One word aptly sums up the present state of ultra-luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce, and that is “renaissance”. Indeed, the marque has been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride through its 110-year history. In between the giddy highs of the early 20th century and becoming a byword for all things superlative, Rolls-Royce fell on financial hard times in the 1970s. This saw the company split in two, with one division focusing on cars and the other on aeronautical engines. The 1980s and 1990s were no kinder to Rolls-Royce, though things turned around when the BMW Group acquired it in 1998. Under this ownership, Rolls-Royce was completely revamped from the ground up, with new everything – engineering, design and manufacturing.
The German revival of the then-flagging British marque also saw the introduction of the Phantom, and in 2009, its “entry-level” smaller brother, the Ghost, was unveiled to the world. The Ghost has since gone on to become the best-selling Rolls-Royce model, and a key contributor to the 3000 cars or so the company sells each year – a far cry from the time when it was shifting only a few hundred automobiles annually. In addition to the (slightly) lower price
and size vis-a-vis the Phantom, part of the Ghost’s appeal is also down to how it blends road presence and stately luxury with something a “traditional” Rolls- Royce owner wouldn’t dream of: driving pleasure. Clearly, the mentality of today’s tycoons is a bit different from what it was half a century ago. Making a strong case for that is the Ghost’s powerplant: a twin-turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 (a distant relation is also used in the BMW 760i). In the “Roller”, that mighty engine produces 563bhp and a monster 780Nm, which make it even more powerful than the naturally aspirated 453bhp 6.7-litre V12 used in the Phantom. Despite the hefty 2470kg kerb weight (2520kg in long-wheelbase guise), it sprints from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds, which is quicker than some sports cars. In fact, its monumental urge to accelerate at any speed is quite unbelievable. But this isn’t exactly new, because its engine is carried over unchanged from the Ghost Series I. What’s new, however, are some mild updates to the five-year-old saloon. Already the sleek one in the “family”, it has a less ostentatious version of the famous Rolls-Royce grille and a swooping roofline, though now, the Series II car features some discreet restyling ahead of the A-pillars.
You’d have to be a fervent anorak to spot the twin crease lines along the bonnet, the resized grille and re-angled Spirit of Ecstasy. A little more obvious is the new headlight cluster that’s framed by a strip of LED daytime running lights. The headlamps themselves are adaptive LED items, which can automatically vary their intensity and throw according to road conditions. There is also a new 21-inch wheel option, obviously designed to give the car a sporty favour. The rest of the exterior, including the tail-lights, have been left alone. As for its interior, there are redesigned seats that only a Ghost Series I owner would (probably) notice, and some very subtle styling revisions to the clock and instruments. But, then again, no major changes are necessary, because the Ghost has a magical interior that only Rolls-Royce seems to know how to conjure up. Everything is exquisitely crafted from wood, leather or chrome, precisely padded and shaped to gratify the human touch. Complementing that luxury is a unique blend of stylishness that can best be described as a modern interpretation of classic British opulence, from the blue-backlit buttons below the central airconditioning vents to the white-faced instrument cluster dials and the control knob for the (thinly disguised BMW iDrive) infotainment system emblazoned with the Spirit of Ecstasy symbol. An incredibly vast options list for the interior fittings – which include colour, finish and material – are available for an owner to customise his/her car.
However, the Ghost Series II is more than just an aesthetic makeover, as the new vehicle also comes with an optional Dynamic Package. There are no ostentatious badges to proclaim so, but the pair of trapezoidal chrome-plated tailpipes should surely suffice. Comprising a range of steering and suspension tweaks, this option makes the car far more agile and enjoyable to drive quickly on twisty roads. But even on the highway, its keen steering responses and controlled body movements do well to mask the car’s 5.4m length and 1.95m width. Happily enough, the Dynamic Package doesn’t make any compromise to refinement or ride comfort, so we think it would make sense as standard equipment. Perhaps the non- Dynamic Package should be offered as the “Chauffeur” option instead. Whichever row of seats you spend your time in, the luxury and sense of occasion cannot be experienced anywhere else but in a Rolls-Royce. Henry Royce would be proud of this Ghost.