Launched in 2020, the all-new Ghost marked a punctual turning point for Rolls-Royce. While still being a vast motorcar with the brand’s famous Pantheon grille below the Spirit of Ecstasy hood mascot – Eleanor to her friends – the new Ghost carries what Rolls calls a ‘post-opulent’ approach to luxury.
Today’s Rolls-Royce buyers, younger than ever and owning fewer suits than their old-money predecessors, are more attuned to how extreme wealth can be perceived. The Ghost is a bid to match this moral stance, by being a car that is more discreet; less obnoxiously part of the 0.01 percent.
At least that’s the theory. There’s still no getting away from the sheer scale of the all-new Ghost, which at 218 inches long, 84.6 inches wide and almost 5,500 pounds is every bit the land-yacht you’d expect it to be. This persona is doubled-down on by the spec of the car delivered to me one Saturday morning. White exterior with a white and black interior, it falls somewhere between a wedding and a Dubai hotel, and even in well-heeled central London it turns heads.
I’m tasked with driving the Ghost 400 miles north, to Edinburgh where it is needed for a city center photoshoot. With raging storm Eunice doing her best to cripple the UK’s air and rail transport, wafting up the M1 highway in a Rolls-Royce felt like the perfect alternative.
Before that, a couple of local errands are run and the Ghost, while intimidatingly massive at first, quickly becomes familiar. The addition of rear-wheel-steering helps to virtually shrink the wheelbase at low speed, thus making light work of maneuvering between tight city streets. It’s a big car, but one that owners should quickly get used to – important, given this is a Rolls to be enjoyed from the front seat as much as the back.
Errands complete, I head north on a 200-mile, four-hour journey to my overnight stop in West Yorkshire. Here the Ghost gets into its stride, gliding along with the cloud-like ride today’s Rolls-Royces are famous for. Entirely isolated from the storm outside, the cabin is serenely quiet, the bespoke sound system is top-drawer, and the leather seats with massage function are endlessly comfortable. On quietness, Rolls says when it was developing the Ghost it actually got to a point where the cabin was so quiet, it threatened to cause motion sickness. Thankfully R-R’s quest for silence was dialed back, ever so slightly.
It’s worth pausing here to explain this is an all-new car, and shares nothing with the previous-generation Ghost except for the bonnet mascot and a pair of umbrellas deployed from inside the rear, backwards-opening doors. It also no longer shares its platform with the BMW 7-Series, and is instead entirely its own car.
Up front, you’ll find the familiar Rolls-Royce powerhouse; a 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V12 producing 571 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. This means a 0-60mph time of 4.8 seconds and the sort of surge towards the horizon you’d normally expect from something much smaller. It really is hilarious how a members club on wheels can launch itself forwards on a seemingly unstoppable wave of torque. Equally eyebrow-raising is how the fuel consumption figure nosedives from an average of around 18-20mpg, to just two when subjected to a heavy right foot. Top speed is 155mph.
And then there are the details that make the Rolls-Royce experience unlike any other. The aforementioned umbrellas; the starlight headlining with shooting stars streaking across the LED-illuminated night sky; the powered doors that close at the touch of a button; the self-leveling wheel centers that always keep their ‘RR’ logo the right way up; the 20 LEDs used to illuminate the front grille.
New for the Ghost is what’s called the Illuminated Fascia, a section of the dashboard ahead of the front passenger and a thing of beauty all by itself. The installation features 152 LEDs, shining through over 90,000 laser-etched dots to produce the ‘Ghost’ motif surrounded by 850 stars.
Everything in the cabin feels just right. From the solid metal door pulls, to the soft leather, open-grain wood paneling, deep wool carpets, and organ stop-style ventilation controls.
As with other Rolls-Royces, the infotainment system comes from parent company BMW, but is given a facelift to suit its more upmarket surroundings, and the full-color head-up display is particularly good. It’s just a shame that navigation instructions only appear there when using the car’s own mapping system, as Google Maps prompts from Apple CarPlay are limited to the central touchscreen display.
Day two began with another 200-mile, four-hour drive from Yorkshire up to Edinburgh. Such is the refinement of modern cars, it’s difficult to find one (Caterham et al aside) that can’t eat up 200 miles without complaint, but such a journey in a Rolls-Royce is still something very special indeed. From the cloud-like ride quality to the near-silent cabin, lightweight controls and quality sound system, the Ghost turns what would usually be a tedious and forgettable drive into one worth savoring.
Although I drove myself on this occasion, I’ve previously ridden in the back of a Ghost (that time the sportier Black Badge edition) and the back seats are just what you’d expect. Spacious, adjustable and comfortable, with picnic tables, TV screens, a selection of massage options and curtains drawn across the windows – but without feeling overloaded with tech. Plus there’s a fridge between the two seats, complete with champagne flutes. Naturally.
Where some executive limos can feel crammed full of gadgets, Rolls-Royce manages to include everything the driver or passenger might want, but without the cabin turning into an electronics store. There are no hand gestures for adjusting music volume, no computer games, no smartphone app and no option for changing the color of the ambient lighting.
It is here, in the rarefied world where a car is driven by its owner as much as it is ridden in, that the Rolls-Royce Ghost excels. I suspect a vanishingly small number of Rolls Phantom owners would consider driving that car themselves, while the smaller Ghost could fulfill both roles. For those who want extra rear legroom – and who perhaps choose to drive less often – the Ghost is also offered in a long-wheelbase configuration.
With Northern England dispatched in a couple of hours, I cross the border into Scotland and aim the prow at Edinburgh. Here, the Ghosts rear-wheel steering once again helps navigate narrow, tourist-lined streets, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox gets on with its job in a way that is entirely imperceptible. So too the suspension and its Flagbearer system, which employs a camera to read the road ahead and make constant adjustments to ensure comfort.
I sweep onto Edinburgh’s Princes Street and park outside the Balmoral hotel. Photographer met and locations scouted, we head to an extinct volcano called Arthur’s Seat, scale steep cobbled streets above the city, and borrow a couple of dogs from willing bystanders for the all-important social media posts. Mercifully, the rain eases and the clouds part. There’s even a reddish glow of sunlight cast across Edinburgh Castle as the final shots are captured and we head to the airport.
Much like the Cullinan I drove last time I visited Scotland, a couple of days is all it took to become quite attached to the Ghost. It had worked its way under my skin and made me excited for the future Rolls-Royce is headed towards. It also made me realize an all-electric Roller will be no bad thing, since the big V12 operates in near-silence most of the time anyway.
Rolls-Royce is launching its first all-electric car, called the Spectre, in 2023. After that, it will introduce electric versions of its current lineup, before becoming a purely-electric car brand by 2030. It is entirely likely that this second-generation Ghost will be the last all-new Rolls-Royce to be powered by internal-combustion. For some brands – those who rely on the histrionics of an engine to give their cars character – the last gas-powered vehicle would be a moment of mourning. But for Rolls, where quiet, serene smoothness is the name of the game, electricity will surely serve to make the experience even better.