Many people equate brilliance in car terms, with 0 – 100 km/h times, top speed and now, funnily enough, eco considerations like litres per 100 km and CO2 emissions. There is another way of measuring brilliance though, it’s far less obvious and it doesn’t appear on a sliding scale everyone can find in figures. I’m talking about luxury.
When you think about it, what exactly is luxury? Is it just a collection of tactile objects in close proximity to one another? The touch and smell of fine leather on your fingertips and thick shag pile carpet under your shoes; the glinting reflection of polished walnut and the sound of silence so loud it’s almost deafening? It’s hard to define, but ironically you can feel it instantly when it’s there. Real luxury is also about going the extra mile. I’ve flown business class on an Air France Airbus A380 and they appear to know a thing or two about luxury. The upper level had its own bar fitted with lap belts so you could keep drinking champagne even if it was turbulent. It’s the extra mile that separates ‘out of this world’ from ‘good effort’.
On a special day organised by the Daytona Group, Rand Merchant Bank and Rolls Royce, I had the opportunity to drive the new Rolls Royce Ghost. This limousine has it all and it is as much a supercar as a McLaren in my eyes. Let me tell you why.
The figures are mightily impressive, although I will admit even talking about them does feel somewhat chavish of me, but here it goes anyway. From the Rolls-Royce Ghost’s direct injected, 48-valve, twin-turbocharged, 6.6-litre V12, you have 420 kW and 780 Nm at your disposal. The power is driven through an eight speed automatic ZF gearbox, sent from the heavens with its cog swapping talents. The Ghost’s 2 400 kg body will reach 100 km/h in 4.7-seconds from a standing start and run up to a governed top speed of 250 km/h. Unrestricted, the Ghost is claimed to reach over 300 km/h, despite the less than ideal aerodynamic properties of that grille.
Rolls-Royce say the Ghost is not meant to set pulses racing with its performance, but instead sooth them with power, speed and weight that’s strong enough to send the world turning the other way. Yet another example of ‘extra mile’ engineering that isn’t strictly necessary, but needs to be there on the world’s ultimate limousine.
They are spot on about the ‘pulse soothing’ bit. When you drive it aggressively, you don’t notice at all how fast you’re going. The steering wheel is thin rimmed, as if it’s from the 1930′s, and when you accelerate, it’s as if everyone else on the road has been set to rewind, rather than you being set to fast forward. It is the most glorious, decadent feeling. Don’t forget it’s a car that’s only 20 kW down on the new McLaren MP4-12C’s power output and makes 180 Nm more torque. Blimey.
Now you may have noticed me say, ‘world’s ultimate limousine’ and yes, that’s correct. I’ve been in the privileged position to drive the ‘old’ Rolls Royce Phantom and in every conceivable way the Ghost is a better car. There isn’t one thing the Phantom did better than the Ghost, aside from costing more money. This wholesale improvement is mostly achieved by the Ghost carrying with it more modern engineering and up to date levels of technology on the inside.
The Phantom I drove, ‘Pepper 1′, owned by Cape Town hotelier and all around rich guy from the Pepper Club, was absolutely majestic,. I climbed out of it walking in slow motion and feeling like I was in a Monet painting. I loved sitting in the back, but when I got behind the wheel and actually drove the Phantom, it instantly felt its age, which distracted me from all the luxury. The wipers couldn’t deal with the intermittent sprinkles of rain, so they either smeared up the windscreen or didn’t wipe up anything at all. The brakes squeaked and lurched the whole car forward as we tried to come to a dead stop – and no, it wasn’t my terrible chauffeur style driving. Then, when the opportunity came to exercise the Phantom’s V12, it heaved its massive bulk forward like a fat kid chasing after a Jolly Jammer.
Yes, I know that something like 99.1% of all Rolls-Royce’s are still alive and well on earth today, and that no other manufacturer can claim such a record of longevity, but let me put it this way. The Rolls-Royce Phantom was the ultimate limousine when we were all talking on Nokia 3310′s, the Rolls-Royce Ghost, however, is the ultimate limousine now that we all have iPhones. Perhaps luxury has changed, perhaps the world and its technology has changed too fast, but now there is no excuse for the two not to fuse.
New engines make it the fastest Rolls-Royce ever; new air suspension keeps the ride quality stunning anywhere; the new ZF gearbox keeps the drivetrain super smooth; new park sensors and cameras keep you from reversing into objects; auto lights and auto wipers do their job, so there’s no need to fiddle with stalks; a head-up display keeps the chauffeur fully informed of everything, without having to take his eye off the road; new anti-roll stabilisers and corner brake control keep everything the right way up if you’re ever in a car chase scenario; and finally, because the Ghost has got BMW 7-Series underpinnings, it’s much cheaper than the bespoke Phantom was.
Of course you can spot the BMW bits in the Ghost, but honestly, they are sufferable for how much better and more modernised the driving experience is. Yet that special luxury something you can’t quite define is still there in spades in the Ghost. I adore the Rolls-Royce Ghost, it’s much better than I was expecting it to be, but then again maybe I’m a ‘chav’, what do I know about luxury?
What we like…
- It’s a Rolls-Royce for the modern 21st century world.
- Comforts and interior technology help it feel like a car and not an ocean liner.
- It takes 60 people twenty days to execute the 2 000 operations required to build one.
- For a heavy car, it brakes, steers and accelerates well.
What we would like…
- Nothing else really. We know it’s expensive and if you ask the price you probably can’t afford one. Which we can’t. So, gulp, how much is it?
|Base Price||R4.5 million (est., subject to R.o.E)|
|Warranty||4 year / unlimited km|
|Engine Capacity||6 592 cm³|
|No. Of Cylinders||12-cylinders, V-formation|
|Power||420 kW @ 5 250 r/min|
|Torque||780 N.m @ 1 550 r/min|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||250 km/h (claimed)|
|Fuel Consumption||13.6 l/100km (claimed combined)|
|CO2 Emissions||317 g/km|