TEST DRIVE: 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

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Rolls-Royce is going through a bit of a change and that was obvious a few months ago when they revealed their updated logo and brand identity. Rolls-Royce now calls themselves the “House of Luxury” and that’s part of their plan to modernize the brand. The Rolls’ client demographic, and their lifestyle, has certainly changed over the years, as well as the average age of a Rolls customer – 43 years old.

So naturally, their luxury cars have to evolve as well. The first product to bring forward this new philosophy is the second generation Rolls-Royce Ghost. The hugely popular Rolls is also delivering a new design philosophy from Goodwood. Rolls calls it “post-opulent.”

Post-Opulent – A New Design Philosophy

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Rolls-Royce Ghost II
Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

The minimalist aesthetic comes from the customers’ newfound desire for less flashy, less in your face products.  The new Ghost’s personality also aims to reject the superficial expressions of wealth, and especially, it aims to do more with less. And that philosophy was quite intriguing to me, so I was extremely excited for my date with the Ghost.

When a new Rolls-Royce model comes around – in a production cycle that’s longer than most manufacturers in the world – things are bound to get exciting. The launch of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan brought us to the beautiful Jackson Hole, but unfortunately, 2020 had some other plans.

Therefore, Rolls-Royce decided to unveil the new Ghost to a selected number of journalists who were flown to Austin, Texas, to experience the car like most customers would do. And for the first time, I actually had the chance to pick the brains of a Ghost customer.

Meet The Rolls-Royce Ghost Customer

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Alexandra and Esteban are a young couple with an impressive collection of cars, and of course, a few Rolls-Royces. They were also one of the first customers to take ownership of the new Ghost. But their Rolls journey is just at the beginning. Over the next few years, the power couple will collect no less than 24 Ghost models.

The destination for those Ghosts is The Women Nation, an organization that “establishes synergy between its female members and nurtures that sisterhood.” Think along the lines of a startup incubator for women entrepreneurs who can build and grow their own companies. These new Rolls-Royce Ghost models will be used at different Women Nation locations around the globe.

Spain-born Esteban comes from a tech background and has an appreciation for product design, minimalism and architecture. And all these influences can be seen in his home and now, in his Salamanca Blue Rolls-Royce Ghost. Alexandra and Esteban are also working on a bespoke Ghost which was commissioned earlier this year, before the car was even unveiled.

During a private presentation, we had the chance to see a progressive and daring bespoke Ghost which will certainly be an eye-catcher when it arrives in the next few months. Furthermore, the “post-opulent” philosophy and the minimalistic-approach to design will certainly be immediately recognized.

The day-in-the-life of a Rolls-Royce customer comes to an end and I’m now ready to get behind the new Ghost.

A Subtle, But Effective Evolution

Certainly, the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost is an evolution of the ten-year old first generation. The design team in Goodwood have used a clever design to cut visual mass and give the car a subtle styling. At the front, there is a new “eyebrow” over the headlights and a single-frame lower air intake.

The Spirit of Ecstasy is now part of the hood rather than the grille, surrounded by sheet metal and paint. Even that particular feature required a lot of engineering prowess. The grille is much shorter than what you’ll find on a Phantom and, get this, it’s also illuminated. Behind the grille, there are twenty LED lights that shine on the back on the grille veins, giving them a subtle glow.

The side profile of the new Ghost hasn’t changed much, but there is a beautiful flow between the different pillars. Rolls’ engineers and designers told me that the all-aluminum body is made to look like one continuous flowing piece of metal, with as few panel gaps as possible. So from the A-pillar, through the roof, into the C-pillar and most of the rear end is all one piece, hand-welded by four craftsmen.

Speaking of the rear, the changes are certainly more obvious here. The new Ghost has a faster roofline and a tapered rear-end which reminds me of the Sweptail one-off concept. The taillights are a bit more angular, with different graphics inside, while the trunk is a bit more rounded than before.

Rolls-Royce Ghost II
Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

Another interesting design tidbit has to do with the front and rear windows which are equally proportioned. So regardless if you’re driving the car or being chauffeured around, the view out the window should be the same.

The list of new things continues with the first automatic, power-open doors. For ages, you could close a Rolls-Royce door with the push of a button. Now, you can open them with a long-hold of the handle. Even closing the doors manually is power assisted. Rolls-Royce even takes it one step further by using an array of sensors to ensure that the door’s open and close speed stays exactly the same, even if the car is on a hill in either direction.

The Old And New World Meet Inside

Of course, it’s the interior that fascinates me the most in a Rolls-Royce. The craftsmanship and the level of details is unmatched in the automotive world. And while not as over-the-top as the Phantom, the Ghost is equally beautiful. From the leather, the trim to the open-pore wood and the chrome switches, every detail is of the highest quality.

The classic controls remain. The new Ghost still uses rotary mechanical AC controls instead of fancy digital displays, there is a central infotainment screen, also managed by a rotary controller and a perfect combination between analog and digital.

Another novelty in the new Ghost are the digital gauges with a clean design, sharp and elegant fonts and with the most relevant information displayed in front of your eyes.

Lights play a big part of the interior. The passenger side of the dashboard trim now has the word “Ghost” illuminated in it. There are 152 LEDs above and beneath the dash fascia that match the car’s clock and instrument light color. To ensure that the word “Ghost” is perfectly evenly lit, 90,000 laser-etched dots create a 2mm-thick light guide.

The Architecture of Luxury Bears Fruit

But in my opinion, the biggest story with the new Rolls-Royce Ghost is its architecture and engineering. This new Rolls-Royce Ghost is built on the brand’s new all-aluminum architecture, the same scalable architecture that underpins both the Phantom and Cullinan.

Which means the Ghost is no longer built on the old 7 Series platform. This new chassis is more structurally rigid than before, while also providing better balance, comfort and acoustic insulation. The “Architecture of Luxury” is at the heart of the new Cullinan and Phantom as well.

The overall length has grown by 3.5 inches to 218.3 inches, and its width has increased by 1.2 inches to 77.9 inches, although the 129.7-inch wheelbase is identical.

The flexible architecture is paired with a new suspension with an unusual damper on the front upper wishbone. The new Rolls-Royce Ghost gets new Upper Wishbone Damper Units, which are part of the brand’s new “Planar Suspension System”.

Rolls-Royce has been working on this for ten years, so as to develop the best riding car the world has ever seen. The Ghost is the first Roller to get the new suspension and it’s supposed to improve not only comfort but also stability.

This new “Planar” suspension also works in tandem with the brand’s “Flagbearer” suspension system, which uses the front camera to scan the road ahead and pre-load the suspension for what’s about to come. This allows the suspension to be ready for a road imperfection ahead of time, rather than reacting to it in real time, thus ironing out bumps before then even happen.

The Flagbearer setup has been available on Rollers before, with the Phantom and Cullinan both having the system but this is the first time it’s working in tandem with the Planar system.

Furthermore, the new Rolls-Royce Ghost also gets all-wheel drive, for the first time in a Rolls-Royce car. This is the first sedan or coupe from Rolls-Royce to power all four wheels. Additionally, it’s also the first Rolls Royce car to use all-wheel steering which makes life a bit easier inside the city.

The all-wheel steering steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction from the front, up to 25 mph, but passed that, they turn in the same direction to help you achieve greater stability in corners and on the road.

The Ghost Whisperer

Rolls-Royce Ghost II
Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

One of the most important engineers aspects of the Ghost is its sound insulation. Rolls-Royce wanted to make the Ghost the most quiet and serene cabin in the world and it actually achieved it. In fact, Rolls made the cabin of the Ghost so quiet that it was actually unsettling for customers, like those silence chambers that you can hear your own heartbeat in and start to go mad. So the engineers in Goodwood actually had to add some noise back in, a noise the brand calls the “whisper”, because of course it does.

The idea is that passengers get a soft, subtle, barely perceptible, single note of noise. To do this, and get the cabin to emit nothing but one single note of noise, Rolls-Royce engineers worked tirelessly, inspecting literally every single piece of the car to see what sort of resonant frequency it emitted. If the levels of sound or frequency were unacceptable, they were changed.

Rolls-Royce Ghost II
Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

For instance, the air condition air ducts were creating unacceptable levels of noise, so they were taken out and polished on the inside, fixing the problem. The prop shaft was creating an unwanted frequency, so it was replaced with a thicker, sturdier one that worked better.

The seat frames in early prototypes created an unwanted frequency, so they were changed. Even the trunk made some unwanted frequencies at high speed, so ports were built under the rear parcel shelf which let the disruptive sound waves from the trunk escape and dissipate.

There’s 220 lbs (100 kg) of sound insulation overall, 55 lbs (25kg) more than in the previous Ghost. And of course, the windows are also double glazed, which reduces wind noise.

A Ghost You Want To Drive

Rolls-Royce Ghost II
Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

One thing was immediately clear after a few hours behind the wheel of the new Ghost: This is a car you’d want to drive. Sure, sitting in the back of a Rolls never gets old, especially when the car is whisper-quiet, luxurious and smooth. But this Ghost is special: it’s engaging, effortless to drive and can be quite fun.

Of course, a lot of that has to do with the 6.75 liter twin-turbocharged V12 which develops 563 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. Interestingly, that hulking engine is mounted entirely behind the front axle, as Rolls-Royce has pushed its aluminum suspension subframe mounts as far forward as possible. This was done to give the Ghost as close to a 50/50 weight distribution as possible.

Not that many Rolls customers care about the balanced distribution, but nonetheless, even if you’re not a race track driver, it’s something you’d immediately notice. The new Ghost just floats on the pavement, but with less of a boat feel. The luxury sedan is certainly more composed than its predecessor and it can quickly trick you into higher speeds than normal.

This masterpiece of an engine is second to none and I’m hoping it will stick around for a while.

Rolls-Royce Ghost II
Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

The transmission is flawless as well and in typical Rolls fashion, it does everything for you. There are no adaptive drive modes to choose from, no transmission settings to play with, everything was tuned to just please you. The transmission uses GPS assistance to intelligently select the right gear for upcoming corners and or intersections. And it works without any interference on the driving part. Everything is so well connected together that it makes you wonder how much time was spent on that.

There is hardly any tire noise, despite my test car riding on massive 21 inch Pirelli tires. The air suspension and adaptive dampers smoothen out any road imperfections, keeping that calm and serene drive. Naturally, at higher speeds, the new Ghost delivers the iconic magic carpet, thanks to additional dampers that counteract any road vibrations.

On the night before, I was picked up by a driver in the new Ghost, but it wasn’t until my next day’s test drive when I realized how quiet the car was when having a conversation with my driver at 60 mph.

I rarely comment on the steering feedback and input in a Rolls-Royce. Firstly, it’s kinda silly to even attempt do that in a half a million dollar luxury sedan. Secondly, there is very little evidence that suggests a Rolls-Royce customer having the steering feedback up on his preference list.

But with this new Ghost, I’m making an exception. The large, yet thin steering wheel is iconic, but this time around, it gives you plenty of weight and feedback. So why would I care about that? Simply, because in combination with the chassis, the suspension, the all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, the steering puts everything together to deliver a fun and engaging drive.

You might be mesmerized at first by the beauty and elegance of the Ghost, but it’s only after a longer drive that you start to notice and appreciate the engineering side of things. Especially when you also factor in the all-wheel drive system which constantly works to deliver the right setting between the drive agility and stability.

Ghost – The Smartest Product Ever Launched in Goodwood

Rolls-Royce Ghost II
Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

Arguably, the Rolls-Royce Ghost is the smartest model in the history of the brand. The Ghost has opened a new market for the Goodwood-based luxury maker and attracted a new and unique demographic. It’s also a Trojan Horse which will lure you in into the Rolls universe, only to later finding yourself owning  more than just one piece of automobile art.

And without a doubt, the second-generation of the Ghost will go down in history as their highest selling model. Ever.

It’s also my favorite Rolls-Royce today because it manages to combine brilliant engineering with a subtle yet beautiful design, and without overwhelming you with cabin technology.

The base price of “my” beautiful Salamanca Blue Rolls-Royce Ghost starts at $332,500, but a decent amount of options brings it to $428,250. It might cost you a pretty penny but there is no buyer’s remorse in sight.

 

 



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