Rolls-Royce likes to see itself as the most customer-centric car brand in the world.
With around 5,000 buyers a year, all of whom are very wealthy and very particular, it’s understandable that the brand wants, and can afford, to spend time speaking to them as individuals about what they expect. One missed step could be disastrous for the brand.
So when it set out to create the second generation of its most successful ever car, Rolls-Royce turned to those customers to find out what they wanted from the new Ghost. And it turns out that what they wanted was less, but more.
That’s less ostentation, less “bling” but more of the luxury, technology and performance that won so many buyers over to the first Goodwood Ghost.
So, starting with a blank sheet, Rolls’ designers went in search of the “post-opulence” look and feel - all the luxury, none of the showing off. From the outside, that translates into a few simple lines that identify the car as definitely a Rolls-Royce but not one that’s so vulgar as to shout about it. Thousands of hours have gone into engineering out shutlines and embellishments to create an uninterrupted flow from the famous Pantheon grille (now subtly backlit) to the rear-hinged doors and the squared off LED tail lights.
That’s not to say it’s a shrinking violet, this is still a 5.5-metre-long car with the famous Spirit of Ecstasy standing proud at its nose so people are going to notice it but, especially in darker tones, there’s a subtlety to its looks.
A similar “simplify but improve” approach has gone into the interior. Owners want the latest connectivity, multimedia and comforts but they don’t want to be overwhelmed. According to Rolls-Royce’s research, buyers want their Ghost to be a haven from the whirlwind of modern life. So there’s one elegant digital screen for the media and navigation while large simple digital dials sit ahead of the driver. Everything else, from heating to seat adjustment is taken care of via big, beautifully crafted physical dials, switches and handles.
The simplicity extends to the materials. They are glorious, luxurious but, for the main part, not flashy. It’s obvious that everything from the leather upholstery - from special Bavarian cows - to the open-pore wood veneer is of the highest quality but there’s a simplicity at play that doesn’t overwhelm the senses. Of course, there are flourishes such as the illuminated fibre optic headliner with its shooting star feature and the 850 individual glimmering lights surrounding the dashboard nameplate.
Part of the brief for the Ghost is that it should be a Rolls that owners will both drive and be driven in. So, being a lazy hack, I opted to let the power assisted rear door swing closed behind me as I slipped into the leather and lambswool haven of the back seat and I got on with the important business of relaxing.
It’s an easy task in the Ghost. It has moved to the same aluminium spaceframe as the Phantom and Cullinan, meaning Rolls could develop the car free from the constraints imposed by the last generation’s BMW-sourced platform.
The result is one of the most comfortable, refined experiences you’ll find on four wheels. While many manufacturers are turning to active noise cancelling technology, the whisper quiet experience of the Ghost is all down to engineering. From the double-glazed windows and four layers of sound insulation in the doors to the felt-lined ventilation ducts and special channels cut to reduce resonance from the boot, the Ghost’s designers spent tens of thousands of man hours designing every aspect of the car to create a harmonious cabin atmosphere no matter what’s going on around you.
A similar attention to detail was applied to the ride, resulting in unrivalled composure. A new “planar” suspension system adds a mass damper to the upper wishbone to smooth out large changes in attitude before they reach the cabin. This works in conjunction with the Flagbearer camera system which scans the road ahead and primes the adaptive air suspension for changes in road surface, to keep it flat and controlled in any circumstances.
Moving things along is a 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12 with 563bhp and 627lb ft driving all four wheels. That means the 2.5-tonne Ghost can reach 60mph in 4.6 seconds but it’s not that kind of car. You can stretch the V12 out and marvel at its pace (at which point you might actually hear the engine for the first time) but it’s far better to float on a sea of torque that carries you along, gliding imperceptibly through the eight-speed transmission.
That said, the Ghost’s driving experience is remarkable not just for its refinement but for how easy it feels. From the wheel, this doesn’t feel like a 5.5m long, 2.5-tonne car. The steering is weighted to make the car easy to manoeuvre but with enough feedback that you feel fully in command. It is aided by the rear-wheel steering which tucks the back end into corners at low speed and aids stability at higher ones. And while the suspension isolates the cabin from poor surfaces, you don’t feel disconnected from the road at the wheel.
So both a car to drive and be driven in, just as Rolls promised.
Every manufacturer has their PR spin and their story to tell. As a journalist you have to try to cut through that but sometimes it’s hard to argue with the party line. The Ghost is a prime example of that. The advantages of being a small volume high-value brand is that Rolls-Royce has the scope to deliver 100 per cent on its vision. So, the Ghost is equally welcoming and enjoyable whether you are driving or being driven, it is luxurious without being flashy and spending time in it is one of the most refined and soothing experiences this side of an isolation chamber.
Price: £292,475 as tested; Engine: 6.75-litre, V12, twin-turbo, petrol; Power: 563bhp; Torque: 627lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-60mph: 4.6 seconds; Economy: 18-18.6mpg; CO2 emissions: 347-358g/km