First drive: Rolls-Royce Ghost 2020
YesAuto has been rolling around in the 2020 Ghost, a quarter of a million-pound marvel. - By Nick Francis
Car brands are notorious for the excessive use of baffling marketing speak, drizzling their new car launches in meaningless superlatives which serve only to confuse both consumer and car journalist, rather than achieve what they think it does: make their car sound more interesting. Nine times out of ten it makes you want to gnaw your own arm off just so you have something to whack the marketing executives with, but in the case of Rolls-Royce, I can stomach it.
This is, after all, the most luxurious car manufacturer on the planet. I would actually feel a bit let down if it didn’t bombard us with a load of swanky-sounding tosh, it would be like going to Savile Row for a suit and the shop assistant telling us it’s two for one on shirts if you buy from the sale rail, without looking up from his Nintendo Switch and Big Mac. The launch of the new Rolls-Royce Ghost didn’t disappoint, here’s what it came up with: the new Rolls-Royce Ghost was designed with something called ‘post-opulence’ in mind. Hmmm. Let’s unpack what Roller is getting at here.
Post-opulence is, I’m assured, something sought by an emerging Rolls-Royce customer who shies away from the blingy ostentatiousness of cars like the Phantom. While they’ve got £250K in their back pocket to spend on a car, they want their quarter of a million-pound ride to be subtle and tasteful, less in-your-face. It’s a key factor in the success of the first model, which came in 2010.
More substantially, the Ghost is the car which ended Roller being effectively a single model brand. The Phantom spawned a total of four variants, and Rolls-Royce could probably have ticked along nicely on that, but owner BMW decided to push for expansion. Since then we’ve had the Wraith, Dawn and the Cullinan SUV. To achieve this, Rolls Royce created its own bespoke and highly versatile aluminium structure, which makes it one of the few brands in the world which doesn’t share a platform with anyone else. These cars are no longer re-skinned BMW 7 Series.
What the Ghost does share is its engine, but it shares it with the Cullinan, which means this 2,490kg hulker is filled with a 6.75 litre V12 twin-turbocharged unit. It’s hard to imagine a car with this powertrain as anything other than a performance car, but it isn’t. It’s a Rolls-Royce. Don’t get me wrong, with 563bhp and 850Nm of torque to play with the Ghost marches on like you wouldn’t believe - it does 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds - and peak power hits at just 1,600rpm, which means you’re galloping at full horses very quickly. But serenity is the name of the game when it comes to the occupants, both driver and passenger.
We’ll circle back around to the cabin later, because there’s a lot more engineering to discuss first, and it’s tasty. First of all the Ghost comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with no option of paddle shifting, and is permanently AWD. But it also has a rear-wheel steer system, which serves two purposes: on high speed lane changes the back wheels steer with the front for a settled but swift manoeuvre, while on faster, twistier stuff they counter-steer to dial up the agility.
Here’s something interesting: despite having adaptive dampers the Ghost doesn’t offer the bamboozling array of driving modes most car which cost north of £100K come with. Rolls says customers don’t want them; they don’t want to work that hard. But the Ghost is clever enough to listen to what the driver wants from it. For example, if it senses you getting on the power mid-corner it knows you want to get moving, so the suspension tightens, as does the throttle map. The only finger-input option the driver has is a ‘Low’ mode, which tells the car to keep the throttle highly strung.
Helping the Ghost tailor the driving dynamics is a camera on the front which marries up to GPS data to read the road and feed the information to the 12v anti-roll bar on the back. If there’s some notchy ground coming up the Ghost adjusts things accordingly to make sure it glides over it as comfortably as possible and with minimal body roll. The idea of this comfortable, stable ride leads us to the jewel in the Ghost’s engineering crown: the Planar Suspension System.
Developed entirely in-house at the Rolls-Royce factory on the Goodwood estate, it’s the trademarked Planar system which means the Ghost can eat up bumps and lumps in the road, as well as attack corners, with minimal intrusion for those inside the car. Unlike other some models, the Ghost is bought by people who both want to drive it and be driven it in, so the balance has been struck between driving enjoyment and utter peace and harmony in the back seats. The Planar system is effectively a third damper on the front, which sits above the double wishbone suspension. I don’t wish to denigrate Roller’s ingenuity, but it seems so simple that it’s a surprise this sort of thing hasn’t happened before, but Roller assures us it hasn’t.
The result is an uncompromised ride quality, which makes even harder ripples in the road surface imperceptible. It’s clearly far from a gimmick, the tech works. When you ask the Ghost, which has grown to 5546mm long and 2148mm wide, to come alive on B-roads, it hustles nicely, steering with the accuracy of a far smaller car and offering plenty of power. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a car you would want on track day, but it’s hard not to be impressed by its performance. And when you slacken off, the Ghost glides over the road as quietly as, er, a ghost.
As I say, all of this has been engineered to keep the cabin a haven of peace. As has the sound insulation: the Ghost has 100kg of sound deadening, so much of which has gone into the doors that the doors are equipped with motors to assist the opening and closing which contain a gyroscope to work out if the car is parked on an angle, therefore adjust the amount of assistance to defeat gravity accordingly.
It should go without saying the Ghost is a comfortable place to park your butt, both in the front and back. All the Roller treats are there: full reclining massage seats in the rear, infotainment systems with TV for each passenger, champagne fridge and so on. At the front the interior tech, namely the infotainment screen which commands pride of place on the dash, smells a lot of BMW, especially the sat nav. But does it matter? I would say it doesn’t. Two things: BMW does infotainment extremely well, and for many Ghost owners it’s their chauffeur who will be using it, so what does it matter? I also wonder how many Rolls Royce owners also have a BMW and would even notice enough to care in the first place.
Anyway, the fact the front passenger’s facia is illuminated with 850 stars means you don’t look at much else. It’s mesmerising.
Is the Rolls-Royce Ghost perfect? Of course not, there’s no such thing as a perfect car. It fills its brief extremely well though, and by the time you’re selling a car which can only be afforded by the top 1%, you’re selling to market which primarily wants one thing: to drive a Rolls-Royce. Minor annoyances include the small gap between the infotainment system and driver display – if Mercedes can join them up then why can’t Rolls? And the opening face of the champagne fridge doesn’t go flat, so it can’t double as a table for your glass of fizz. First world problems and all that.
Would I buy one? Of course not. I’m not post-opulent enough. I don’t think. Oh, and I don’t have £208,000 (before taxes).
Model tested: Rolls Royce Ghost
Price (with options): £301,775
Engine: 6.75-litre V12 twin-turbocharged petrol
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Max speed: 155mph (limited)
MPG: 18.8 (combined)
Take a closer look of Rolls-Royce Ghost.