Borrowing a Ghost for a weekend in Malibu, we taste what “real” Rolls ownership is like.
– Los Angeles, California
There are few feelings grander than showing up at the airport with a brand new Rolls-Royce Ghost waiting in your name. I was lucky to have just that experience, while traveling to California over the New Year’s weekend, to attend a posh wedding in Malibu.
In addition to enjoying attention from strangers and impressing my friends, the coastal California enclave was a fine place to see how Rolls drivers actually live. There are few places where a Ghost isn’t a rare sighting, but here I saw two other Rolls-Royce over a few days, just at the gas station nearest my hotel.
And though the Ghost looked the part at the front of every hotel and was given special dispensation at restaurants, it nevertheless has some inherent flaws where our new scoring system is concerned. Price, as you’ll no doubt guess, limits the verdict score simply because of its more-than-my-house bottom line.
With an MSRP of $311,900, and an almost mind-blowing as-tested price of $394,525, the Ghost II is amongst the most expensive and exclusive cars that money can buy. Of course, the monumental sticker price relative to “normal” cars means the Roller scores very low here, but it’s fair to mention that the Ghost is even exceedingly expensive in the rarefied world of ultra-luxury vehicles. The Mercedes-Maybach S560 is hardly the “poor man’s” Rolls, despite its comparatively frugal $168,600 starting price.
With the $44,350 Henley Inspiration package providing for this two-tone, white over silver paint, and a rakish orange pinstripe, my Ghost managed to be lovely, imposing, and just a little bit playful, all at once. The huge sedan looks impossibly grand from every angle, with the 21-inch five-spoke alloy wheels just sporting enough to give the car a dash of sport.
Full points. It’s when you first open the magically balanced rear door of the Ghost that you start to understand where all the money goes, and why. This interior features things that you’d expect: a whisper-quiet cabin at speed, magical ride quality, lambswool carpets that encourage passengers to go barefoot, and leather so buttery I smell toast when I look at it. There’s also the joy of the unexpected: Mandarin Orange leather accents that pick up the pinstriping hue and bring it indoors, lovely brightwork of polished stainless steel, wood trim pieces so thick that the locks make a faint, rich echoing sound when they go down.
With a nearly $10,000 custom audio system, as well, even listening to NPR feels like an exercise in opulence as one rolls down the road.
One of our points of rating for this category is called “new or novel features,” an area where Rolls-Royce and other exotic cars can be hit or miss. Sure, there’s a starlight headliner (which augments the interior score), but like many other slow-to-evolve nameplates, the Ghost makes use of slightly outdated tech. The rotary controllers (front and back), are fine but slightly slow in navigating the multitudinous infotainment menus, and the screens themselves aren’t up to the standard of even new BMWs like the X3 I recently rated.
Factor in the missing Android Auto and Apple CarPlay systems – admittedly probably low on the request list for Ghost buyers, but still – and you get a very average score for a vehicle that is by all other measures world-class.
It’s inevitable that the Ghost, or other cars that compete with it, earn mixed ratings where performance and handling are concerned. On one hand you have the engine, a stunning biturbo 6.6-liter V12 with 563 horsepower, 605 pound-feet of torque, and more than ample power for putting the paparazzi in one’s rear view mirror.
And, as I discovered while inelegantly bombing around on some great canyon roads, this big lady will actually hold the road in a corner better than expected. Still, it’s clear that the car was made for efficient handling, not really driving pleasure. Feel from the delicate-rimmed steering wheel is zero, and the effort is majorly boosted, which feels really odd for a car as heavy as a dump truck.
In addition to feeling as though it’s built like a bank vault, and looking the part, the Ghost has just about all the safety features you’d expect from a car that ferries the world’s elite. Scores of systems work tirelessly to keep Sir or Madam from crashing, alongside excellent supplemental visibility by way of cameras, and a head-up display to keep the driver’s eyes on the road.
With close to 600 horsepower and a curb weight well over 5,000 pounds, the Ghost will never be accused of being a fuel sipper. With its lurid 12 city and 18 highway EPA ratings, and the attendant $2,600 Gas Guzzler tax, this is far from the Ghost’s strongest suit. Do actual shoppers in this space care? Entirely doubtful.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com