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Rolls-Royce Ghost review - Luxury's first resort

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Aug 17, 2011
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The aura of a Rolls-Royce ‘motor car', as being the ‘Pinnacle of Luxury' would seem like the handiwork of a maverick marketing brain. The aura has been cultivated meticulously over many decades and it is so central to the brand that ‘Luxury' will almost always be the first attribute that anyone will ever think of when they talk of a Rolls-Royce.

In fact, the RR image has acquired generic proportions and references like ‘this is the Rolls-Royce of pens' or ‘the Rolls-Royce of watches' are common now. But, you have to step into the Phantom or the new Ghost to truly understand the lengths to which the Rolls-Royce brand's previous and even current owners go to maintain its reputation as the world's most prestigious car brand.

Perfect interiors

From the picky, crazy, attention to detail that Rolls-Royce's designers and handcrafters bring to the brand to reflect its penchant for supreme quality and luxury, it would seem that they all suffer from some kind of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Consider this: to ensure that the leather used for the seats and trim is flawless, it is only sourced from bulls free of any previous history of serious disease and which have been raised in pastures free of barbed wire, so that there are no imperfections.

The wood trim used in the Phantom and the Ghost are all handcrafted. An entire set for one car takes 30 days to produce and pieces are chosen to have a mirror image effect throughout the car. Each car has its own unique identity and Rolls-Royce even keeps an archive of veneers from every log of wood ever used to build its cars, which means a car requiring repair years later could still have matching veneers!

To be sure that there is no ambiguity about the level of luxurious attention to detail lavished on even the most mundane, you just have to look up at the headliner in a new ‘Rolls'. The lining on the underside of the car roof is made of ninety per cent pure wool from Australia and ten per cent cashmere from North China. Lambs wool from California is used for the rugs.

And then there are the famous Teflon-coated umbrellas that are integrated within the front doors and are kept dry to make sure that the VIP being escorted from the back seat doesn't get wet from the rain dripping off the tips. How did they do that? Housed within the cylindrical slot where the umbrella is stored is an air channel that has been designed in way to allow a steady stream of warm air, which dries the umbrella in minutes!

Classic build, contemporary touches

I was test driving the Ghost in Mumbai last week and the monsoon had picked up pace. The sales manager from Rolls-Royce's dealership had assured me that I would be safe even if there was a raging storm outside – not because of the dry umbrella, but because every Rolls is put through a Monsoon test (very aptly named). The test involves every Rolls-Royce car being subjected to a 30-minute deluge. If, after the test, the total amount of ‘moisture' in the car exceeds one drop of water, it is sent back to the production line for corrective action!

The Ghost is the latest Rolls model, which from concept stage made it to the roads in September 2009. Along with the Phantom Drophead coupe, the Ghost is an embodiment of the remarkable ability of this historic brand to reinvent itself to be relevant today despite its legacy and at the same time without giving up on its heritage.

Though it is targeted at the tie-wearing royalty of today and so is more practically sized and loaded with tech, the Ghost too is a true Roll-Royce in every way. Retaining the core values that make this marquee unique, the Ghost has been designed and kitted out to carry forward the RR signature and offer the same level of luxury and refinement that the predecessors have been known for.

It incorporates the classic Rolls design cues – the elevated prow, the long bonnet, short front overhang, sharply raked A-pillar and the elegant, yet strong tail. In keeping with the modern interpretation that the Ghost was meant to be, Rolls-Royce designers and engineers have added contemporary touches like the self-righting wheel centres, in which the RR logo always stands upright, the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot which electronically retracts into the bonnet and the new version of the brand's famous Parthenon bonnet grille.

The Ghost is meant for younger Indian buyers, but I can hazard a guess that they would still want to be chauffeured around. So, while in Mumbai I chose that experience too. Sitting back and sinking into the leather seats, I make do with Evian in the absence of Champagne. The cabin is extremely silent and the airconditioning discreet, but very effective. But, it is also only at the rear that I sense the central purpose of a Rolls-Royce's design – to make the occupants cosseted and comfortable.

The Ghost features the same, traditional rear-hinged coach doors that are a RR specialty and which have made elegant entry and easy exit for royalty for years. In the Ghost, they open to a generous 83 degrees. Some have also referred to this style of coach doors as ‘suicide doors'. Even as I recall that, Rolls-Royce officials tell me it is to the contrary, because in a Rolls-Royce, the doors protect privacy and the person even after they are opened.

Apparently, a famous current day R&B singer and Hollywood actor discovered this after she stepped out of a Rolls and was saved from getting trampled by paparazzi thanks to the two open doors acting like barriers. There is no better car to step out on to the red carpet. Once in, you can close these doors at the touch of a button.

Inside the Ghost and at the rear, the high shoulder line, the lounge rear seat ensures privacy and intimacy. The rear seat is positioned behind the C-pillar for more privacy and the mild curve of the seat allows the passengers to turn more easily towards each other. Individual lounge seating is offered as an alternative to the standard lounge configuration. This is said to allow additions like a massage function and also perforated leather for a cool stream of air from the seat to keep royal butts (possibly even insured for millions) comfortable.

Rolls-Royce was the original automobile which was offered with a mind-boggling variety of bespoke options. You can pretty much have everything changed to suit your tastes and preferences. Leather, wood, metal, plastic, lighting, badging etc., all of these can be customised. Frosted lamps, chrome door handles, traditional violin key switches, eye-ball air vents, frosted white dials and deep pile carpets are all trademark Rolls-Royce signatures inside the Ghost that I was driving.

Being the one

The Ghost weighs nearly two and a half tonnes, but it is no lumbering elephant. It is the most powerful car ever produced by Rolls-Royce. Powered by a brand new 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 engine that is unique to the Ghost, it produces 563 bhp of peak power – enough to cross the 100 kmph mark on the odo within 4.7 seconds. There is a total of 780Nm of peak torque on tap from as low as 1,500 rpm.

The transmission paired with the direct injection engine is an eight-speed, shift-by-wire, automatic ZF gearbox. But, you have to experience the remarkable driving dynamics that these equipment bring to the Ghost, it can't be easily explained. There is absolutely no lurching or rash acceleration, even when you stomp the throttle. The acceleration is immediate and strong, and yet, you just don't get pinned to the back rest. Like Rolls-Royce says, power arrives in an elegant way that some have described as being designed to lower the pulse, not raise it.

There is so much power on tap at any point on the drive that it felt like I wasn't testing it well enough. The feature I liked was the power reserve gauge located on the fascia with the rest of the instrument cluster. Replacing the common rev counter, this gauge shows the amount of power you are using up at any point during the drive. I was weaving through Mumbai traffic in the rain and letting loose the horses on short stretches. Accelerating up to about 110 kmph, I observed that the engine still had about 60 per cent of its power in reserve!

The Rolls-Royce Ghost shares only about 20 per cent of its parts with the BMW 7-Series, a clarification which put to rest some of the early speculation about its uniqueness. It is loaded with as much technology for safety and user-friendliness as the 7-Series, including a variation of BMW iDrive. Yet, the Roll-Royce touch of class is very distinct.

The Ghost's suspension is both practical and accommodating to make sure that the passengers at the rear never get to feel the road. The new intelligent, four-cornered air suspension system is so sensitive, that its complex computer system reads multiple inputs from sensors around the car and the dampers alone make individual load calculations every 2.5 milliseconds.

For the Indian luxury car buyer, the Rolls-Royce Ghost can be the third or fourth car in the garage, though it will probably quickly become the primary choice. If you aren't possessed by one yet, be done with your boy's toys and come home to the Ghost. Your dad will approve of it.

Published on July 27, 2011
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