Phantom carried me, once again with open heavens, to a rain-sodden Open Championship at St Andrews while Cullinan was a transport of delight for my parents for their golden wedding anniversary celebrations in the Lake District.
Next year comes the all-electric Spectre – I can’t wait to try her although I’m struggling somewhat to get my head around just how heavy that vehicle will end up being with all the batteries needed simply to get to the end of the driveway. The coming festive season will be my own personal Richard III winter of discontent as I await my turn at that particular regal wheel.
Speaking of weight, it’s said that if you struggle with a surfeit of superfluous surface then you should wear vertical stripes to trick the eye of the beholder into thinking you’re less … expansive … than you really are. Does it work? Well it’s an age-old saw but it’s really more old wives’ tale than verifiable fact.
Recently, though, I took delivery of just about the heaviest saloon car around. And, without a vertical stripe in sight, it hid that weight superbly. Long, low, sleek and mighty, Rolls-Royce’s Ghost is the very essence of a dichotomy: indisputably huge and yet surprisingly subtle.
Maybe it’s the paintwork (Indigo in my case if you were wondering) but the trompe l’oeuil conceals a vast interior where supreme comfort is offered both up front and in the passenger seats behind.
Here there are two individual, ergonomic, multi-adjustable chairs separated by a central console capable of independently controlling the back-seat TV screens and ancillary entertainment while you sit beneath the celestially decorated headliner. It’s a royal throne of a place to sit while travelling – don’t forget to wave.
This new Ghost is the conclusion of an extensive overhaul from the Goodwood factory. On the surface it may not seem as if much has changed from the previous iteration but, according to Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Mueller-Otvos: ‘Everything was designed, crafted and engineered from the ground up. The result is the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce yet. 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 and perfectly in tune with the times.’
There really is nothing quite like a marketing-distilled press release for fluff is there? But behind the fluff there’s plenty of substance in this case.
Apparently the only carry-over components are the umbrellas in the B-pillar – a Rolls-Royce calling card that never fails to amuse my gadget-oriented sense of humour – and the flying lady, her majesty the Spirit of Ecstasy, who sits proudly seemingly miles ahead of you, showing you her backside while you try to navigate this ocean liner of a vehicle around Britain’s mediaeval lanes. It’s such a pretty backside though; I could never tire of looking at it.
When it comes to reviewing Ghost and telling you what she’s like to buy, drive, own, service or whatever, really there’s not a lot I can say that you won’t already either know or be peripherally aware of. She’s a Rolls-Royce … and that rather says it all.
She’s superb, as would be expected but to tick off those four points mentioned above ever so briefly:
1 – Expensive. Prices start at around £250,000 but given Rolls’ hyper-customisable options list you’ll spend far more. Not that that will faze the average Rolls-Royce customer (if such an adjective can be used alongside this particular brand) – the vehicle I drove came with over £100,000 of options.
2 – Easy. Mostly. Read on.
3 – Despite the size, weight and power available, over the course of a week of a mix of urban and extra-urban driving and nearly a thousand miles, I averaged a gossamer thread over 29mpg which is rather extraordinary. Using the industry average of three years and 36,000 miles the depreciation won’t be awful either – Ghost would be projected to retain 53% of her value which is a decent number and in the upper echelons of price-performing vehicles, especially when compared to the likes of the Audi A8 TFSi quattro Vorsprung which would be projected to retain just 27% of its new-car value.
4 – This is a harder one to answer. Rolls-Royce’s build quality is such that the likelihood of needing to service any vehicle from Goodwood’s plant is rather remote. Ghost isn’t bulletproof (although that would surely be an option should you want it) but, truly, you never hear tales of Rolls owners standing miserably at the side of the road in the pouring rain awaiting a service truck. Conversely, though, if anything does go wrong, it won’t be cheap. But, as usual, if you were in the market to buy a Rolls-Royce money wouldn’t be your primary concern.
Ghost is everything you would imagine her to be. And more. Big, comfortable, quiet, powerful, capacious and expensive. If you’re in the marketplace for all these things and employ a chap to carry your wallet for you then there’s little on the market that is her rival let alone peer.
If you live in a built-up conurbation then possibly you’d want something smaller as, even with the four-wheel steering, at slow speeds she turns with all the lissome agility of a tranquillised hippo. For all her 2mph torpor, though, at highway speeds she feels much more spry than you would have any reason to guess.
Would I change anything if she were on my driveway? Well, despite Rolls-Royce’s famed ‘waft’ I found the drive a touch too soft for the roads in my corner of England.
She’s beautiful on the straight slightly curving motorways and A roads but if you drop your right boot to engage (with all the noise pollution of a coughing kitten) the 6.75-litre V12 on a bendy B road she leans more than is truly comfortable. I know, I know … first-world problems. It’s not the car’s fault – they really should sort out these roads so Ghost can be enjoyed everywhere.
I enjoyed having her and regally sailing around Blighty. Maybe it’s the curse of the profession but I was somewhat fly-blown and blasé about the notion of handing her back, knowing there would be another expensive vehicle to take her place in the not-too-distant future.
What I certainly didn’t expect was for her to nudge and nurdle her enormity into my cynical heart.
But she did, and, in doing so, proved Schopenhauer’s dictum that it’s the loss that teaches us the worth of things.
Harley-Davidson, of course, has the Fat Boy, a name which could be appended to this Rolls-Royce. You’d never find a name so infra dig here though. Ghost suggests something spectral (please forgive the accidental allusion to the next car coming from this marque) and the one thing this vehicle very much isn’t is light, airy and see-through. Aspirational maybe, but not apparitional.
Raising the bar of expectation beyond a level to which any other manufacturer can dream is a Rolls-Royce speciality. They are the Dick Fosbury of engineering and car manufacturing (without any attendant flop), taking design, build and finish to completed heights that others can, eventually, reach but, by the time they do, Goodwood’s finest have moved even further ahead.
So it is with Ghost: miles ahead in all her enormity.