Spiritual experience (Rolls-Royce Ghost)

2010 Rolls-Royce GhostAffordable luxury might seem like an oxymoron, but in the case of Rolls-Royce’s Ghost there is an element of truth in the statement. While everything is relative at this end of the market, the price of an entry ticket is now within the grasp of a much wider audience.

What makes the Ghost special? On the surface it’s a chip off the Phantom’s block. Rolls-Royce’s flagship saloon is an imposing beast, and its size and appearance is entirely appropriate for its status.

That’s fine if you want to be chauffeured around all day long and, crucially, have the space to accommodate it. The Ghost, on the other hand, is a little smaller and visually less imposing. It’s also a car its maker believes will tempt its owners out of the back seat and, instead, get behind the wheel. That’s right – this is the Rolls-Royce you’ll want to drive.

At nearly 5.5 metres long the Ghost remains a very large car by modern standards. But with a wheelbase of a fraction over three metres, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear any complaints from passengers. There’s also the theatre that is the opening and closing (powered, of course) of the car’s rear opening back doors. And, as you’d expect, the car’s interior is trimmed to a standard that’s way above that of a regular ‘luxury’ car. The plush seats, wood trim and equally plush carpeting feels just right.

2010 Rolls-Royce GhostNaturally this can all be changed to colours and materials of your choosing – that’s the other difference between the Ghost and a run of the mill car. And when Rolls-Royce promotes the Ghost as an affordable choice, what it really means is that you’ll have plenty of cash left over for tailoring it to your liking.

About the only thing you can’t change is the Ghost’s engine, though. Performance used to be a dirty word at Rolls-Royce, and the company was famous for never quoting power figures. There’s still no rev counter – why would you need it anyway – but the Goodwood-based firm does now give you all the data.

The car’s hushed progress is a testament to the job done by the company’s engineers. Oh, and 6.6-litre V12 engine buried deep in its nose. With 563bhp and, more importantly, 575lb ft of torque from only 1,500rpm, you’ve got the best of both worlds: effortless accelerative properties and the ability to maintain brisk speeds all day long if you so wish. For the record, the Ghost will sprint to 62mph in an impressive 4.9 seconds and top out at a limited 155mph.

Do what Rolls-Royce suggests and get behind the wheel and you’re met with a slightly unconventional view. There are no flashing lights and gaudy displays; the level of restraint is refreshing. It’s all there, though. The sat-nav and audio units are hidden behind tasteful panels.

2010 Rolls-Royce GhostThe few dials and controls present are an object lesson in clarity, while small column-mounted gear selector is at odds with the power and performance at its disposal. Speed can rise as quickly and as smoothly as you like. The car’s eight-speed auto gearbox is super-smooth and never fails to find the right gear at the right moment.

Reading this you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Ghost is tuned for flat-out motoring. Nothing could be further from the truth and your passengers certainly wouldn’t thank you for trying. The car is more agile and willing than it looks, however.

Out on the open road where there’s no shortage of space, the Ghost can be hustled along enthusiastically if that’s your sort of the thing. The car’s ride is a little firmer and more controlled than the more statesmanlike Phantom, but never to the detriment of ride quality or occupant comfort.

What’s likely to surprise drivers more than the Ghost’s ability to conquer sweeping A-road bends is its ability to negotiate city traffic with ease. You still need to make allowances for its size, but thanks to the steering’s ample power assistance, the perfectly calibrated throttle and brakes plus the great view forward thanks to the raised driving position, there’s no need to feel intimidated.

2010 Rolls-Royce GhostThe aesthetic elements of the Ghost – cabin design, colour and material choice – are impressive, but are subjective and can be changed to reflect an owner’s personal taste. The car’s performance is a different matter; the combination of the unobtrusive V12, smooth eight-speed gearbox and a controlled ride combine to elevate the Ghost from being just another super-luxury car to one that surprises and delights every time you get behind the wheel.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Rolls-Royce Ghost, from £200,500 on the road.
Engine: 6.6-litre petrol unit developing 563bhp.
Transmission: 8-speed automatic transmission as standard, driving the rear wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 155mph, 0-62mph 4.9 seconds.
Economy: 20.8mpg.
CO2 Rating: 317g/km.

By Iain Dooley

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