Eleven years after its launch, the Ghost is now Rolls-Royce’s top-selling car. The new version, built around customer feedback, has been completely reimagined, so that the only components carried over, says the brand, are the badge and the umbrellas
2 October 2020
If coronavirus has dented the ambitions of British companies, then Rolls-Royce seems to be spearheading the recovery. Sales at the Goodwood-based car manufacturer may be down 30 per cent for the first six months of 2020, but Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, has said that his company will return a profit by the end of the year.
That achievement would follow 2019, which was already a record-breaking year for the marque, thanks, largely, to the success of the outsized Cullinan SUV – soon to become, judging by initial uptake, Rolls-Royce’s most popular model.
Rolls-Royce is pinning a late 2020 flourish on the all-new Ghost, a second-generation model that the company claims is the result of listening to its customers. The luxury saloon debuted in 2009 and has become the most successful Rolls-Royce ever made.
The new model was scheduled to be launched in Washington, USA, but the pandemic put paid to that. Instead, I’m soaking up the last rays of English summer sun around Goodwood, then driving further west into Hampshire.
Whatever the location, it’s instantly clear that Rolls-Royce hasn’t done things by halves. This second version took no less than six years to develop – ironing out the issues that Ghost owners highlighted with the original model. The overriding aim was to distil the qualities of that car into a simpler, more refined package.
Even so, in Rolls-Royce’s ‘post-opulent’ era, as the company itself has termed 2020, customers are still required to fork out more than a fifth of a million quid for a Ghost, then pay many thousands more for a raft of ‘must have’ extras. Lambswool floor mats and rear privacy curtains? Please sign here.
“The first Ghost was a response to a whole new generation of clients, both in age and attitude,” says Muller-Otvos. “These men and women asked us for a slightly smaller, less ostentatious car.
“These business leaders and entrepreneurs demand more of their Ghost than ever. They require a new type of super-luxury saloon that is dynamic, serenely comfortable and perfect in its minimalism. The Ghost is this product.”
By “ostentatious”, Muller-Otvos is referring to the Ghost’s bigger brother – the Phantom. The most bling Rolls-Royce ever built now looks strangely out of touch in a world struggling with the socio-economic fallout of a pandemic.
The Ghost, then, is the brand’s answer – one that ‘rejects superficial expressions of wealth’, as per a company press release. A luxury saloon that is more in tune with the times, the new model is also the most technologically-advanced Rolls-Royce ever built.
Equipped with a 6.75-litre, twin-turbo V12 engine borrowed from the Cullinan, the Ghost has an incredible turn of speed for a car weighing nearly two-and-a-half tonnes (2,420 kg, to be precise). Driving across the Hampshire countryside near Winchester, the only thing holding it back was the lack of a straight road.
It makes luxury travel at rapid speeds very enjoyable indeed, whether sat up front, or in the back, where many Ghost owners will likely spend most of their time. Still, there’s a muted roar when the accelerator hits the floor and the Ghost can waft forward at a more urgent pace.
There are no paddle gear changers or driving modes to explore here because Rolls-Royce claims that isn’t what Ghost owners want. Instead, the all-wheel steering setup makes the new Ghost extra nimble around town, or more precise and surefooted barrelling into a fast corner.
Despite the dimensions – 5,546 mm long and 2,148 mm wide – the Ghost feels much smaller than it looks. It’s actually 30 mm wider and 89 mm longer than the previous model but behaves much better across uneven surfaces. On a motorway, that means the Rolls is in a different class for comfort.
So good, in fact, that high-rolling backseat passengers can whisper to the driver and still be heard. That’s partly due to 100 kg of soundproofing layered around the car, ensuring the vulgarities of the real world are kept outside.
That acoustic damping has found its way into the roof, between the double-glazed windows – even inside the tyres. When the boot was found to have an unacceptable ‘rumble’ at high speeds, special ports were added under the parcel shelf to ease the problem.
Bizarrely, when testers first drove the new Ghost they decided the cabin was actually too quiet. The effect disorientated passengers and a suitable amount of noise had to be built back in.
Another reason the Ghost drives so well is the extra rigid aluminium spaceframe that underpins everything. It helps the car live up to its name, wafting silently along with poise and an almost ethereal quality.
The unique Planar suspension system offers a double wishbone set-up at the front and multi-link at the rear. Unusually, Planar adds an additional damper at the front which further irons out the bumps and enhances body control.
The system works alongside Rolls’ Flagbearer system, which ingeniously monitors the Hampshire roads ahead. Cameras identify the imperfections in the surface and then feedback information to the suspension in advance. It means the Ghost is not an intimidating car to drive but relaxed and only responsive when required.
According to Rolls, the only components that were carried over from the first Ghost were the famous Spirit of Ecstasy emblem and the umbrellas. Everything else was designed, crafted and engineered from the ground up.
“The result is the most technologically-advanced Rolls-Royce yet,” says Muller-Otvos. “It distils the pillars of our brand into a beautiful, minimalist, yet highly complex product that is perfectly in harmony with our Ghost clients’ needs – perfectly in tune with the times.”
Sat on humungous, 21-inch wheels, the Ghost is an impressive apparition from every angle. There’s a hand-painted line that runs along the shoulder of the car – four craftsmen have hand-welded the body parts together simultaneously to ensure a seamless fit.
The attention to detail is staggering. This is the first Rolls-Royce with doors that can be opened and closed electrically, while the dashboard is refreshingly simple and decluttered. Interior designers still need 20 half hides to deck out the leather panels, while the open-pore wood dashboard can be dotted with an illuminated star-like finish to match the roof lining.
In the back, I’d recommend door curtains to cut out glare and ensure the twin screens embedded in the rear of the front seats are easier to read. The aircraft-style seats are naturally adjustable – fold down the centre armrest and a drinks cabinet also appears, large enough to carry a full-size bottle of champagne.
There’s leg and head room aplenty and although the new Ghost doesn’t appear much changed from the old one on the outside, it feels far more spacious on the inside.
From the tip of the down-lit Pantheon grille to the neatly tapered rear end, the new Ghost is an epic car in every sense. A super-luxury product that carries the most famous motoring badge in the world, it very much suits the moment – carbon emissions, aside. (That big, V12 petrol engine pumps out 347g/km and won’t be popular with Greta Thunberg. Rolls-Royce isn’t planning on introducing an all-electric model any time soon.)
For now, this sublimely engineered chunk of Britishness is a car that pushes the boundaries of luxury transport. If this is ‘post-opulent’ then I’ll take a slice, with or without the lambswool floor mats.
Rolls-Royce 2020 Ghost - The Specs
Price: from £208,000
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Max speed: 155mph
Engine: 6594cc V12 twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Power: 563 bhp @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 627 lb ft @ 1600 rpm