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The 'baby' Rolls-Royce is still quite a size and equipped to wow the world's wealthiest. Steve Walker takes a look at the Ghost.
How do you go about building the best car in the world? Rolls-Royce has more experience in this particular field than any other manufacturer. The development processes for its vehicles are traditionally begun with only the loftiest of goals in mind and down the years, the Spirit of Ecstasy has usually been found perched upon the finest four-wheeled conveyance around. Having built what it would consider to be the planet's number one car, in the shape of its Phantom, Rolls-Royce took it upon itself to build the second best. The result was the Ghost but have the craftsmen at Goodwood dropped a clanger and made the understudy even better?
For the ultimate in automotive technology concealed behind a veil of leather and wood with a cloud-like driving experience courtesy of a V12 twin-turbo engine, look no further than the Rolls-Royce Ghost. Few cars can come close to matching it and that's reflected in the price but cars just don't get much better.
We're talking about a more affordable Rolls-Royce here but you could only call it that in the context of the fabulously wealthy circles within which Rolls-Royce moves. At a mere £200,000, the Ghost is a good £80,000 shy of the larger Phantom but it's still one of the largest and most expensive cars on the road. There were concerns that BMW's ownership of the famous British brand would result in this 'baby Rolls' being dumbed down into little more than a rebadged BMW 7 Series but they have proved unfounded. Each Ghost is the result of the labours of 60 skilled crafts men and women, each with their own areas of expertise, and takes 20 days to complete. In the era of highly automated production lines, this labour intensity is a throwback to a different age but Rolls-Royce customers would expect nothing less.
Providing the fabled Rolls-Royce ride and refinement on the Ghost is a full air-suspension system with its damping levels continuously varied by the car's electronics to suit the road surface and the driving style. The system is so sensitive that it can detect tiny changes in the car's weight distribution caused by extra luggage in the boot or a rear-seat passenger moving to the opposite side of the vehicle and compensate accordingly. There's a whole catalogue of additional electronic driving aids designed to maximise stability and composure even when the Ghost is pushed closer to its considerable limits. For simplicity's sake, Rolls Royce groups them all together under the Integrated Chassis Management banner. Even the Ghost's sophisticated stability and traction control systems will be working ten to the dozen once its engine is let off the leash. It's a twin turbo V12 with a 6.6-litre capacity and monumental reserves of torque adding to the effortless feel. There's a maximum of 563bhp on tap at 5,250rpm but it's the 780Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm that will really count towards the car's domineering performance. The unladen weight of a Ghost is getting on towards 2,500kg but introducing the finely crafted throttle pedal to the luxurious lambs wool carpet with your hand made Italian loafers will see the eight speed ZF gearbox slur through the gears and past 60mph in a supercar-esque 4.7s. The Ghost can cover a kilometre from a standing start in just over 23s.
Clearly following on from the 'Yacht Line' styling themes laid down by the Phantom, the Ghost is relatively simple in its detailing but jaw-dropping in its scale and presence on the road. The vast bonnet with the famous grille and Spirit of Ecstasy statuette ensures the car is instantly recognisable as a Rolls-Royce but the sharply angled A-pillars and the powerful haunches give the Ghost a more dynamic appearance than its senior partner in the Rolls range. The Ghost is fully 440mm shorter than the Phantom but that doesn't stop it measuring in at 5,399mm from nose to tail. Even with a bonnet on the scale of a super tanker's bow, that leaves plenty of space for a cabin that provides the height of luxury. Accessed through the electrically powered side doors, with their integrated teflon-coated umbrellas, the cabin is a shrine to top class materials and craftsmanship. The leathers, wood veneers and deep-pile carpets draw a traditional veil over the cutting edge technology that's crammed inside the Ghost. The rear bench has a gentle curve for an informal seating position that's also elevated for an improved forward view. Rear-seat passengers can individually control the high-tech four-zone climate control system with beautifully fashioned dials that simply turn one way for warmer and the other for cooler. Through this and other innovations, digital displays are kept to a minimum. Even the central control screen is concealed behind a wood veneered panel until needed.
It's no surprise that the Ghost is equipped to the very highest standards and can be specified to an astronomical level through the Rolls-Royce options list. Approach the car and the keyless entry system unlocks the doors once the key fob comes within 1.5m. Once inside, there's the option of using voice commands or operating the ancillary functions with the central controller. A full array of cameras are positioned around the vehicle's extremities giving complete view around the car and helping with manoeuvres or enhancing visibility at junctions. In addition, a night vision camera in the grille can detect and warn of pedestrians on the road ahead, active cruise control can maintain a set distance to the car in front and high beam assistance dips the headlights when a car approaches. Entertainment inside the Ghost is supplied by a 16-speaker 600-watt stereo system with a 12.5Gb hard disc for storing music files and full USB connectivity. Customers wanting an upgrade on this can select the Theatre Configuration from the options list which includes two 9.2" LCD screens in the front seat backs that can be angled to suit the viewers by the centre armrest controller. Other desirable extras include wood veneer picnic trays in the seat backs and a cool box complete with its own champagne glasses.
The engine in the Ghost is very efficient for a twin-turbo V12. Combined fuel economy is measured at just under 21mpg and CO2 emissions of 317g/km might sound like an environmental disaster but are actually lower than you get in V8-engined 4x4s and luxury saloons. Relatively speaking, the Ghost is reasonably clean.
If money really is no object and you're looking for the ultimate motorcar, Rolls-Royce is a good place to start. The company builds vehicles on a completely different plane to most other manufacturers, making sure that the products deliver the unbridled luxury that its customer base expects. In this sense, there's nothing too unusual about the Ghost. A smaller and slightly sportier Rolls-Royce than the imperious Phantom, the car achieves a mix of refinement, performance and high technology that's almost scary.
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