be lucky to get much more than 15mpg. As you might expect, the emissions are in the top tax banding. Residual values of Ghosts have stacked up better than anticipated, thanks to the understandably modest supply that Rolls-Royce can deliver per year.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost is one of those cars that might just be a little too competent for its own good. It's as much Rolls-Royce as most people need, and even driving it back to back with the imperious Phantom, it seems the more affordable Ghost is the better vehicle. This Series II car aims to address the three key complaints levelled at the original car: firstly that there was too much BMW-sourced switchgear on display; secondly that the low-speed ride was a little unsettled on poor surfaces; and thirdly that the steering didn't offer much feel and weighted up inconsistently.
Rolls-Royce has sensibly left much of the car as is. The styling updates are genuinely hard to spot and there's a well-judged subtlety to the trim options. Of course, you can go bespoke and make your Ghost as extrovert as you like (try Googling the 'Chengdu Golden Sunbird edition') but for most, the Ghost remains a Rolls that retains a level of approachable intimacy. Rolls-Royce's entry-level car still does the business.
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