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
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.