Paul Seredynski , Executive Editor
The 2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost marks the return of a two-car lineup for the famed English manufacturer. Part of the marque's revival under BMW's stewardship, the Ghost sedan joins the Phantom range, which debuted under the new Munich-based owners in 2003. The remarkably swift and blissfully understated Ghost heralds the rebirth of a daily drivable Rolls-Royce, a workaday business suit to the Phantom's automotive tuxedo.
It's an equally state-of-the-art alternative to ultra-luxury sedans such as the (Volkswagen-owned) Bentley Continental Flying Spur and Maybach 57, either of which will please the owner-driver as much as those who prefer to be chauffeured. The new Ghost may be the most technically transparent, but beneath the classic lines and simplified controls is a powerful and capable sedan that will happily serve in a weekly commute or as swift and luxurious accommodation to your favorite weekend retreat.
This ultra-luxury sedan makes no apologies for its BMW DNA, with its chassis architecture based on the long-wheelbase 7 Series, and its unique power plant an enlarged derivative of the V12 from the 760Li. Bare chassis arrive at the cutting-edge Goodwood factory in southern England, where the Ghost is essentially hand-assembled along a civilly paced production line. Twenty days in the making, the result is a finely crafted luxury conveyance more reminiscent of a commissioned yacht than mass production.
Such craftsmanship does not come without a price tag, but the $245,000 Ghost slots easily into the large gap between the $190,000 Bentley Flying Spur and the $350,000 Maybach 57. The Ghost will appeal to those who can appreciate its deft and non-intrusive application of the latest automotive technology, and traditions of a century-old nameplate including coach-style rear doors. The biggest surprise for many will be how easy the Ghost is to drive, and how fluid its handling is if you seek an elevated pace.
The 2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost is powered by a twin-turbocharged direct-injected 6.6-liter V12 unique to the Rolls-Royce brand. This ultra-modern power plant cranks out a significantly more than adequate 563 horsepower, along with a Percheron-spec 575 pound-feet of torque at only 1,500 rpm. The sole transmission choice is an eight-speed automatic, and paired with the silken thrust the 60-degree V12 produces from just off idle, the livery-tuned throttle allows for lurch-free departures.
If you wish to explore deeper into the throttle's well-weighted travel, the 5,445-pound Ghost surges forward with increasing intensity. Given the cane, swiftly reeling digits of the subtle head-up display speedometer are one of a few clues to the gathering pace as both wind and turbinelike engine sounds are more distant cues.
When called upon, the Ghost is a remarkably quick automobile, irrespective of size. But there are no paddle shifters, nor any gear selection beyond Drive and Reverse, and few will miss them. The intuitive eight-speed automatic is rarely caught flat-footed, able to fire off multiple downshifts in an eye-blink to harness the V12's prodigious output for swift passing maneuvers.
Hauling all this mass down from speed are massive ventilated brake rotors spanning roughly 16 inches in diameter front (16.1) and rear (15.8). An adaptive air suspension keeps everything drama-free regardless of pace, road or load conditions, and its knack for smoothing out surface imperfections is impressive. Combine this limber suspension with the electric-smooth motor, and you have a large machine that will hasten itself down even poor stretches of tarmac with little loss of comportment.
The Ghost's cabin is a calming space of soft, generous curves, outfitted in exceptional wood veneers and leather. Thronelike front seats provide an elevated view of the long hood, and will support those of larger statures. The sofa-style rear seat provides overstuffed comfort, plus the rare combination of an elevated bench height and generous headroom. Access to the rear seats is aided by the coach-style rear-hinged doors, legroom is plentiful, and rich carpeting begs for stockinged feet.
The thicker steering wheel rim is a nice shift from the estate-fence feel of the Phantom, and should still please Rolls purists. Crisp, chronograph-style dials highlighted by a speedometer and "Power Reserve" gauge (sort of a tachometer in reverse) are reasonably legible, and include clever touches such as pinpoint LED markers to note your cruise control setting. Traditional and tasteful switchgear abounds, including organ-stop pulls for the vents and "violin key" steering wheel switches.
The most impressive accomplishment of the new 2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost is that it manages to cache an astonishing array of cutting-edge features and technology behind the fašade of a cozy English reading room. The high-resolution widescreen center display (perhaps the sole BMW cue in the cabin) hides behind an exquisite veneer panel until summoned, and provides communication, navigation and entertainment features via an iDrive-type rotary controller in the center console. The finely wrought gauges are supplemented by a head-up display that remains invisible to passengers, providing discreet speed and navigation cues.
Now electronically controlled, remarkably intuitive red-to-blue rotating disc climate controls appear as if from another decade. Around-view cameras aid parking and a night-vision camera is artfully hidden behind the front grille. Lane departure warning, active cruise control and high-beam assist all work to lower stress on long trips. A phalanx of safety systems -- including Cornering Brake Control, Anti-Roll Stabilization and Dynamic Brake/Stability/Traction Control -- feed data 2,000 times per second to an advanced crash and safety management system.
To passengers, little of this technology is apparent. The electronic systems work behind a curtain of fine leathers and wood, silently doing furious math to create a serene and drama-free driving experience. Forward visibility is excellent, though the standard rearview camera is a welcome addition in a car of near nautical length. At 14 cubic feet, the fully upholstered trunk is smaller than anticipated in a vehicle of this size, so weekend foursomes will have to pack diligently.
Design/Fit and Finish
Instantly recognizable as a Rolls-Royce, the new Ghost precisely strikes classic design cues, with the long hood and sloping character line visually pushing the spacious cabin rearward. Though the profile is classic Rolls, the iconic front grille gets a welcome if subtle tapering from its traditionally upright, Bank of England fašade. An aft perspective reveals thoroughly athletic haunches hiding standard 19-inch wheels (20-inch wheels are optional).
All Rolls-Royce models are tested on a chassis rig in a soundproof chamber before sale to eliminate any wayward panel creaks or perturbing rattles, and the early production Ghosts we drove were library-hushed with tight panel gaps. The paintwork on the Ghost is astonishing in its depth and richness, not at all surprising when you learn of the week-long, five-stage painting process capped by a five-hour final burnish.
Who should consider this vehicle
If you have the means to purchase in this category of automobiles but prefer to do the driving yourself, or need an ultra-luxury sedan specifically tailored for daily use, the 2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost should be at the top of your shopping list. Owners secure enough to let the car do the thinking for them, and those who do not need overt displays of technology will especially appreciate the Ghost's brilliantly uncluttered interior.
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