There is something to be said about a car that is beautiful to drive and blissful to be driven in. The Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II aims to be that car, offering the driver a hallowed twin-turbocharged V12 engine and passengers a sumptuous and luxurious interior, jam-packed with tricks and treats.
We ventured north to Sydney to put the Rolls-Royce Ghost to the ultimate test. The plan was to travel a loop from the Sydney CBD to scenic Bowral and then inland through to Wollongong, settling in for the evening at Sydney’s only five-star luxury hotel outside the CBD, the Intercontinental Double Bay.
The latest iteration of the Rolls-Royce Ghost brings with it minor exterior styling changes, redesigned seats, extra interior technology and a satellite aided transmission. The Ghost's asking price has also been revised to a still scary $545,000 for the standard wheelbase edition, placing it more in line with some of the competition in this segment.
Built to cater for a driver that also likes to be driven on occasion, the Ghost is powered by a bone-chilling 6.6-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine that produces 420kW of power and 780Nm of torque. This engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that makes it good for a 0-100km/h time of less than 5 seconds, which is pretty impressive for a 2305kg car.
As we set off for Bowral, a quaint town around 1.5 hours outside of Sydney, it was impossible to miss the incredible fit and finish around the cabin. Everything has a solid and perfect feel to it. Lashings of wood grain are surrounded by leather, while the carpets in our test vehicle were made from lamb’s wool.
It's hard to explain, but sitting inside a Rolls-Royce is quite a unique experience. Every single surface and material feels handcrafted, purpose-built and at the highest level of luxury possible for an automobile. You feel there's almost a need to take your shoes off as you sit inside the car to complete the experience.
The Ghost comes with almost every feature you could think of. The infotainment system may look familiar, as it's been resurrected from the BMW's iDrive system. The tailored unit comes with a Rolls-Royce colour scheme and features items unique to Rolls-Royce, such as the Spirit of Ecstasy controller.
A 10.2 inch colour screen sits behind a veneer panel that can be retracted at the push of a button. The incredible 18-speaker stereo has been expertly tuned by Rolls-Royce and includes two coffin-thumping subwoofers in the boot and a number of speakers scattered throughout the cabin.
Supplementing the audio system is a 20.5GB hard disk that can store music stored via the 6-disc DVD changer or via USB. Drivers can also connect their iPod or music device directly into the car or use Gracenote functionality to play similar music items.
The sumptuous seats are finished with three-level heating, chilling and massage functionality. It's the perfect match to a hard day in the office, or on the boat. The seats are incredibly soft and literally feel like a big armchair to sit in.
Customisation options are almost endless. Rolls-Royce ensures that every customer's needs are met and exceeded when it comes to personalising their vehicle. Wood, paint and even leather can be matched to a buyer's needs, even if they request some fairly horrific tones. But, we're not ones to judge style.
Leg and head room in the second row is excellent. The 'suicide' doors open normally at the front and open in reverse for the second row, allowing easy access to the back pews. It's also the storage area for the trademark Rolls-Royce umbrellas, which sit in the door cavity and are secured by a spring-loaded latch.
The boot caters for 480 litres of cargo and is also finished in a soft-to-the-touch wool carpet. It's deep, cavernous and offers an adequate aperture for storing things like golf bags and bags of cash. It's only 20 litres smaller than the current BMW 7 Series it's based on, but is 35 litres short of the 2016 BMW 7 Series that is due to launch locally in the coming months.
The highway drive into Bowral highlights how impressive the Ghost’s ride is. It’s like riding on a magic carpet. Road imperfections and bumps are washed away with ease, while road noise is non-existent thanks to the supreme sound suppression.
Ride quality comes thanks to adaptive air suspension that sits on all four corners. Re-engineered front and rear struts, new steering gear and adjusted dampers have improved cornering ability by allowing the ride to sit flatter as corner radius tightens.
Bowral locals and visitors all do a double take as the blue Rolls-Royce coasts into town. The style and offset colour scheme (Salamanca Blue with silver satin bonnet surrounds) was a hit, with people lining up to have a look and experience the epitome of motoring for themselves. While you can find more affordable luxury cars on the market, it's impossible to match the presence and haunting style on offer from the Ghost. Everybody can tell it's a Rolls-Royce. There's never a need to explain any further.
After a break for lunch in Bowral, we set off for Wollongong via the inland route. This portion of road allowed us to stretch the Ghost’s spirit and put it through its paces on a tight downhill run into Wollongong. The satellite-aided transmission uses navigation data to look at corners ahead and predictably selects gears for extra acceleration and quicker engine response.
This feature works eerily well and teams with the direct steering to tackle the set of tight bends ahead of us. It’s at this point the big V12 engine shows its true menacing colours. The acceleration is phenomenal, as is the surge of torque as the gearbox rows through each of its eight gears. It's hard to describe how well it shifts because you never notice that it's working, which is a good thing. The engine is so quiet (even under throttle) that when you start applying the accelerator, it just surges ahead.
While Rolls-Royce claims this can be a driver's car, it's hard to mask the portly mass of the Ghost. The steering is light and lacks the feel of a Mercedes-Benz or BMW. Additionally, the ride's soft nature means there can be a helping of body roll as the Ghost is tucked into tight bends.
Our drive back to Sydney allows us to test the radar cruise control, which can automatically increase and reduce speed to keep a set distance between the Ghost and the vehicle in front — even to a complete standstill. It’s an eerie feeling when the car slows down and speeds up on its own as though it's possessed, but it is a handy feature to keep pace with traffic.
Parking is also a breeze thanks to an around-view camera that presents a bird's eye view of the car from above, allowing it to be easily placed when parking.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II is the epitome of automotive luxury and goes hand-in-hand with the style and luxury of a high-roller's lifestyle. While it's not quite a corner-slaying sports car, it absolutely eats up miles on the highway and offers passengers the absolute finest level of transport.