The day started like any other. Wake up, coffee made and onto the laptop to take care of those pesky emails that roll in while we sleep. However, it quickly changed, as the imposing and rather large Rolls-Royce Cullinan whisked me across to Goodwood in chauffeur-driven fashion for a first look at the new Ghost.
It’s been a long time in the making, and with the pressure of following Rolls-Royce’s most successful model ever – the original Ghost – there are big shoes to fill.
On initial impression, the design is more subtle than before, yet still distinctly a Rolls-Royce. The large pantheon grill dominating the front of the car, discreetly illuminated on one side of each of the vertical metal struts, perfectly highlighting the quality of the materials and is only one example of the level of detail that has gone into this exquisite luxury vehicle.
The design philosophy is centred around the concept of post-opulence. That the days of displaying excessive wealth are over, and the Ghost owner no longer wishes to shout about their status, but be more discreet. As discreet as you can be in a 5.5m, almost £300,000 car.
Post-opulence is the idea of showing quality, excellence and wealth in a more subtle and refined way. Less shouting across a table; more a nod across the room. A classier and more sophisticated way of behaving that exudes confidence and self-assuredness. It is perfection in simplicity.
With the slope of the roof, the engineers found that water droplets occasionally got into the cabin with the windows open, so studied the size of these drops and created a beautiful brushed aluminium edging to catch and carry them down the side instead. This attention to detail and refinement, all to give passengers the best possible experience, is delivered in an almost effortlessly exceptional way.
Stepping inside, immediately the quality and design is prominent. Leather clads almost every surface that isn’t open pore wood or metal. On the passenger side, the word ‘Ghost’ is illuminated in the dash surrounded by 90,000 star-like lights to mirror the roof lining, and from left to right across the width of the dash is double line stitching, perfectly parallel. And it needs to be, as this is probably the one piece of stitching craftsmanship that you will look at every single day.
Where you might expect plastic in other cars, steel and aluminium are present with a notable mention of the wonderful air vents. There is a reassuring weight and feel to these metal vents that remind you that the Ghost is unlike any other; a class above the rest in terms of luxury, quality and craftsmanship. Look down the sides of the doors to see the entire panel covered in one, untainted piece of fine leather. The only mark created by the embossed Spirit of Ecstasy and cotton stitching.
The seats are obviously superbly comfortable, the riding position is infinitely adjustable, and the driving controls are exactly where you would expect them to be. Everything is as it should be, but done in an outstanding way that only enhances the overall experience of Ghost.
One excellent design feature that you would need to hear to fully understand is the impressive sound system. Most car manufacturers will outsource from another company such as Bang & Olufsen or Harman Kardon, but Rolls-Royce didn’t want to be restricted in such a way, so designed the sound system in-house, utilising the empty spaces within the cabin to enhance the depth and quality of the sound. The headliner acts as a speaker, with the empty door compartments adding more bass and the flow of air through from the boot to the passenger compartment being specifically controlled to remove any unwanted frequencies. What is left is a pure, uninterrupted depth of sound that allows you to be ‘in’ the music instead of listening to it.
In order to achieve this sound quality, Rolls-Royce uses almost 100kg of sound insulation to remove unwanted road noise and irritating frequencies from the car, creating the almost silent cabin. At one point in development though, they actually made the cabin too quiet and needed to allow more noise in to give driver feedback.
Once I had polished off lunch, the real fun began. I finally got behind the wheel and took the 6.7L V12 out for an afternoon spin. With 571PS it has plenty of horsepower to play with, but the real pleasure in driving this car is that the 850NM of torque is available just above idle. As I plant my foot to the floor on a back-country road, leaves falling from the trees and washing over the raised spirit of ecstasy on the bonnet, a smile forms almost as quickly as the revs. The high torque figure from such low revs gives an almost electric feel to the power delivery. There is nothing scary or alarming about it, simply a surge of power pushing you in the back and accelerating you down the road.
The AWD and 4-wheel steer, combined with the intelligent Planar suspension system creates a pure, agile and self-assured driving experience. Almost Jekyll and Hyde in feel, when you drive calmly everything is soft, comfortable and relaxing. But once you put your foot down and drive in a more spirited manor, the car stiffens up a bit and works with you to provide the most engaging and enjoyable driving experience ever in a Rolls-Royce car.
Driving at low speed, the rear wheels turn counter to the front, changing the rotation point of the car to resemble that of a much shorter wheelbase and more agile vehicle. For city driving, this is a game-changer, allowing you to get in and out of tight spots with ease.
Once travelling a little quicker, though, the rear wheels act with the front to crab the car to the side. This creates less rotation when manoeuvring at higher speeds and makes changing lanes an even more effortless and relaxing experience than normal.
The Planar system uses radars to read the road ahead, satellite guided transmission changes counterweights on the suspension dampers and intelligent reactive suspension to make the handling outstanding. There is nothing like the way the Ghost feels to drive. Every single bump and undulation in the road are eradicated. The body glides like a magic carpet over the surface and, even on the worst British roads, the ride is soft, comfortable and relaxing, but without the wallowing and bouncing feel of old big luxury vehicles.
The radar guided cruise control perfectly brakes and accelerates you along the road keeping a safe distance from the car in front, taking even more effort out of driving this wonderful vehicle.
Those that say yoga and meditation are an essential form of relaxation and stress reduction have clearly never driven the new Ghost.
Stressful days at the office, long commutes to work, and busy deadlines will be washed away as soon as you step inside. Perfect to drive when you want to relax and recover from a hard day, yet engaging, enjoyable and agile when you want to throw it around a little and put a smile on your face.
Rolls-Royce have hit the nail on the head with this one. And the goal of superseding the original Ghost has been met with ease.