Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: March 31, 2021
The unveiling of the Rolls-Royce Ghost marked a pivoting point for the British marque. Not only did it attract new clients that were more diverse and younger than before, but it made people want to drive their Rolls-Royces, unlike the chauffeur-centric Phantom. With a relatively modest-sized wheelbase, beautiful proportions, and a magic carpet ride, it’s easy to see why the Ghost is the brand’s best selling vehicle in their 116-year history.
The first-generation Ghost successfully weathered the test of time with its superb on-road mannerisms and in-cabin charm, but Rolls-Royce’s growing number of clients demanded a car with more modern technology, more focus on the driving experience, and all the luxury available but without the flashiness. They didn’t want just a shrunken-down baby Phantom either.
In response, the new second-generation 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost has been fully revamped with new looks, more tech, a brand new platform, and a clever suspension setup. Ditch your BMW jokes and cheap jabs because the Ghost now rides on an all-aluminum platform that currently underpins the Cullinan and Phantom, and it shares nothing with the BMW 7 Series. This allowed Rolls-Royce to equip the Ghost with all-wheel drive for the first time, and rear-wheel steering for better maneuverability.
With the new space frame underpinnings, the Ghost is slightly larger than before, growing 89 mm in length and 30 mm in width, benefitting interior space. And while the Ghost does not appear radically different from the outgoing model, the sheetmetal has been pulled back, tightened, and manicured to produce a sportier and more eye-pleasing silhouette. In our eyes, it’s the best looking vehicle they make, and quite surprising to see how outdated it makes the first-generation model appear.
You can tell there is no clear emphasis on either the front or rear end of the Ghost - everything is in equal and homogenous proportions. The pantheon grill is wider and taller, and there is no longer a separate radiator section in the front hood where the Spirit of Ecstasy used to hide. Twenty small LEDs have been mounted underneath the top of the grill, shining down on the slats for more road presence at night. The headlights are larger too, and the trunk lid is slanted just a touch more than before. We’ve also got new paint colours like Tempest Grey you see on our test vehicle, which comes off similar to Porsche’s Chalk or Aston Martin’s China Grey, and looks absolutely stunning no matter the lighting conditions.
Rolls-Royce haven’t just responded with handsome new looks and called it a day. To ensure Ghost owners aren’t disturbed by unpleasant noises, Rolls-Royce have added 100 kg of sound deadening materials. How much do you ask? Well it’s in the doors, between the double-glazed windows, inside the tires, and they even put felting inside the air vents to keep them from blowing too loudly. And here’s another first world problem. Rolls-Royce said that they ended up making the cabin too quiet, resulting in an off-putting and disorienting ride, so they leaked in a bit of noise from the engine bay and trunk to create a more uniform tone. Think of it like white noise for the rich.
What else is on the menu? Well we’ve seen the self-closing, power-assisted front and rear doors before but for the first time, the Ghost receives power-opening rear doors too. All you have to do is pull and hold the door handle from the inside and it will slowly swing outwards. Letting go of the handle engages the door brakes. Yes, the doors have their own braking system. Once outside, simply press the button on the door handle and it will close itself. Call it an electronic butler. The Ghost also receives blind spot monitoring for the first time and trust me, you’ll want that - the blind spots here on this massive land yacht are quite significant.
The rest of the cabin is similar to what you find in the Phantom and Cullinan, and exudes the same upscale vibe and atmosphere that tingles every one of your senses. White leather wouldn’t be my first choice due to its high upkeep - my Uniqlo jeans don’t feel worthy of these dead cows - but the Tailored Purple stitching makes for a stunning spec, and matches with the key fob as well. Rolls-Royce got rid of those awkward air holes that used to sit on the center stack, and did their best to eliminate as much surface plastic as possible, so much of what you see is actual chrome, leather, and wood.
There are gadgets and tech galore, but only if you look for it. The Ghost never thrusts it on your lap. Rather, everything is hidden to not distract you from the exquisite craftsmanship. The power-operated picnic tables are stowed and disguised as seat back panels and whizz out at the push of a button, while the rotary dial that controls the rear-seat infotainment lays hidden underneath the center console. The same goes for the cooler box that’s stowed behind the center seat - champagne flutes included.
Rolls-Royce only serves up two ambient lighting colours: warm white and cool white, which just goes to show you how idiotic it looks to drive around while basked in bright green. The brilliantly designed Shooting Star Headliner will cover the rest of the illumination for you. It fires off shooting stars in random patterns and you can witness one around every ten seconds.
Our test vehicle was the short wheelbase model and while my six-foot figure finds it more spacious than a long wheelbase 7 Series, when sitting behind myself and the picnic tables are down, it can feel a little cramped. The extra 180 mm of legroom on the extended wheelbase model are surely welcome for those that aim to spend the majority of time being chauffeured.
The Ghost is motivated by a 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 derived from the BMW N74 engine used in the M760Li, but with unique engine mapping for a total output of 563 hp and 627 lb-ft. The engine has been mounted behind the front axle for optimal 50/50 weight distribution, and the Ghost routes that power through an 8-speed ZF transmission, sprinting from 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds. Not bad for a 2,553 kg castle on wheels.
The V12 is a strong and willing companion, and with maximum torque delivered at just 1,600 rpm, the Ghost feels somewhat light and athletic under acceleration. There’s thrust no matter what RPM you find yourself in, and gear transitions are seamless and smooth, never letting a hesitant cog or gear slip surface. The engine is also extremely quiet. Most V12 engines that we pilot are dramatic, bombastically loud melting pots of fuel and oxygen, but even under wide open throttle, the Ghost purrs like a sleeping kitten. Driving it reveals a delicate combination of mechanical and electronic brilliance, muting all the nuisances in the outside world and letting the purity of locomotion shine through.
And to ensure that the new Ghost delivers the most comfortable ride possible, it uses three tricks. The first is a flagbearer system that reads the road ahead, using the army of cameras and radars to preload the suspension and make adjustments on the fly for any changes in road surface, like potholes and sharp corners. The next is a satellite-aided 8-speed ZF transmission system that draws GPS data to preload dampers and pre-select the optimum gear for upcoming corners. The final and most important trick up its sleeve is the Upper Wishbone Damper, which is essentially a damper for the dampers. It removes as much energy transfer as possible, and creates that magical floating-on-land effect that makes the Ghost such a joy to ride in.
The end result is remarkable. The Ghost melts pavement and isolates the majority of vertical chassis movements, no matter the type of impact. Speed bumps barely even register, and it compresses and dilutes it into a mild shudder, only noticeable when anticipating it. It’s like riding on Japan’s bullet train, the shinkansen. Do you think you will notice a small pebble over the train tracks? You get that same kind of exceptional high-stability here. Not even the Cullinan or Wraith felt this composed in limiting pitch and yaw, and the way this Rolls induces such a calm and tranquil state of mind feels therapeutic, like a combusting V12 remedy for anxiety. The Ghost keeps the acoustics in check too, so silent you might even hear real ghosts. Wind noise is virtually absent at any speed under 120 km/h. Figures above and only the mildest frequencies of wind turbulence will seep through behind the driver’s ears.
Struck gold on GME? Well there’s really no better way to celebrate than with the new Ghost. It’s our favourite Rolls-Royce in the lineup not just for its manageable footprint but for its outstanding road stability, near-silent V12 engine, and its supernatural ability to neutralize every small suspension movement. The Ghost provides a regal bubble of luxury and extravagance, turning a daily commute into a daily escape. Drive or be driven, it really doesn’t matter. You won’t find a better method of transportation on four wheels.
Model: 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost SWB
Paint Type: Tempest Grey
Base Price: $343,140
Price as Tested: $461,074
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,546 / 2,148 / 1,571
Curb weight (kg): 2,553
Engine: 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12
Horsepower: 563 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 627 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 22.4 / 11.0
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 18.7
Tires: Pirelli Sottozero