Dolly Parton once said of herself: “To look this trashy takes a whole lotta money”. Rolls-Royce has discovered that to look as untrashy as its new Ghost model takes a whole lot more.
Development costs, to give existing Rolls customers what they were asking for, must have been colossal, because many thousands of hours have been devoted to getting the recipe right. What they were asking for was an apparently less complicated and slightly smaller car than the flagship Phantom.
They wanted less fussiness in the design and operation of the car and even more tech, even if it looked as if there was less. They wanted the opulence to stay but simplicity to be enhanced.
The result is a still super-luxurious vehicle, still sporting Rolls’s famous 6.75-litre 563bhp V12 motor, but the all-aluminium body and interior styling are less busy than in previous Rollers, for a “post-opulent” age.
The spec is too high to list everything but stand-out features include four-wheel steering and permanent four-wheel-drive. As with any good system which steers both sets of wheels, most of the time you won’t notice it. But tackle a really acute slow corner and the improved nimbleness of the car is obvious.
Nimbleness is a key quality of the Ghost – the first new version since 2009. This may be smaller than a Phantom but it is still a huge car. At 2.49 tons it is half a ton lighter than a Phantom but it hides its bulk much better. On the road it never feels vast or heavy and is easy to drive, delivering a massive 627 lb ft of torque smoothly. At low speeds it is all but silent and if a bootful of power is required for overtaking, it is accompanied by a restrained and cultured growl from the engine, as if the car is saying “Ahem, excuse me, I need to get by”.
One great improvement over the previous Ghost is the ride, which eliminates almost every rut and dimple in our appalling road surfaces. You get used to this magic carpet ride so quickly that any Ghost owner would need regular rides in “normal” cars to remind them just how much better the Rolls is. This is the same suspension set-up as in the company’s first SUV, the Cullinan, and it works every bit as well.
It is a given that the interior of a Rolls-Royce will be superb. But the way it is executed in the new Ghost is slightly different. Individual pieces of the exquisite leather trim (made from Bavarian bulls – no scars from barbed wire or stretching from giving birth to calves) are larger than before, which means less stitching and a literally more seamless look. The electronic dashboard is simple, with gauges for speed, water and oil and a power reserve dial which shows that at 70mph you still have 95 per cent of the power left.
The panel ahead of the front passenger has a constellation of tiny lights surrounding the word Ghost, and matching the famous starlight headliner. The less-is-more theme is enhanced by a cool-looking numberless analogue clock.
On the outside there are fewer styling lines and a simpler bonnet. Subdued back- lighting provides a gentle glow behind the vertical slats of the polished stainless steel grille and the rear wings gently taper to give the back of the car a slightly boat-like look.
The roof has no gutters but includes a tiny gap above the door, the width of a droplet of rain, to make sure no water falls into the car when the door is opened. Rear-hinged “suicide” doors make access to the back easy and both rear passengers have electrically-operated tables and computer screens set into the back of the front seats. Rear legroom is vast and the super-soft rear headrests are absurdly comfortable.
So much time, trouble and money has been poured into the development of this vitally important car for Rolls-Royce – the previous Ghost was the company’s most successful model of all time – that it seems almost churlish to nit-pick. However, the B-pillar between the front and rear rows of seats is massive and hinders your view when reversing, a situation made worse by small black-out curtains in the rear side windows which don’t fully retract. On the other hand, this being a Rolls-Royce, a plethora of sensors and cameras are there to guide your path.
The company explains this problem is to do with complying with the various rules and regulations of its numerous foreign markets and can’t be avoided.
My only other slight niggle was that the table for rear passengers snagged on my knees. How’s that for a First World problem.
When push comes to shove, the Ghost is not quite as refined as the Phantom, but then again, what is? The important thing is that the execution works very well, and many a captain of industry will be wrestling the keys from their chauffeur so they can have a go.
Price: from £208,000
Top speed: 155mph (governed)
MPG: 18 to 18.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 347-358g/km