Rolls-Royce's Ghost Series II offers a new benchmark for the grand luxury saloon
Even the best car in the world needs a little help as it gets older. The original Ghost glided off the Goodwood production line in 2010, transforming Rolls-Royce's fortunes at a stroke.
Expensively revived by BMW, the company was never going to get rich simply by building Phantoms, even if it was catering to the absolute upper levels of the customer stratosphere. The (slightly) smaller Ghost was a hit, boosting the company's sales and providing a new benchmark for the grand luxury saloon (although talk of margin and profit feels faintly crass in the world of Rolls-Royce).
The Ghost is a handsome machine, with gargantuan proportions that are well served by the bluff front, steep sides and narrow headlights. A Rolls-Royce will always convey a certain authority, and an optional uplighter is available to make the pop-up Spirit of Ecstasy herald your arrival in glowing style.
This car does many things exceptionally well, but of paramount importance is the graceful, effortless quality of the ride. The thick seats, deep carpet and chrome and wood dashboard cosset driver and passengers in an aura of hush and calm that is never compromised by the mechanicals. We suspect the company's engineers drew as much inspiration from David Ogilvy's purple advertising prose for the company as from the cars themselves.
That spectral hush also reveals another characteristic - the way the Ghost deals in approximations, rather than absolutes. There's nothing as vulgar as a rev counter or even a temperature gauge for the air conditioning. Instead, sliders control a terrifically efficient heating and cooling system that seems to know telepathically how to keep you comfortable.
By the same token, available power is displayed as a percentage and you will never, ever find you need more. The Ghost is an effortless car to drive (although its scale is slightly unnerving in large cities) and an even easier car to ride in, especially in the back, where commodious accommodation can be enhanced with every convenience (a stretch version is available for even more space).
In spooky coincidence, the company's product lines seem to intersect with those of near-rival Bentley like the gears of a cog. The flagship Rolls-Royce Phantom is priced above the flagship Bentley and each company's offerings cascade down from there without ever quite going totally head to head.
Nominally, the Ghost Series II has a competitor in the form of the rather more spirited Bentley Mulsanne (now with an even more potent 'Speed' model), but the two cars are very different in feel. Whereas both are pitched at 'owner-drivers', each company acknowledges that in certain markets the driver would never dream of getting behind the wheel.
Nevertheless, if you are tempted to take the helm you'll find the Ghost more than adequate for spirited, if slightly aloof, driving. Gliding, however, is much more in character.