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First drive: Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.

First drive: Rolls-Royce Ghost
We’re apparently entering the world of ‘post-opulence’ so Rolls-Royce has created a more subtle Ghost saloon. What’s it like?


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Rolls-Royce Ghost

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Rolls-Royce follows up the original 2009 Ghost with a car that's new from the ground-up, but doesn't really look it (until you peer closely). It's a paragon of luxury, of course, but can it be fun to drive too?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Rolls-Royce Ghost
Pricing: £292,475 as tested
Engine: 6.75-litre turbocharged V12 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: four-door luxury saloon
CO2 emissions: 343g/km (VED Band 255+: £2,175 in year one, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 18.6mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Power: 571hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 850Nm at 1,600rpm
Boot space: 507 litres

What's this?

It's a Ghoooooooost. But not the spooky kind. Rather, it's the second generation of Rolls-Royce's - and this is a relative term, keep in mind - entry-level saloon. Far from being some kind of poverty-spec 'GL' version, though, this new Ghost is suffused with a level of luxury not often seen in something that rolls ('scuse the pun) on four wheels.

While it is, technically, the smallest and most affordable (again, relative) Rolls-Royce, it's actually a misnomer to call it an entry level. People don't buy a Ghost and then, in three years' time when their PCP is up for renewal, trade up to a Phantom or Cullinan. Rather, the people who buy a Ghost probably own the financial services company that provides the PCP plan in the first place, and they buy a Ghost not because they can't afford a Phantom (they probably can) but because they want something more discreet.

Now, describing a 5.5-metre, 2.4-tonne car as 'discreet' takes a certain amount of chutzpah. Doing so when said car has a grille made from a single slab of polished stainless steel, which is then backlit and has a be-winged lady, cast in chrome, atop the bonnet is something else again, but as I said - relative. Rolls-Royce, in talking to its customers, discovered that they wanted something as luxurious and beautifully-engineered as the old Ghost, but wrapped up in a slightly more subtle, less ostentatious package. We are, apparently, in an age of 'post-opulence' where people want luxury items, but don't want to shout quite so loudly about it.

So, the Rolls-Royce design team have taken the same basic silhouette as the previous Ghost and got their erasers out. They've rubbed out (so to speak) superfluous lines and panel gaps, reducing the visual noise of the car, making it look simpler, cleaner, less in-your-face. The front end is a perfect example. The leading edge of the bonnet has moved forward, to wrap over the top of the grille, taking away a big shutline. In doing so, the 'Silver Lady' mascot now pokes up through the end of the bonnet, and requires a ludicrously complicated mechanism so that it can flip down and out of the way when you're opening and closing the bonnet. It's brilliant to watch, actually...

Other signs of obsession can be found in the roof. The line that runs from the base of the A-pillar, over the tops of the doors and round into the rear pillar looks unbroken, solid, but is actually made up of several panels of aluminium. To achieve the seamless look, the panels must not only be carefully welded together, but welded on both sides, by two teams of welders, at the same time, in what Rolls refers to as a 'welding ballet'.

Under the seamless skin lies the 'Architecture of Luxury' - the same aluminium spaceframe chassis that underpins the larger Phantom and Cullinan too. That means that the Ghost no longer platform-shares with the BMW 7 Series, and means that the engineers have been able to go to town in some areas. The suspension especially, which aside from having adaptive dampers and air springs, also now gets a separate 'mass damper' that takes care of unwanted vertical and lateral movements, and brings you closer to the legendary 'magic carpet' ride.

Inside, the cabin has been pared back. It's still luxurious, of course, stuffed to bursting with buttery-soft leather and deep-pile carpets. There are four different kinds of sound-deadening material in the doors to help keep unwanted noise at bay. There is just the one screen - a central infotainment screen - but even that is controlled by a big, tactile, rotary controller. Tactility is everything in here, from the open-pore wood to the chrome switches. Rolls eschews needless touchscreens and instead wants you to touch and feel the car, and is all the better for it. But again, it's simple - no paddle shifts for the eight-speed auto gearbox, just a straightforward column stalk. No flashy digital instruments, just digital displays that recreate the elegant look of analogue dials. Even the door cards and the dashboard design have been pared back to create a more simple and less complex look.

Mind you, there is complexity if you look for it. Look at that Ghost badge on the dashboard, backlit and set in a what looks like a starry night sky (meant to evoke the gorgeous 'Starlight Headliner' light-up roof-lining). Those stars are not just holes poked in the panel, though. They are minutely drilled into the veneer BY LASER (emphasis author's own) so that the veneer thins out enough to let light through, but doesn't create an actual hole. Those laser-holes are actually drilled to fractionally different depths too, so that the 'stars' have different brightness, just as real stars do.

Mechanically, it moves to the 6.75-litre turbocharged V12 engine, which is also shared with the Phantom and Cullinan, as opposed to the 6.6-litre unit from the previous-gen Ghost. Rolls is moving, slowly, towards electrification (and saying that it will go fully electric, rather than stopping off in hybrid-town along the way) but for now, it's all pistons and petrol. The new Ghost gains four-wheel drive to help it better parcel out the huge power and torque from the engine, and four-wheel steering to help the car feel more agile.

How does it drive?

Wait, agile? A two-and-a-bit-tonne Rolls-Royce? Well, yes actually. OK, let's start with the things you expect. Refinement is staggeringly good. There is barely any wind noise. Hardly any tyre noise (in spite of riding on massive 21-inch Pirellis). The engine is hushed and distant, only growling with intent when you mash the big throttle pedal down to the fluffy carpet. Even then, the noise is discreet, like listening to carpet-bombing from two counties away.

The ride? Somewhat surprisingly, it's not perfect. Small, sharp road imperfections make their presence felt (it's a common issue with air suspension systems) proving that there are limits to what even Rolls-Royce can do with the laws of physics.

What is remarkable, though, is the sheer control that the suspension has over the body's movements. You can tell that the Ghost is softly sprung, and once you're up to cruising speed, it glides and swishes across country. But it never wallows, nor lurches. Even pressed hard on a twisting road, with sudden sharp crests and dives, the Ghose sits calmly level, dealing with any changes in the surface with a single, gentle movement, an instant recovery, and effortless preparation for the next obstacle.

Which might make you think that it is a distant, floaty companion for the driver. While, obviously, many Rolls-Royce owners experience their cars from the back seat, it's worth being up front in the Ghost. The steering - controlled by a lovely, sizeable wheel with a delicately thin rim - is a little dead on-centre, but builds up both weight and feedback rather beautifully as you add lock. That steering makes the Ghost rather a lot more fun to drive than you think it's going to be, than you think something this vast could ever be. Really chuck it around and the combo of fulsome steering, the rear axle adjusting to help the car find the right balance between stability and agility, and the four-wheel drive means that the Ghost feels massively biddable and really enjoyable to drive. Forget being in the back; you'd be missing out.


You can't judge a car like the Ghost by normal standards. It's too expensive, too rarefied, too likely to be bought as part of a whole stable of cars (and probably a yacht and a helicopter or two as well) to be scrutinised as you would a conventional car. It is a paragon of luxury, but one that's also surprisingly engaging and puckishly good fun to drive. It's designed for the One Per Cent, but engineered and built by people who love it and dote on it as if it were their child. It is a staggeringly impressive piece of engineering, yet one that doesn't overwhelm you with technology nor gadgetry. I'm not sure that Rolls can entirely convince with the whole 'post-opulence' thing (a light-up grille isn't opulent?) but the Ghost is a remarkable motoring achievement nonetheless.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain

Neil Briscoe - 24 Sep 2020    - Rolls-Royce road tests
- Rolls-Royce news
- Ghost images

2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.

2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Image by Rolls-Royce.


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