We were invited to the Rolls-Royce factory recently to drive the Phantom and Ghost (sadly the Wraith wasnt available to drive as Rolls-Royce were, in their own words, more concerned with getting customer cars out).
The Ghost, evoking a name first used by the company in 1906, is a more accessible car than the Phantom. Sharing the BMW 7Series underpinnings it provides volumes previously unheard of at Rolls-Royce. We managed to sneak behind the steering wheel for a couple of hours to bring you this brief review.
Where the Phantom is immense, the Ghost is merely large; if accessible means smaller, then the Ghost fits the bill, even though it is only couple of feet shorter than its larger brother. It is 300kgs lighter, though, which helps nimbleness and agility more than any reduction in physical size.
It still has presence and suicide rear doors yet its imposing rather than plutocratic, a car for the businessman rather than head of state. It is also has more than a hint of the Rover 75 about its hindquarters. Still, it does only cost 200,000
Upmarket it might be, but the Ghosts interior left me cold. The trouble is that it just doesnt feel special enough, which sounds ridiculous given the price tag.
While other car manufacturers have raised the bar to whit the new Range Rover and Jaguar XJ Rolls-Royce relieson the same old formula; wood n leather just arent enough anymore, especially when there are so many black plastic BMW controls sprinkled around to irritate you.
Yes, the fit and finish is beyond reproach but there is no sense of drama, of theatre, of pride. I want to love a 'Royce, to sit quietly within and have my quarter-of-a-million pound car endorse my good taste. I dont want to play spot-the-badge-engineering. The steering wheel does feel nice, if thats any consolation?
The Ghost drives very, very well indeed for such a big car. It darts and nips along with aplomb and none of the nose-heavy understeer you might suspect lurks under a thin veneer of sportiness and it even rides decently given the fact that it wears 50-profile, 19-inch tyres.
The pedant might comment that it neither rides nor handles brilliantly but I think it straddles the two effectively enough for most owners to find little to.
Performance is sprightly and no one would ever criticise the ambient noise within. It feels, in other words, like a very good executive express to drive. Life in the rear of the Ghost is pretty soothing too. TV, DVD, radio, and full iPod connectivity are all present and correct, as is a neat little table to let you work on the move and when youve brokered your next property deal you can recline and have a power nap.
A three-seat option is available in the back but you really wouldnt want to lose those two wonderful individual seats.
The Ghost is fitted with a 6.6-litre V12 lifted, along with the eight-speed auto box, straight from the BMW 760. It develops 563 bhp and 575 lb-ft of torque, enough to waft it to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds and a limited top speed of 155 mph.
It is, of course, barely perceptible, even under hard acceleration. It also looks magnificent. The cost? Rolls-Royce suggests that 20 mpg is possible. It probably isnt.
Value for Money
The Ghost range starts at 200,000. Tick a few boxes and that will rise very quickly to the quarter of a million mark. Thats just too much for a BMW in drag.
By Rolls-Royce standards the Ghost is a disappointment. Yes, it is beautifully fitted and the finish is exquisite, but it demonstrates that Rolls-Royce no longer makes the best car in the world, it merely assembles one of the best.
BMWs brand management is second-to-none, make no mistake; Rolls-Royce is, like MINI, a sub-brand of the parent company rather than a discrete marque and cost control has ripped the heart from the company. You wont find men wielding lathes anymore; theyve been de-skilled and redeployed, reduced to opening crates from Germany. BMW claim that only 20% of the Ghost is common to the 7 Series. It feels like more.
Sir Charles Rolls and Sir Henry Royce made great cars because they engineered them to be better than any other car in the world; the Goodwood factory now merely pimps BMW 7Series better than anyone else. That might be great for the bottom line but are customers still buying a Rolls-Royce?
Yes, in name and if that is your primary motivation then whip out your chequebook; few will extract more as deftly as the very nice chaps at Goodwood. Discerning buyers will probably go elsewhere