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The greatness of the Ghost is the fact you cannot stereotype its buyer: Jon Simms of Rolls Royce

S. Muralidhar | Updated on September 28, 2020 Published on September 28, 2020

Jon Simms, Engineering Lead, Rolls Royce

Luxury car brand’s new Ghost is loaded up to its gills with new tech, more features and an even better magic carpet ride. Here’s more from an inside man

Uber luxury car brand Rolls-Royce Motor Cars recently launched the new Ghost, its smaller four-door saloon. Barely a fortnight later, it followed that up with the Ghost extended wheelbase; both cars can be ordered by Indian buyers right away. Though the actual prices are highly dependent on buyer customisation, they start at ₹6.95 crore for the Ghost and ₹7.95 crore for the Extended Wheelbase (both ex-showroom).

This is the second generation Ghost, and is said to be all-new compared to the predecessor that was launched in 2010. In fact, RR says that only the iconic ‘spirit of ecstasy’ mascot and the famous door umbrellas have been carried forward from the first-gen model. This is also the first time in Rolls-Royce’s 116-year history that so much new technology has gone into a new model. RR feels that it is a reflection of the evolution of the luxury car buyer and the demographics indicate new geographies and younger age-profile of the average buyer compared to a decade earlier. How has the buyer for the Ghost changed? What is the inside story about of some of the key new features?

BusinessLine spoke with Rolls-Royce’s Jon Simms, Engineering Lead for the new Ghost.Excerpts:

This is the second generation Ghost, a relatively young brand for Rolls-Royce, targeting a younger buyer globally. But do you really think that this buyer has evolved in just the ten years that it has been in the market?

In part the answer would be yes, but more importantly for the Ghost what has happened is that it opened us out for a wider range of buyers. And that is interesting for me personally as someone who has been involved in the journey with the original Goodwood Ghost and the new one. I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of both potential clients and current owners.

What is really great is the fact that one cannot stereotype what the Ghost client will be. Many want to drive themselves and others would prefer to be chauffeured. There are those that want it, for example, with body colours that reflect a young contemporary vibe and there are others that might want to go with the darker traditional Ghost two-tone colours to be a traditional motor car. The gift, so to say, that it has given Rolls-Royce is this ability to appeal to a wider audience.

This term ‘Post-Opulent’ is interesting being used in the new Ghost’s communications. Isn’t that Rolls-Royce’s philosophy across models?

The phrase Post-Opulent was something that we used as an orientation when we were going through the development process. And there is a tendency amongst engineers and designers that when they are faced with long product cycles, they could end up with this influx of creative energy making them want to change everything. But the message from our CEO and top management was to use this as an orientation phrase to help us understand that with the new Ghost we are trying to show that our clients are connoisseurs, not by shouting about it, but show that through the purity of lines and the quality of materials in the new Ghost. And that is what we wanted to focus all of our efforts and energies on.

 

Right from day one of the first Goodwood Rolls-Royces, they’ve been quite minimalist and pared back, but with the Ghost we wanted to push that even further. And that’s why some of the refined details on the body structure, like removing creases and joint lines that may otherwise be visible, were done at the manufacturing process level. These helped channelise the energy of the design, development and production teams into producing a car that has all of that craftsmanship, but still without the need for shouting about what it contents really is.

Can you tell me more about the space frame architecture and what kind of changes has the new Ghost seen? Any of those that have been driven by regulatory needs?

For us the architecture of luxury is something we started with the Phantom. We realised that we needed a stable architecture that we understood, and could develop over many years and use as the backbone for a number of our products. Many other manufacturers in the automotive segment are faced with this constant uphill struggle where they have to frequently take up another architecture and go through the whole learning process all over again.

For Rolls-Royce, however, the space frame architecture is somewhat like a sophisticated Meccano set focussed on giving the structure a lot of stiffness and rigidity. But also use it to make it more configurable and bring in more benefits like tuning the chassis to not only work for stiffness but also for incorporating the low-range speakers to have ports into the sills of the car to boost acoustic performance. Having our own platform, it also helps us look at finer details like we have created more clean space in the rear cabin by having an uninterrupted, flat footwell because we’ve buried all of the wiring harnesses and control units etc. underneath in the space we created in the floor pan.

So, the space frame allows us to design from the ground up and it delivers more dynamism and a better cabin environment.

 

The new Planar suspension system uses GPS and a combination of cameras and sensors. How does this work and is it an extension of the GPS-based transmission that we have already seen in other Rolls-Royce models?

The suspension system has now multiple layers to it, both electronic and mechanical. It has a camera-based control called the ‘flag-bearer’ system which has the linkage to the suspension and anti-roll system electronically. This enables the new Ghost to locate larger imperfections on the road ahead, such as undulations, potholes etc., and prepare the suspension instantly to allow the vehicle to pass over those with minimal effort. The system literally has thousands of calculations where its actually trying to arrive at the optimum pre-loading for the suspension and anti-roll systems to encounter what the vehicle is about to traverse.

The Planar system is more related to the mechanical side. It is an application of a very old mechanical theory involving removing energy transfer into the body of the vehicle. The upper wishbone at the front suspension of the car which moves up and down as the car goes over the undulations on the road. And to that we have mounted what seems like another wishbone, but it has a swinging mass at the top which has a rubber damper to it. And so, as the wishbone gets an impact from the road, it also has to move this mass, and that has the effect of taking out any energy transfer to the body contributing to furthering the magic carpet ride for the Ghost’s occupants.

Given the observed trend where more and more of Ghost buyers are driving the car themselves, have you had to increase in-car driver assistance systems, add features like a user-interface with gesture control and the like?

Yes, there is a lot of technology that is meant to deliver intuitive and useful features for the driver. We still have features like self-park, adaptive cruise control, and unlike the poorly integrated infotainment systems of some of the other manufacturers, the Ghost’s is effortless and not glitchy. Again, our focus is the ability to provide an interface that our clients can use intuitively, and can touch and experience. But our infotainment system has still moved on a level with both digital and analog controls; so is still driver and technology focused.

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Published on September 28, 2020
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