Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II

Improving a car that’s already close to perfection

STEPHEN CORBY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

ONE doesn’t just pop into a Rolls-Royce dealer, grab the keys for the new Series II Ghost and disappear in a cloud of cigar smoke. Oh no, it’s more like a high-end business conference. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have worn shorts.

We heard a lot from the company about what makes a Rolls-Royce so special that people hand over $550K for this one, or considerably more than a million for a personalised Phantom.

‘Rollers’ are not like other cars; they have no competitors, you see, and the people who buy them shop them against yachts (or maybe just new sails for their yachts), works of art, gold bullion or the bubble that Michael Jackson used to sleep in.

This, along with the price, is all very intimidating, but it gets worse when you actually approach the 5.4m-long, 1.9m-wide ‘baby’ Rolls. It’s the easy-to-drive version, apparently, the one bought by people who even occasionally deign to sit in the front and steer themselves.

This updated Ghost – which looks simply stunning in Salamanca Blue with the optional, contrasting silver nose – has newly sculpted headlights, now with LED daytime running lights, and a new tapered ‘wake channel’ on the giant bonnet, said to evoke a jet’s vapour trail coming off the Spirit of Ecstasy’s wings.

It definitely makes for one hell of a vista from the driver’s seat; it really does feel like looking down on creation.

The “famous waft line” down the side of the car has also been redesigned to make it look more “effortlessly dynamic”, and the enlarged front air intakes are now chromed.

Our car wears optional new 21-inch wheels (19s are standard, and must look weedy, frankly), yet it offers the kind of ride quality, thanks to its re-engineered front and rear suspension, that’s simply nether-worldly. The Ghost seems to scare bumps into submission, intimidating them with its bulk (a colossal 2470kg).

As a driver, you are aware that road imperfections exist, far beneath you somewhere, because you can vaguely hear them, but they simply have no impact, either through the comfortably cosseted seat of your pants or the steering wheel.

NVH has similarly been exiled from Rolls-Royce world, helped by the amount of lush materials around you, including lambswool carpet under your feet deep enough to lose an actual lamb.

Effortlessness is the goal of the Ghost’s designers, and they’ve done a hell of a job. The gearbox offers no Sport settings, or paddle shifters, just D for Drive.

The colossal engine, a 6.6-litre V12 making 420kW/780Nm and silent as a Ghost, makes light work of all driving demands. It works with a new satellite-aided transmission that uses GPS data to pre-empt corners, roundabouts and motorway exits, so you’re always in just the right gear.

Good luck actually noticing these gearchanges, though, because they are seamless.

All you know is that it all works, even if you’re damn fool enough to throw this cruise ship of a car into corners at pace. We tried to get the big Ghost to misbehave in a series of sharp switchbacks but it merely carved its way through – effortlessly as always – with nary even a squeal from the tyres.

After a few days together, I admit to being totally won over by the whole Rolls-Royce thing, and the Ghost’s driveability in particular. I was very sad to slide the keys back across the giant granite table in the showroom.

If this is how the other half lives, sign me up, Jeeves.

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II 6592cc V12 (60°), dohc, 48v 420kW @ 5250rpm 780Nm @ 1500rpm 8-speed automatic 2470kg 4.9sec (claimed) 14.0L/100km $545,000 Now

PLUS & MINUS

The price; can’t conceive what it’d be like to drop $550K on a single car Styling; grandeur; interior; fabulous to drive; general magnificence

01 BARGAIN

At $545,000, Ghost II is a whopping $64,000 cheaper than the old model, having deleted previously standard items like lambswool floor mats and foldable rear tables and made them options.

02 STITCH IN TIME

Nine cow hides are used in each car. The expanse of leather takes two weeks to stitch by hand, and you can have your initials or family crest stitched into the headrests.

03 HARD LIFE

Every piece of wooden trim in each Ghost comes from a single tree to ensure the grain provides a “seamless flow”.

Class of its own

SURE, you could buy a Bentley Flying Spur, an S-Class or even the distantly related BMW 7 Series, but none of them are really competitors for a Rolls-Royce.

The Ghost effectively sits in its own segment and is, according to Rolls- Royce, the number-one vehicle in the $250,000- plus category. It’s some rarefied air up there.

To drive what was already one of the ultimate wealth statements on wheels is to be somewhat overwhelmed, and to come to believe that owning one could make sense. If you were a billionaire.

OR TRY THESE...

S65 AMG L $490,000

THIS S-Class is reassuringly expensive and packs a more impressive twin-turbo V12 with 463kW and 1000Nm, but compared to the Ghost, it’s a bit like putting Usain Bolt next to Prince Phillip.

The legroom is there, but so much else fails the comparison test.

BMW 760Li $391,175

THIS is the closest thing you can buy to a Ghost, because they share many parts under their wildly different skins. In terms of class and quality, and that inherent feeling of superiority you get in the Ghost, the 7 Series falls well short, but it’s also a lot cheaper.