by LARRY PRINTZ
photography by ERIC LUSHER
Leaner and more nimble than the flagship Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Ghost retains the classic Rolls character and lavish luxury.
Since its inception more than a century ago, Rolls-Royce has strived to build the finest cars in the world – and it has, an accomplishment easily seen in the company’s current flagship, the Phantom. It was designed from scratch like a bespoke suit, stretching more than 19 feet and starting at a lofty $407,540. But it’s like eating a five-course meal every night: a bit much.
So it’s understandable that you might want your Rolls-Royce just a bit smaller. That’s when it’s time to consider the Rolls-Royce Ghost, 17.1 inches shorter than the Phantom and starting at a much more reasonable $256,650. Calling it an entry-level Rolls-Royce would surely be gauche – if ultimately correct. Unlike the Phantom, the Ghost shares some of its underpinnings with the BMW 760Li. This arguably besmirches Rolls’ pedigree. Even though Rolls-Royce is a subsidiary of German BMW, who wants an Anglicized 7 Series? But in the end, BMW’s ownership doesn’t alter this car’s British character. After all, the House of Windsor, too, is descended from German DNA.
All of the classic Rolls-Royce styling cues are in place. There’s a blunt front end anchored by a gleaming chrome grille, topped by the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, a fixture since 1911. From there, the sculpted hood flows out to the slab sides, then back to the tapered rear. This design is a modern, soft interpretation of the classic Rolls-Royce look without the mass of the Phantom.
But underneath the robes you’ll find a BMW 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V12 producing a very healthy 563 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. That’s enough to effortlessly whisk you and this 5,445-pound sedan to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. (Of course, the fact that Rolls-Royce quotes figures at all tells you that times have changed. For decades, the automaker described its horsepower merely as “adequate” and torque as “sufficient.”)
As you tap that power, you’ll find that the Ghost doesn’t have a traditional tachometer. Instead, there’s a power reserve gauge. At standstill, you have 100 percent. As you accelerate, your available power declines. It’s quirky, but the Brits are like that. It merely reaffirms what you find once you look further; there’s little doubt that the Ghost possesses the classic Rolls character.
The ride is soft and comfortable yet composed. Credit the air suspension, which is sensitive enough to sense and adjust if a rear-seat passenger moves from one side of the car to the other. This ensures that the outside world will be seen but not felt. In fact, when we traversed the worst stretches of interstate highways here, the road felt as if it had been repaved. Despite its magic carpet ride, the Ghost is surprisingly agile, able to tackle the twisties with more athleticism and quiet than you might expect.
And you’ll want to spend time in its lavish cabin, for few automobile interiors can touch the Ghost’s. The rear doors are hinged at the back and can be closed electrically at the touch of a button. Step over the polished steel sill plates and take a seat on the soft, sumptuous leather seats, sourced only from bulls – so there will be no stretch marks – bulls that were raised in pastures free from barbed wire to ensure there are no imperfections. Eight hides are used in each car. Better yet, the seats recline and can be heated or cooled or offer a massage. A rear theater option includes a six-DVD changer to keep you amused. Tray tables can hold your lunch or laptop. You can also get an 18-speaker audio system and rear window curtains. And the whole cabin is accented in wood veneer from a single tree – to ensure that the grain matches throughout.
As for me, I would recommend the squishy soft lamb’s wool floor mats. They’re heavenly.
Of course, all of this comes at a rarefied price, but this is a rarefied car, truly one of the best in the world.