THE SPIRIT OF LUXURY

ROLLS-ROYCE IS FOR THOSE WHO WANT ONLY THE BEST, AND THE SE­RIES II GHOST TRULY IS IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN, WRITES

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Monitoring - STEPHEN CORBY

olls-Royce has no com­peti­tors. They will tell you this, if you ask them, ever so po­litely yet firmly, like Basil Fawlty in the morn­ing.

The kind of buy­ers who are con­sid­er­ing spend­ing an amount of money on a car that can run into seven fig­ures sim­ply don’t com­pare a Rolls to any other ve­hi­cles, be­cause they only want the best. The ul­ti­mate. In terms of al­ter­na­tive pur­chases they’re more likely to be look­ing at a new spin­naker for the yacht, a work of art or a new li­p­less in­fin­ity pool, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s Aus­tralian brand manager, Alan Hind.

A Rolls-Royce, like the stunning new Sala­manca Blue Se­ries II Ghost for which Mr Hind has gen­er­ously just handed us the key, is sim­ply not like other cars. Roller fans, in­clud­ing John Laws, will tell you this un­til they are royal blue in the face. They’ll use terms like “waft” and “gen­teel”, words not of­ten used to de­scribe cars.

It only takes about 10 min­utes to re­alise that their claims, and those of the com­pany it­self, are not just stuffy hot air. The Ghost re­ally is like noth­ing else on the road.

There’s the si­lence for a start. Flick those enor­mous, bor­rowed-from-a-bank-vault doors shut — with their sui­cide-open­ing rears for easy ball­gown egress — and you’re in a world of plush si­lence. All the fine ma­te­ri­als around you — like the lamb­swool car­pet so deep that if you drop you keys you’ll need a metal de­tec­tor to find them — soak up a lot of sound, but a lot of money has clearly been spent on re­duc­ing NVH (noise vi­bra­tion and harsh­ness) to zero. It’s the kind of quiet that is now oth­er­wise achieved only by elec­tric cars.

Then there’s the tac­til­ity: ev­ery­thing you touch feels spe­cial, hand-milled, be­spoke. Be­cause it is.

The spot where your heels rest is cush­ioned, like a floor pil­low, to the point where it’s tempt­ing to al­ways drive it bare foot. The gear lever and in­di­ca­tors are slim­line and feel like two ebony chop­sticks.

That gear se­lec­tor only of­fers D for drive, of course, be­cause Sir seeks sim­plic­ity, and things like Sport but­tons and flappy pad­dles for chang­ing gear are for the gauche.

Sim­i­larly there is no ta­chome­ter, just a unique Power Re­serve dial (re­flect­ing the com­pany’s aero­nau­ti­cal ori­gins), which shows you just how much of your hand­built V12’s 400kW and 780Nm per­for­mance is still on tap at any mo­ment. Gen­er­ally it sits at 100 per cent or not far be­low, so you feel like you’ve got re­serves in abun­dance, but floor the pedal in an un­gentle­manly, non-chauf­feur-like fash­ion and it will whip around to zero and pro­pel you at star­tling pace for a Ghost that weighs 2470kg.

It’s prob­a­bly not of­ten called upon to be so, but this “baby” Rolls is a se­ri­ously rapid car, hit­ting 100km/h in 4.9 sec­onds. Even at full throt­tle, en­gine noise barely in­trudes.

Gear shifts are sim­i­larly im­per­cep­ti­ble, although there’s a lot of quiet clev­er­ness go­ing on. The Se­ries II gets a satel­lite-aided trans­mis­sion, which uses sat­nav to as­sess when sharp bends are ap­proach­ing and changes down ap­pro­pri­ately be­fore­hand, so Sir al­ways has the right gear.

Per­haps the most in­cred­i­ble trick this Rolls man­ages, de­spite rolling on new op­tional 21-inch wheels, is its ride. To call it beau­ti­fully con­trolled or mag­i­cal comes up short. Put sim­ply, you can see bumps on the road — I even started to seek out big­ger ones, just to watch the sus­pen­sion at work — but it’s like they’re be­ing dealt with by some po­lite staff down­stairs, who’ve asked them to move along qui­etly, if they wouldn’t mind. Even big mid-cor­ner pot­holes don’t un­set­tle the Ghost’s ma­jes­tic bulk. It just … wafts. There’s re­ally no bet­ter word for it.

What’s sur­pris­ing is that, de­spite its weight and its 5.4mx1.9m di­men­sions, the Ghost cor­ners quickly, and with aplomb. It felt wrong at first, but we threw the Rolls at one stretch of road re­peat­edly, faster each time, wait­ing to be swal­lowed by body roll and as­saulted by un­der­steer, but they didn’t show up. Nor did those mas­sive tyres give the slight­est squeal, or if they did the cabin was so quiet we couldn’t hear them. It’s the sort of cor­ner­ing that in­spires not only dis­be­lief but shocked laugh­ter.

Last, but per­haps most sig­nif­i­cant, there’s the beauty. A Rolls could only be Bri­tish (even if it is owned by BMW); it is vast, im­pres­sive, ma­ture and yet re­strained. There’s noth­ing otiose here, and even the mod­ern LED lights added to the Se­ries II are beau­ti­fully con­sid­ered. The in­te­rior reeks of qual­ity, of course, with its ana­logue clock be­hind glass, the Rolls-Royce um­brel­las hid­den in each door, the sun vi­sors that look like Louis-Vuit­ton lug­gage.

Yes, the $545,000 price is large (the one we drove had a full suite of op­tions, tak­ing it to $747,860), but if money was no ob­ject, it’d be hard to deny your­self this.

And as lux­u­ri­ous as it is to sit in the back, with your writ­ing desk, your tele­vi­sion and your busi­ness-class-style seat, Sir re­ally should take the wheel now and then, be­cause it’s a driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence like no other.

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