The Rolls-Royce Ghost is a minimalist of the range
The Ghost is the most technologically advanced vehicle ever made by the British luxury automobile maker
It’s a funny time to be peddling ultra-luxury, or post-opulence, as Rolls-Royce would have us call it. As the company itself acknowledges, even though its customers operate within stratospheric wealth levels, there are still different layers of identity to cater for. Top of the tree is the Phantom, the quintessential grand limousine, a canvas for self-expression and still an unequivocal declaration of status. Two years ago, the company launched the Cullinan, its first SUV. Not a car for shrinking violets, the Cullinan is a Rolls for lovers of oversized logos and statements that need little decoding. As well as its niche Wraith and Dawn models and the potent Black Badge variants, there’s also this, the ‘minimalist of the range,’ the all-new Rolls-Royce Ghost.
The first Rolls-Royce Ghost debuted in 2009, pitched at those super luxury consumers who usually drove themselves and didn’t want every journey to resemble a state opening. It was an unqualified success, swiftly becoming the most successful car to bear the Rolls-Royce name since it was founded in 1904. The all-new Ghost epitomises Rolls’ self-identified era of ‘post-opulence,’ being ever more starkly minimal in its visual form than ever before. Despite the car’s impressive size, the design team – headed up Henry Cloke – has pared back the surfaces to let the form and scale breathe without interruption. Even the Spirit of Ecstasy stands atop the radiator in glorious solitude amidst an ocean of smooth bonnet.
‘We take a lot of inspiration from architecture and yachts,’ Cloke admits, and there’s a Miesian meticulousness to the way edges are chamfered and bumpers blend into bodywork. The upright stance evokes the vertical bows of contemporary superyachts, while the coach doors are still unlike anything on the market, offering up a grand entrance and exit should you so desire. The sweep of bodywork that incorporates the rear flank, large D-pillar and roof is only made possible through hours and hours of hand welding, the kind of costly, labour-intensive detail unavailable to any other manufacturer.
Little touches of decadence like the backlit stainless steel grille, the weighted wheel centres that keep the ‘RR’ badge upright and the door-mounted umbrellas (now established social media favourites) are tucked away, visible only to those in the know. It’s the same with the interior, which keeps technology on mute and out of sight. ‘Our tech is there when you need it. The dashboard isn’t cluttered up with buttons,’ says Cloke, ‘we enjoy analogue. Working on a Rolls-Royce is about removing complexity. There might be more parts, but there is less visual complication.’ Four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering are added for the first time to make Ghost manoeuvrable and wieldy, while power is supplied by Rolls’ mighty 6.75 litre V12 engine.
Driving Ghost is a serene experience. The engine noise is imperceptible, yet the power is massively effective, with steering that feels like almost psychically connected to the road. Despite this, Ghost is a car that demands to be driven sedately, and the blanket of hush that descends on the cabin as the doors close themselves turns every trip into a game of extreme quality control. We’re told that even the air conditioning system uses special noise-cancelling pipework. The engineering team is especially proud of a new damping system that makes the car glide, rather than ride, over the bumps. To the layman, this looks a little bit like the Ghost suspension has its own suspension, indicative of the lengths the company goes to cosset its customers.
And as for discretion? You’re only kidding yourself if you believe that a Ghost is some kind of stealth wealth statement. Just as a superyacht, villa or penthouse can be superficially minimalist, the cost of paring things back to the bare ‘essentials’ while keeping quality and performance at stratospheric levels doesn’t come cheap. Then there’s the elephant in the room; the total absence of electrification. Rolls-Royce claims to be entirely ‘customer-led’ when it comes to rolling out new innovations; right now, its customers don’t want to be burdened by the somewhat hit-and-miss nature of EV charging; range anxiety will never be a premium emotion.
But even RR can’t escape the dread hand of the regulator. But while other companies are making a virtue of targets and promises, RR is playing its cards very close to its lavishly veneered chest, claiming that right now, the Ghost will be petrol-powered and nothing else. We can be almost certain that they’re bluffing, if only because their parent company is the mighty BMW. Given how advanced BMW’s EV systems are, together with its frequent forays into zero emission tech like hydrogen power, we can be sure that Rolls won’t remain the only unelectrified card in BMW’s hand for long. The auto industry is notoriously far-reaching in its planning, so you can be 100% sure that an EV Rolls-Royce lurks in the wings. For now, Ghost depends on that mighty V12, retaining its membership of the elite club of the superfluously-cylindered automobile.
‘We take a lot of inspiration from architecture and yachts,’ says Henry Cloke, Rolls-Royce Exterior Designer
A newly announced extended version of the Ghost adds an all-important 170mm of rear space, complete with champagne fridge. Other options, available on all models, simply bump up the ambience, including the signature ‘Starlight headliner’, tables, screens, monograms, special order wood, upholstery, cloth, carpets, stitching, etc. The list is limited only by your imagination – and for those who are wealthy yet imaginatively challenged, the Rolls-Royce design team is at your disposal to help you make a definitive statement.
Rolls-Royce has always represented a strand of quietly conservative strand of modernity, a description that probably applies to many of its clients. New Ghost debuted at the same time as a new corporate identity, shaped by Pentagram. Featuring a discretely updated Spirit of Ecstasy, a new colour palette, with purple as the dominant brand hue, the adoption of sans serif ‘Rivera Nights’ as the corporate typeface and what the company is calling The Spirit of Ecstasy Expression, a flowing, wave-like pattern that blends craft with high-tech. Consider this car a last, glorious foray into the realm of the fossil fuelled, a machine so refined that it matters not a jot what powers it. §