New Rolls-Royce Ghost test drive: take a luxurious magic carpet ride
British marque has raised the bar with this remodelled version
The new Ghost is perhaps the ultimate luxury saloon. Ludicrously comfortable, elegantly appointed and effortless to drive - it is hard to fault. First launched in 2009, it quickly became Rolls-Royce’s best seller, and after some ten years, its aging aesthetic and architecture was due an overhaul. Trademark features of course remain, such as Pantheon Grille, Spirit of Ecstasy atop the bonnet and coach doors. However, with the redesign, Rolls-Royce’s smallest model is now less conspicuous and has a more subtle and pared back style. Parked bumper to bumper on a regular suburban street, a passer by mightn’t even give it a second glance. These fresher and less austere looks means the new Ghost has renewed its relevance, appealing to a more discreet modern day affluent customer.
The refresh may seem subtle, but no stone was left unturned in the pursuit of bringing it entirely up to date - there are almost no components in common. It is now built on Rolls-Royce’s entirely new aluminium space frame, called the “Architecture of Luxury”. Combine this with the “Magic Carpet Ride” and near silent “Formula for Serenity” (which includes 100kg of sound deadening material), and the resulting comfort experienced by passengers in the cocoon-like interior is next level.
Turning to the exterior, instantly noticeable are the sleek lower front air intake, as well as the fresher looking headlights and LED backlit grille - its styling is much more onpoint and sporty compared to a more traditional looking predecessor. The side profile tapers quite significantly towards the back, giving it a softer look, and the rear perspective is the most subtle of all, with quite understated lights and still more smooth and sweeping curves. And as expected, the anti-spinner at the centre of the 21” twin spoke part polished wheels ensures the RR logo always remains upright - a classy touch.
Starting price for the new Ghost is around the £250,000 mark, but it’ll quickly climb from here as you inevitably get carried away with extras. The one we tested for example, in a great looking Midnight Sapphire blue, would cost £298,625. One of the more subtle styling extras it had was the single coachline detail - the white hand painted strip along the car - which, much to my surprise, was a really pleasing addition to the car’s looks.
Performance and drive
A huge 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine produces 563bhp, so it’s a far cry from many modern day cars which opt for hybrid or smaller engine sizes. Despite weighing just shy of three tonnes, all this power means it tackles 0-62mph in a swift 4.8 seconds, and top speed is limited to 155mph. Combined fuel consumption is around 18mpg, and this will rapidly drop to around 10mpg in the city or if you’re putting your foot down, and CO2 emissions are between 347 and 358g/km.
It benefits from all wheel drive, helping with even power transmission, and all-wheel steering below 70km/h helps every so slightly with maneuvering too. That’s not to say this is one for tackling country lanes - at 5.54m it is a long car, plus with its weight and suspension set up for silky smooth rides on regular roads, handling in the corners of course was never going to be nimble. So it’s more on the wobbier side if you do really throw it into the corners. It’s built on an entirely new aluminium chassis combined with an advanced suspension system which is to thank for the hugely comfortable ride quality.
With an eight-speed gearbox that’s exceptionally smooth, you’ll quickly lose any sense of what gear you’re in. Only an occasional glance at the Power Reserve dial (remember, Rolls-Royces don’t display RPM on the instruments) might remind you. Steering is feather weight, and on any main road or motorway, you will simply gobble up vast numbers of miles with absolute ease.
Whether you’re a driver or passenger, the surroundings and comfort are exquisite for all. It’s spacious without being over indulgent and you are surrounded by the very best materials and craftsmanship - finding a better experience than this would be a struggle. Beautiful stitchwork and Rolls-Royce emblems adorn the leather seats (which of course are massage in both front and back), a natural looking open-pore wood swathe across the dash gives a nice calming effect, contrasting with the high gloss LED illuminated Starlight Headliner on the passenger side of the dash.
Timelessly elegant push-pull stainless steel air vents complete a wonderful and tactile dash, and the steering wheel is very elegant, with a slimmer surround than normal, further accentuating the fingertip delicate steering. Thanks to ultra-sensitive impurity sensors, the air conditioning automatically turns to recirculation when it detects airborne contaminants.
The gear shifter is mounted on the steering wheel column, alongside the wipers, which we very much like. The reason being it means the central console is less cluttered, leaving room for two coffee holders, and a large circular dial and buttons to control the in-car infotainment system. In the arm rest is a generous pocket which houses USB-C charging ports as well as wireless charging for your phone.
In the back, comfort is taken up a notch. A particularly Rolls-Royce-esque feature in the model we tested was the refrigerated drinks cabinet (for a champagne bottle) with accompanying flutes, as well as elaborate spirit decanter and crystal cut tumblers. It is a permanent fixture in the back of the arm rest, which does of course mean the central seat has been sacrificed. Generously sized picnic tables fold out from the back of the front seats to give a nice surface as well as revealing a large touchscreen which can play live TV, as well as of course other movies and DVDs.
The rear seats are adjustable, and with sumptuously soft and thick English lambswool floor mats (in the front too), the experience is rounded off impeccably. Overhead is the starlight headliner, incorporating hundreds of LED lights - this comes into its own at night and is very cool and a standout feature.
The coach doors setup is a historical reference, but somehow still feels in keeping with the car. They’re also automatic, so at the touch of the button, they will open and close for you. Oh, and there is of course the finest umbrella you have ever held, cleverly stowed within the cavity of the rear door - it’s a very neat party trick indeed.
With the tried and tested formula that was the 2009 Ghost, it’s no surprise that Rolls-Royce has successfully raised the bar with the remodelled version. This is a deeply impressive car. For those individuals who are wealthy enough, and want to be wrapped in luxurious surroundings, be completely comfortable, enjoy a quiet ride, all with a knowing yet discreet exterior, serious consideration should be given to the new Ghost as your next car.