Unmistakably Futuristic Traditionalist

The Rolls Royce tradition is stately, exclusive, luxurious, and sophisticated. For more than one hundred years the hallowed British marque boasts “the best cars on the planet”. Through the decades and corporate structure changes, the design philosophy always respected Charles Rolls and Henry Royce’s mission and core values. One of the first models built was the legendary Silver Ghost, produced between 1906 and 1926. Today an invaluable collector’s item, the car started Rolls’ reputation as the ultimate luxury car. Fast forward to 2010, Rolls Royce is introducing a smaller companion to the amazing Phantom limousine, the Ghost. Is it a worthy successor to its ancestor from decades ago? Let’s see…

Architecturally perfect

The Ghost is instantly recognizable as a Rolls. The proportions are perfect: the short front overhang and the long rear overhang, the traditional 2:1 ratio between the height of the wheels and the height of the body. The stance is powerful; this is a car with a huge presence. The design language is simple and fluid, without any trace of over-styling. The front respects the tradition, with the Spirit of Ecstasy gracing the hood. At the same time, the lines are totally modern, fluid and dynamic. The LED lights bring a touch of modernism that confirms the car is built for connoisseurs living in the 21st Century. The appearance of the Ghost exudes modernity and dynamism, while paying its respects to the ancestors (Silver Cloud, anyone?).

Limousine, private jet, or?

Inside, the Ghost continues the theme of blending Rolls traditional details with avant-garde technology and design. The steering wheel is thin and large; the gear selector is nicely located on the steering column, and the dash sports vast surfaces of polished wood. Exceptional leather and wool add to the elegant surroundings. The craftsmanship used in building the car is unrivaled. However, poke a little and you’ll discover copious amounts of technology hiding under the elegant wood: navigation and entertainment systems of the highest quality offer the latest features. The car is equipped with and impressive array of luxury gadgets: night vision with human shape recognition, heads up display, active cruise control and lane departure warning systems.

Behind the (thin) wheel

The Ghost is powered by a new twin turbo V12, 6.6L engine, providing 563 HP, and an enormous 575 lb-ft of torque. Attached to an eight speed automatic, the mill is designed to provide dynamic driving characteristics to a big car. And how does it do? Brilliantly.

Take your seat and press the start button. Except for the available power indicator jumping to a full 100%, there is no sign anything has happened. Total silence, no vibrations. Press the gas confidently, and whoosh! The Ghost accelerates incredibly for a car of its stature, and does it in complete silence and smoothness. Once in motion, the car insulates its occupants from the wild world outside. The noises are filtered to a whisper, the suspension smoothes out imperfections in the road. The car glides in total silence.

When taken on a narrow curvy road in the hills, the Ghost reveals its dynamic character. Set the suspension in “low” mode, and the big car can reward the driver. The steering is light, with suave feedback, but precise and balanced. Even on low mode, on bumpy and windy roads, the suspension helps the car keep its composure perfectly. The body’s rigidity is exceptional, as the car feels sculpted from a large piece of steel. Body roll is minimal for a car of this size, and the grip provided by the 20 inch wheels allows for turning in total confidence at speeds that seem unreal for a car weighing 5,500 pounds.

On fast roads, the car is imperturbable. The ride is quiet and majestic, not a whisper from the engine. Only when the enthusiastic driver asks the gearbox for a downshift is there a hint of induction noise in the cabin, providing a real aural delight. We are talking about a noble V12 engine after all. The noise is accompanied by an incredible shove, as the huge torque pushes the Ghost forward serenely, but quickly: 0-100 is just 4.9 seconds. This was supercar land just ten years ago. The gearbox shifts are imperceptible and precise. The unit seems to select the right ratio for every situation swiftly. This is a good thing, as there are no paddles or controls to provide for the humans to select a gear using their own judgment. However, this is in perfect harmony with the cosseting ambiance and relaxed character of the car.

While no sports car, the Ghost is certainly a fast car, which should allow for devouring large distances without any effort or stress on its driver and passenger. Make no mistake, behind the wood, leather and wool this is a beast of a car. Stately appearances can sure be misleading at times. The Ghost is a Rolls limousine its owner will enjoy driving on a daily basis.

Tradition and avant-garde meet in one car

Everything about the Ghost is a combination of tradition and avant-garde.

It starts with the place where the car is built, Goodwood, a sports car estate, where every summer the Festival of Speed brings together enthusiasts and glitterati for a weekend of car worship. On the grounds of Lord March’s historic estate, Rolls Royce established a futuristic center, with edgy architecture and building techniques respecting seriously advanced environmentally correct design themes.

And it continues with the car itself, its form, substance, features and driving characteristics. The exterior design brings traditional details into a modern, simple and fluid language, while the interior blends traditional materials with leading edge technology. Dynamically, the car is clearly a majestic and relaxed Rolls, until provoked to its darker side, fast and dynamic.

Unmistakably futuristic traditionalist and a wonderful great grandson to the Silver Ghost from a century ago. Big round of applause for the Ghost, mission was accomplished again; the best luxury car in the world still sports the RR badge.

[Photos: John Todd]