Drive the Rolls-Royce Phantom for any length of time, as City A.M. did last August, and there’s a strong chance you’ll come away deeply impressed. Your CEO may well own one and, you’ll undoubtedly agree, he/she is a person of great taste.
Alan Sugar has a Phantom. So does Simon Cowell, Kim Kardashian and a bloke called Fat Joe (a rapper, apparently). The Phantom is the pinnacle of Rolls-Royce ownership, the don’t-give-it-another-thought default choice.
Yet, as Rolls-Royce has discovered, there are wealthy buyers out there who are looking for something a bit less ostentatious, that doesn’t scream “I am RICH”. The Rolls-Royce Ghost is its answer.
The Ghost is less formal, with a softer front grille and flowing lines. It’s the car, Rolls-Royce hopes, you might take out just for fun at weekends, when business finally comes to an end.
Launched in 2009, the Ghost was freshened up late last year, to become the Ghost II. Resculpted headlights are the obvious visual change, although not everyone feels comfortable with the very narrow design. Then, if you are taken in by the marketing guff, there’s a new “tapered wake channel on the bonnet that evokes the sight of a jet’s vapour trail”.
Let’s not get cynical, though. The Ghost II comes with the coach doors of the Phantom, hinged at the rear to make access to the back seats straightforward. There’s even a button in the rear door pillar to power-close them. It’s the killer feature that sets the Rolls-Royce apart from its arch rival, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
There is a rarefied world where Phantom owners refuse to consider the Ghost because it is too small. By any rational argument, however, the Ghost remains impressively spacious, with enough shoulder room to fit a party of sumo wrestlers. Legroom in the standard Ghost is notable too, yet there’s also an extended wheelbase model that adds another six inches.
The driving experience is idiosyncratic, unlike a luxury car from any other maker. The Ghost simply wafts along, as you guide its ultra-light steering with your fingertips. It’s not really engaging, in a normal car-driving context, but the sense of ride comfort, calm and a slight displacement from reality are exactly what you’d hope for.
There’s no shortage of performance either. The 6.6-litre V12 has twin turbochargers, 563 horsepower and gets to 60mph in just under five seconds. That’s quick enough to raise the eyebrows of passengers who thought Rolls-Royce was a synonym for sedate. The Ghost II is not even especially thirsty. We saw 28mpg on the motorway, although sub-20mpg will usually be the norm.
Yet it is the new technology that really counts. The satnav can detect the road ahead and select the appropriate gear for the transmission. And the headlights don’t simply dip when an oncoming car is detected, they deflect the light where necessary and keep full beam elsewhere.
The power of BMW is behind many of this Rolls-Royce’s advanced features, which is something to be grateful for. It means features like on-board Wi-Fi, allowing for the ready availability of emails, file sharing and video conferencing. The wide-screen interface in the centre of the car is far more sophisticated than could be hoped for if Rolls-Royce was standing all alone.
The Ghost II is a less ostentatious Rolls-Royce, a car that shows you have given a bit of thought to your move into top-flight motoring. It is, however, still a Rolls-Royce – if you’re really keen not to be noticed, get a Volvo.
Peter Burgess works for motoringresearch.com
THE FACTS: ROLLS-ROYCE GHOST II
0-62MPH: 4.9 secs
TOP SPEED: 155mph
CO2 G/KM: 327g/km
MPG COMBINED: 20.2mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★☆☆
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0-62MPH: 5.3 secs
TOP SPEED: 184mph
CO2 G/KM: 342g/km
MPG COMBINED: 19.3mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★☆☆☆
0-62MPH: 4.6 secs
TOP SPEED: 155mph
CO2 G/KM: 268g/km
MPG COMBINED: 25.4mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★★☆
0-62MPH: 5.8 secs
TOP SPEED: 140mph
CO2 G/KM: 299g/km
MPG COMBINED: 21.6mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★☆☆