The Machine in the Ghost: taking a first look at the brand-new Rolls-Royce Ghost
Tempus discovers the meaning of post-opulence and complex simplicity with the second generation of this iconic luxury car
My reintroduction to the modern Rolls-Royce began with expeditions in the masterful Cullinan SUV and beautiful Dawn convertible grand tourer. Through driving these cars, with their distinct personalities, I started to understand the thinking behind the new generation of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars – and a new level of intense customer focus.
Driven by extensive feedback from a growing global customer base, the new generation of Rolls-Royce owners has truly shaped the design thinking of the brand, culminating in the creation of the Ghost in 2009. Since that launch, the Ghost has gone on to become one of the most popular Rolls- Royce vehicles of all time; and each evolution is a direct response to customers’ demand for a luxury car that can be driven, as well as be driven in.
The very proportions of the car underline this subtle shift when compared to its bigger brother, the legendary Phantom. The Ghost’s B-pillar, delicately proportioned between front and rear seats, gives greater amplitude to the driver, while leaving ample legroom in the rear, all surrounded by superbly fashioned, uncluttered luxury.
“Post-opulent” is the term Rolls-Royce uses to describe the new 2020 Ghost, and the brand’s move to simplify design and make the car more subtle, while still maintaining quality, whichcomestogethertodeliveraluxurious, fully immersive customer experience.
Among those pared-back design notes and unbroken lines are the refined, sweeping curves that mask the vehicle’s overall size. Even the legendary Pantheon grille has been refashioned with a more minimalist touch, while the addition of internal lighting to the grille reinforces Ghost’s historic lineage. The traditional rib down the centre bonnet line (a throwback to the straight-hinge lines of cars
from the 1920s and ’30s) has been replaced by an elegant scallop that leads the eye from the dashboard to the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy. All superfluous details and unnecessary shut lines have now been removed, leaving the new Ghost with a cleaner and somehow more delicate appearance.
On my recent visit to Goodwood, the home of Rolls-Royce with its history of quality and excellence, to test drive the latestmodel,onenaturallysetthebarhigh –veryhigh.ButIsoonfindIamnotthe only one to do so. Speaking with Jonathan Simms, engineering lead for the new Ghost, it is clear that this car represents a new benchmark for the brand, particularly in terms of attention to detail.
“The brief we were given for the character of the new Ghost was ‘perfection in simplicity’,” he says. “It’s really a car that whispers; it doesn’t shout.”
THE HARMONICS OF SILENCE
These whispers are clear in how the model’s engineers challenged themselves to overcome even the smallest details, such as the resonance of the cabin itself. Road noise is all but eliminated by unique harmonisation of the aluminium seat frames, which are fitted with tiny dampers used to tune their harmonic resonance to the same note as the rest of the cabin.
Similarly, the cavernous boot space contains a series of eustachian tubes, like small trumpets, to manage air flow and prevent low frequency booming on the motorway. The Ghost brings all these independent elements into perfect acoustic harmony within the cabin; like one great orchestra, but one designed for silence.
These incredibly fine details deliver exceptionally low levels of road noise, which Rolls-Royce then fills with the sounds you do want to hear – including a Bespoke Audio system that has advanced to become, quite literally, part of the fabric of the car. The bass speakers are built into the sills, providing space for significant air movement for ultra-low frequency sound, while the headlining itself becomes a resonating speaker, tuned to deliver multi-directional sound to further assist the legion of pitched speakers that are littered invisibly about the interior.
While it’s fair to say that silent running has always been synonymous with Rolls-Royce motorcars, as has the smoothness of ride, the new Ghost takes this to another level, with innovations that make the car beautiful to drive.
KNOWING THE ROAD AHEAD
The new Ghost is the first of a new generation of cars to be fitted with Rolls-Royce’s advanced planar suspension system – a patented friction damper that isolates and absorbs wheel vibration to quieten the drive. Sounds simple and, conceptually, it is, with horizontal arms that cradle the upper wishbones to significantly reduce the transfer of vertical shock into the vehicle’s alloy body, which is another example of Rolls-Royce engineers thinking outside the box in the pursuit of perfection.
Other innovations such as a terrain-seeking radar, that scans the road immediately ahead of the car, which then makes millions of tiny adjustments to the suspension to perfectly prepare the car for the road it is about to travel – are coupled with a GPS system that maps the road ahead, allowing the car to autonomously select the right gear to take into the next bend.
All this electronic wizardry is powered by the hugely capable 6.75ltr, 600hp twin-turbo-charged V12 engine and a new all-wheel drive and four- wheel steering system, which makes the car feel light and agile despite its size and stature. By combining all these elements, Rolls-Royce has delivered a driving experience that is second to none, enjoyed in unrivalled comfort and luxury.
But it’s when driving at pace that the Ghost takes on a personality of its own, remaining rock solid on the road, with good traction and quick turn in, coupled with herculean, but effortless, acceleration. The silence and smoothness of ride masks its outright speed, and the blistering performance completes the all-round driving experience.
On the surface, the Ghost appears uncomplicated. But, like the clean lines and simplicity of a high-quality Swiss watch, its aesthetic beauty masks the incredible technical achievements contained within.
Many years ago, a good friend in the Army told me: “Tell me the time and not how the clock works”. The Ghost is the embodiment of this phrase, which, in my view, is the definition of the brand’s complex simplicity.
For owners looking for effortless luxury in every aspect of the car’s delivery, without having to trouble themselves with how this perfection is achieved, the new Ghost must be the go-to vehicle of choice for those opulent high-net- worth individuals who favour a more subtle “post-opulent” luxury experience.