The last time I was in a Rolls-Royce I was being chauffeured around Vienna in a 1962 Silver Cloud II, which was regarded as the world’s best car at its launch. It went from 0-100km/h in 10.9 seconds, an unbelievably fast time in those days. Inside, it was a classic Rolls-Royce with beautiful wood panelling, rich leather seats, polished wood tables in the rear and a majestic presence. At Vienna’s grandiose Hofburg Palace the Silver Cloud II attracted a swarm of camera-wielding admirers. Such is the cachet of Rolls-Royce.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost EWB (Extended Wheelbase) looked equally majestic in front of Jumeirah Emirates Towers where I picked it up. Rolls-Royce’s ‘entry-level’ limo is aimed at the self-made millionaire who likes to take charge behind the steering wheel. According to Rolls the average Ghost buyer is 10 years younger than the Phantom customer, which is why the Ghost is less ostentatious and more performance oriented. But in Asia the length of stretch reflects passenger status, hence the demand for an EWB version. The idea is that the chauffeur hands back the keys at the weekend so the owner can have some fun behind the wheel, which Rolls claims is an increasingly popular usage pattern in Asia.
The Ghost was designed as a driver’s car, so the Rolls-Royce engineering team developing the EWB version were given a clear brief: lose none of the driving prowess and ensure that the ride quality is not lost. Naturally, it must also look good. The engineers listened and added 17 centimetres to the rear, which equates to 330mm of leg space in the back. That sense of room is further enhanced by the standard panoramic sunroof. With my 1.8 metre body I had no problem stretching out in the rear. As for the rear doors, which open backwards, they close at the push of a button. Naturally the impeccable luxury of polished wood tables, lambswool rugs, leather seats, TV screens, full DVD kit and individual climate controls is all there. Depending on your mood or needs the rear of the Ghost EWB is an extremely luxurious office or a sumptuous lounge.
Behind the steering wheel the Ghost is typical Rolls-Royce. The instrumentation is minimalist and classy, the seating comfortable and there’s that long bonnet stretching out in front of you that houses the 6.6-litre V12. It is the most potent engine ever to grace a Rolls, and with its 420kW and 780Nm it fetches 0-100km/h in five seconds. That’s phenomenal for a limousine weighs 2,360 kilograms.
Driving the Ghost is sheer bliss. Behind the steering wheel you are totally unaware that you are driving a 5.39-metre-long vehicle. You hear the engine if you put your foot down but nothing disturbs the serenity of the cabin except for some slight wind noise. The engine, mated with an eight speed automatic gearbox, delivers powers smoothly and discreetly. Push the accelerator hard and the Ghost delivers a vast linear surge rather than an undignified charge.
The ride quality is what you’d expect from a Rolls-Royce. The air-suspension with electronically adaptive damping just seems to suck up the bumps. Forget sports buttons and suspension settings, the Ghost doesn’t have any. Just put it in D and let the Rolls decide. The result is that you just seem to float along without a worry in the world.
Elegant, sophisticated and pleasurable are the words I’d use to describe the Ghost’s ride quality. Behind its steering wheel you have nothing to prove. I did kick down hard on the accelerator a few times just to see how quickly the Ghost would react. The answer is quick, but somehow it felt undignified to drive like that. The cornering is extremely fluid, although the steering is super light and has zero feedback. That might be a negative in most cars, but in a Rolls-Royce it feels right.
Are there any negatives? Well, with a width of 1.94 metres the Ghost definitely fills a lane. That means when the driver next to you veers out of his lane there’s not much room to play with. The steering circle, as can be expected from a long wheel base, is wide. Coming out of the parking garage at work I had to make a two point turn. At low speeds the suspension can feel a bit firm and there’s more road noise and tyre thump than you’d get in the Phantom. But that’s exactly what makes the Ghost a better driver’s car.
The Ghost goes about its business discreetly and drives in an extremely serene fashion. Behind the wheel or sitting in the back the Ghost just seems to lull you into a meditative state. And that’s the Zen of Rolls-Royce.