2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost: Put Down The Grey Poupon And Drive
Defining the Post-Opulent movement, this super-luxurious sedan excels whether you're sitting in the front or back seat.
The lasting impression of Rolls-Royce involving two old men exchanging a jar of mustard between their Silver Clouds should be extinct. After 116 years of producing the world's finest automobiles, there's a new generation of wealthy buyers eager to drop some dough, and the Goodwood marque is selling more cars than ever to them. Rolls-Royce defines this era of its lineup as "Post Opulent" in an effort to shrug off the cliché associations with superficial wealth.
As Phantom carries the iconic British brand's image as the car to be driven in, and Cullinan establishing itself as the ultimate all-terrain luxury SUV, Ghost is the "driver's car" of the lineup. As the successor to Rolls-Royce's best-selling model, the new Ghost is the most technologically advanced car the company has produced. With an emphasis on being as splendid to drive as being driven in, the entry level Rolls-Royce model has much to accomplish. During the American launch of the Ghost in my back yard in Austin, Texas, I had a quick opportunity to see if Rolls-Royce was on to something.
(Important Note: Given the challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rolls-Royce hosts took extensive steps to ensure safety of all guests, vendors, and staff. Each wave of this drive program was limited to very small groups, and all participants were kept in total comfort and safety throughout the agreement of attending, being rapid tested before checking in, and being sent home safely.)
The Key Figures
Ghost is Rolls-Royce's smaller sedan, now with sharper overall look, a more impactful front-end, and a Spirit of Ecstasy that floats on her own lake of the bonnet, rather than being incorporated into the Pantheon grille. Ghost is powered by a the traditional displacement of a 6.75-liter V12 with a potent 563 BHP (571 PS) and 627 lb-ft (850 Nm) of torque. Through a pair of turbochargers, Rolls-Royce develops this powerplant to deliver what it calls "near-instant torque and near-silent running."
Not that acceleration times are important to the team in Goodwood, but the new Ghost will sprint from 0-60 MPH in just 4.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 155. Transmitting power to all four wheels is a ZF eight-speed automatic. To couple with handling the big sedan, a Rolls-Royce first four-wheel steering setup provides greater agility while a complex Planar Suspension System packs more computers and software than most supercars to give the Ghost's occupants a buttery ride over any surface.
Built on the Rolls-Royce Architecture of Luxury spaceframe, the new Ghost receives extensive welding and super forming to ensure there are no visible shut lines as you peer around the massive body. At 218 inches long (nearly a foot longer than a BMW 7 Series), 62 tall, and 78 wide, the new Ghost sports a 130-inch wheelbase. With loads of sound deadening materials paired with the finest grade leather, perfectly selected wood, and softest, deepest carpet you'll ever feel, the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost weighs a hefty 5,540 pounds (2,940 kg).
Stepping into this level of luxury involves a sizable transfer from your well-managed portfolio. The Ghost's starting price is over $330,000, and with options including effortless doors, rear theatre configuration, individual rear seats, and lambswool floor mats, my Iguazu Blue tester rang up a total price of $428,125. Of course the options list and bespoke process can easily send that price tag soaring, with Rolls-Royce offering limitless possibilities for crafting your unique Ghost.
Engineered For Comfort
Rolls-Royce obsessively crafts Ghost to keep driver and passenger riding along in the finest comforts. Starting with how the body is formed, the focus is on ride quality and a silent cabin. You won't find a single shut line on the Ghost's body, as in production, four skilled craftsmen perfectly weld the body by hand, at the same time, so that there's a single perfect seam carried throughout the massive structure. Rolls-Royce's Planar Suspension System works as an active aid to the suspension and transmission to ensure absolute comfort on the Rolls-Royce signature Magic Carpet Ride, giving the Ghost stability through any corner unlike any other luxury car.
Carefully placing over 100 kg of acoustic damping materials inside the Ghost's panels, Rolls-Royce also engineered its Formula for Serenity with a bespoke audio system which is tuned alongside interior components with resonant frequencies to eliminate any unwanted irritants. Acting in perfect harmony, the end result is a single whisper undertone.
Audiophiles will appreciate a 1300-watt, 18-channel sound system that is crafted with a resonance chamber in the body's sill, creating a giant subwoofer from the entire cabin. Because speakers are bonded directly to surfaces, in an effort to reduce vibration, audio clarity is unmatched in the automotive world, with even the Starlight Headliner becoming part of the ceiling's unique speaker surface.
Every touch point is crafted and calibrated to feel exquisite, carry the perfect weight, and to operate with the right amount of input while being intuitively placed. In a quick glance, you'll see how similar the layout and functionality of the new Ghost is to classic Rolls-Royce machines. Nothing is too fussy, cumbersome, nor out of place. There are more buttons than you get in any modern car, with tactile feel of quality components being more important than touchscreen bragging rights.
For The Driven Occupant
Rolls-Royce crafted a unique down-lit effect within the classic Pantheon grille to give the Ghost a more impactful presence at night. Ghost now sports the effortless entry and exit via power-assisted doors, and once you step through the laser-welded doors and into the lush cabin, you hear nothing of the outside world. Even the climate control ventilation ducts are coated with felt to reduce noise. Look up to spot the famous Starlight headliner, but look to the front cabin to spot a new illuminated fascia, with the Ghost nameplate surrounded by six layers of glass and over 850 stars.
What you won't see inside a modern Rolls-Royce is any superficial material that would make the cabin appear too busy or outlandish. Material substance and ultimate comfort are more important to Rolls-Royce, to craft this refuge.
The Planar setup employs the Rolls-Royce Flagbearer system to scan the conditions of the road ahead, as its cameras and software team up with the ZF Satellite Aided Transmission to select or stay in the correct gear while employing a new specially-developed upper wishbone damper to keep any bumps from upsetting your ride. As I was driven to a dinner party the first night of the launch, through various good and bad textures of Austin's roads, I floated along without any disruption. It's almost hypnotic how tranquil the Ghost is when being driven in it.
When you're being transported to an elite nighttime event, you'll be able to sip your bubbles or bourbon from the finest crystal vessels. Both options are available in the Ghost with a mini fridge in the compartment between the rear seats, and a whiskey decanter tucked into the center armrest. Rainy days won't phase you, as Rolls-Royce still tucks a nice umbrella into the rear doors.
Whether you're an important tech entrepreneur or board member for a company included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Ghost's back seat accommodations give you ample space to stretch out in your rolling office, with a cool table top and control screen mounted in the back of the front seats, and on-board LTE wifi hotspot. Should you demand a more spacious rear cabin, Rolls-Royce offers a 6.6-inch (170mm) longer extended model.
For The Enthusiast Driver
My planned test in the Ghost was partially to take in the pinnacle of luxury, but also to test what Rolls-Royce defines as the driver's car in its lineup. With so much engineering poured into crafting a car that floats along with ultimate comfort, Rolls-Royce claims these system greatly aid the driving experience. With a long, comprehensive drive route supplied, over some familiar roads I typically employ for testing performance cars, I gave the Ghost a proper shakedown.
Dispatching the twin-turbo V12's might creates a smooth wave of speed, rather than a fierce shove forward. The Ghost's maximum torque is available at just 1,600 RPM, with a flat plateau of power and torque across the entire rev range. Don't be too eager to dump your right foot into the throttle, as with ease and grace the Ghost can hit triple digit speeds. Rather than a tachometer, Rolls-Royce utilizes a meter that indicates power reserve, letting you know just how little of Ghost's potential is being unleashed when you think you're giving it the beans.
Through the Planar suspension system, satellite-linked transmission, and Flagbearer guidance, the Ghost reads the road ahead to predict adjustments needed in the suspension to smooth out ride quality. The world-first upper wishbone damping unit does a tremendous job of eliminating any bump steer you'd ever expect while reducing any chassis disturbance from less than perfect pavement. This symphony of hardware and software ensures the handling isn't upset, allowing smoother driving inputs. While it's designed to be refined and luxurious, I'm surprised how communicative the Ghost's steering is. Turn-in is precise, with a well-weighted steering feel, and the right amount of assistance from the all-wheel-steering setup.
You won't forget that the Ghost weighs as much as a locomotive if you pretend you're driving a sportscar in the bends, but how much cornering competence it has is astounding. Attribute much of Ghost's ability to rotate cleanly through a sweeper to all the trick programming and suspension crafting while you smoothly breeze around your favorite twisty farm-to-market road. All-wheel-drive and a low center of gravity also help maintain cornering dynamics. Pirelli P-Zero rubber is wrapped around massive 21-inch polished wheels, and is easily up to the task of keeping the Rolls-Royce sedan under control while the iconic RR wheel badge stays perfectly upright as you roll along.
Still More Luxury Sedan Than Driver's Car, But In A Good Way
Rolls-Royce went to great lengths to ensure its Ghost would be fantastic to drive, in addition to upholding the standards for exceptional luxury to be driven in. After a couple hours on some of my favorite roads in Central Texas, I was impressed with the Ghost as a car that may be massive in its proportions, offering an opulent cabin to spend several hours inside, but it still wants to be driven.
The new Rolls-Royce buyer is remarkably different than the traditional one. They still demand the finest appointments and driven experience, but now desire a dash of style with the interior and exterior, and crave enjoyment behind the wheel. In the new Rolls-Royce Ghost, those unique owners will be pleased with the experience provided whether they're wearing their driving loafers or are seated behind a driver in a chauffeur's cap.