The high-end luxury you expect and the driving character you don’t.

The 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost nails the basics. This car is stylish, luxurious, ostentatious, and so on – as all proper Rolls-Royce products are. But while this new version may not look or even seem all that dramatically different at first glance, once behind the wheel, it's obvious this Ghost is something special.

The key is what's underneath. For a while, the Rolls-Royce Ghost relied on BMW bones, but now the Baby Roller adopts the same underpinnings as its big siblings, the Cullinan and Phantom. Pair that new platform with some advanced suspension tech, a few first-ever features, and a whopping V12, and this new Ghost finally has the driving chops to match its good looks.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Exterior
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Exterior
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Exterior

High-Speed Yacht

Hiding under that gargantuan hood is the brand’s epic twin-turbocharged 6.8-liter V12. In past years, Rolls-Royce refused to say how much its cars produced – it was simply “adequate,” and that’s all you needed to know. But now the company proudly flaunts the Ghost’s 563 horsepower and 623 pound-feet, and for good reason: This car will absolutely hustle.

Foot flat to the floor and the “Low” drive mode selected (essentially the brand’s version of “Sport”), and the Ghost will launch to 60 in a claimed 4.6 seconds. That’s ridiculously quick for a car that weighs 5,700 pounds. Torque peaks at an early 1,600 rpm while that massive V12 keeps power built up to near redline. You can’t manually shift gears on the eight-speed automatic (though, why would you want to?), but the Ghost seamlessly rows its own with crisp decisiveness.

Above all else, the 2021 Ghost is an exceptional cruiser.

And like we said, this Ghost is actually a decent driver’s car – or, decent enough for a Rolls – thanks to some fancy suspension upgrades. Standard air springs plus road-monitoring adaptive dampers on top of another set of control-arm dampers (yo, dawg) work exceptionally well to counteract body roll. The addition of rear-axle steering and all-wheel drive for the first time also helps the Ghost feel more fluid around turns and easier to maneuver in tight parking lots. It certainly doesn’t drive as big as it looks.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Exterior

But above all else, the 2021 Ghost is an exceptional cruiser. That impressive new suspension geometry not only improves handling but also on-road comfort – as if that were even an issue. The new Ghost rides like a cloud riding on top of a cloud, absorbing bumps and breaks in the road without so much as a shrug and eating up highway miles better than any other car in this class can.

While the best way to experience a Rolls-Royce (even one this good) is still from the back seat, the new Ghost does make driving less taxing with new active safety equipment. A carryover of BMW’s safety tech, the Ghost gets adaptive cruise control with distance monitoring and lane-keep assist, and it all works well on the highway.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Interior
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Interior
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Interior

Addition By Subtraction

Rolls-Royce uses the term “post-opulence” to describe the look of the 2021 Ghost. What that means in layman’s terms is: less is more. Rolls-Royce designers kept it simple, ditching fussy front-end styling elements (like last generation’s three-box lower vent arrangement, curved headlights, and bulging grille) for more streamlined features.

Now a single rectangular opening decorates the bottom of the bumper, perfectly tapered LED headlights adorn either side of the fascia, and the signature waterfall grille now sits almost totally flush with the front end. And that grille has 20 embedded LEDs behind the slats that give off an ominous glow at night, because why not?

Even as the “smallest” Rolls, this is still a big vehicle.

Underneath the minimalist sheet metal is a new platform shared with the Cullinan SUV and Phantom – gone are last year’s 7 Series bones. With the new underpinnings in place, the Ghost stretches from 212.9 inches to a pretty significant 218.3 inches. Even as the “smallest” Rolls, this is still a big vehicle. And if you opt for the extended wheelbase model, that adds another 6.7 inches to the total length.

Naturally, that extra length lends itself to a hugely spacious cabin. For comparison’s sake, the inside of the standard 2021 Ghost is nearly as cavernous as last year’s long-wheelbase model. There’s a copious amount of headroom and legroom in the front seats, and even with those buckets fully reclined, the back bench offers lazy boy levels of comfort and space. Yes, the Phantom and the Cullinan are still roomier, but even the backseat of the baby Rolls still feels properly spacious given its comparably diminutive size.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Interior
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Interior
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Interior
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Interior

Old Money, New Features

As expected, the materials inside of the 2021 Ghost are incomparable. The company is coy on specifics, but our car gets a handsome mix of the highest-quality white, black, and orange leather draped over the seats, dash, and door panels – buyers can pretty much customize the cabin however they’d like. An illuminated “GHOST” emblem lives on the passenger side dash – in case you forget what you’re driving – and for the first time, this model gets the brand’s lauded starlight headliner, which is one of our favorite features anywhere.

A lot of the same old-school elements we’ve come to expect of Rolls-Royce products, though, do carry over. For example, there are no silly screens or touch-capacitive controls for simple functions like temperature or audio – tried-and-true aluminum knobs and dials litter the cleanly laid-out dash.

That old-fashioned approach, though, also applies to the in-car tech; Rolls-Royce simply reconfigured BMW’s outdated iDrive 6 software with nicer graphics. The setup gets wired Apple CarPlay (if you have a compatible USB-C device), but not Android Auto, and there is no wireless compatibility outside of Bluetooth. Even poverty-stricken BMW offers wireless CarPlay and Android Auto.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Exterior

The Pinnacle

There is no other car in this class that exemplifies the concept of high-end luxury quite like the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost. It is the most opulent and upscale vehicle you’ll find outside of, well, another Rolls-Royce. And with a thoughtful evolution applied for 2021, highlighted by a new minimalist exterior design, extra power, and for the first time ever, solid driving dynamics, the Ghost grows even more appealing.

Even as the so-called “cheapest” Rolls-Royce, the company does price this new version at $332,500 to start. And with a few dozen options, the car tested here costs a mind-numbing $432,000. But for the exceptionally well off, that’s a relatively small price to pay for a vehicle that looms so large and drives so well.

Competitors

Gallery: 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost: First Drive

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

Engine Twin-Turbocharged 6.8-Liter V12
Output 563 Horsepower / 627 Pound-Feet
Transmission 8-Speed Automatic
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Speed 0-60 MPH 4.6 Seconds
Maximum speed 155 MPH (electronically limited)
Efficiency 12 City / 14 Highway / 19 Combined
Weight 5,490 Pounds
Seating Capacity 5
Cargo Volume 17.9 Cubic Feet
Base Price $332,500
As-Tested Price $432,000