Can 2.7 square feet of extra space make a world of difference? I was in one of the over-priced real-estate capitals of the world – Mumbai, but even by that standard 2.7 square feet seemed like a measly number incapable of making a measurable difference.
But in the world of super luxury automobiles, even that much can mean a lot. I was sitting inside the new Rolls-Royce Ghost Extended Wheelbase (EWB) and trying to experience the difference like the RR's owner would. Compared to the standard Ghost, what you will get in the EWB is 17 centimetres of extra length both in terms of the wheelbase and in terms of the rear legroom.
All other key dimensions remain the same. Take the shoulder width of 1,418mm at the rear of the Ghost and do the math with the increase in legroom and you get the grand total of a square space that can accommodate an additional pair of Berluti shoes.
That doesn't seem like much, but apparently there was a crying demand for an extended or long wheelbase version of the Ghost from amongst buyers in new markets like China – the world's fastest growing luxury car market. The need for more legroom, kneeroom and space at the rear is obvious in a market like China, because most owners are going to be chauffeur-driven only, unlike the other markets where a compact Rolls like the Ghost might be owner-driven.
So, if the Ghost EWB was perfect for China, can India be far behind? Indian buyers are said to be some of the most discerning and the brand new Ghost EWB promises to become the young super luxury car buyer's first choice… by a long shot.
If you looked at the new Ghost EWB from the front or the rear, there would be no change that is evident. The changes to the exterior are only as subtle and minimalist as the brand is also known for. The addition of the panoramic sunroof and the slightly longer wheelbase are the only changes that keen observers may be able identify when the new Ghost EWB silently glides past.
The extended wheelbase model is still unmistakably a Ghost and instantly recognisable as a Rolls-Royce. The classic powerful profile with flowing lines and the majestic ‘yacht line' styling give the EWB a strong presence. Powerful shoulders and flanks only go on to further promote that image of strength and uniqueness. There has also been the addition of a new forged wheel to add to the distinctive character of the new model.
The Ghost EWB's extra length of 170mm adds to the already generous proportions of the standard wheelbase and improves the rear passenger's space and legroom to a point where you wonder if you have to shout to give instructions to the driver due to the sheer length separating you from the front seat.
Apart from the legroom, the kneeroom in the new EWB is said to have doubled from 160mm to 330mm. Doesn't sound like much, but it will be safe to say that if Kobe Bryant or Amitabh Bachchan were to be seated (both about 6.6 feet tall) there would still be about three inches of headroom and their stretched feet would still barely touch the rear of front seats.
But, while longer, the new EWB Ghost remains about half a metre (one and half feet) shorter than the pinnacle Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase. The standard wheelbase Phantom is just about 105mm longer than the Ghost EWB's.
Island of comfort
Inside the new Ghost EWB, the unique, heavy ‘suicide' doors close at the touch of a button. The lounge seats at the rear are slightly curved and perfectly positioned for passengers to turn and face each other, creating a warm, chatty atmosphere. The heavily insulated sunroof keeps out the weather and the noise, but allows the light to stream in to the car bathing the interiors in natural light.
I stretch my legs out and slip out of my shoes specially to experience the soothing touch of the soft lamb's wool carpets that line the base of all the four seats. Not that I needed the kind of privacy that celebrities may crave and get in a Rolls-Royce, but the rear seat position just behind the C-pillar is meant to provide just that. And many a curious eye was disappointed after seeing me instead of some Bollywood A-lister. Of course, that was after they had already eyed the car.
Unperturbed by all the chaos outside, I was relishing the island of calm and comfort that was the rear seat in the RR Ghost EWB. We were driving around town in Mumbai and even in Bandra and Land's End near the sea the afternoon was harsh for mid-October. But inside the new Ghost, the air-conditioning is so effective that there seems to be no discernable difference in the cabin temperature even after the doors are opened wide (83 degrees to be precise) and you step in.
For the pampered rear passengers, there is also the option of a theatre configuration, which allows all settings that do not directly affect the driver to be controlled and accessed from the rear seat itself. The other interior features and trim options are all similar to the standard wheelbase Ghost. Of course, there is an endless list of bespoke options that are available, so buyers can customise it to be the only one of its kind.
When I could get myself to leave the rear seat behind and take to the wheel, the new Ghost EWB felt just like the standard wheelbase model. There is no sense of the weight or ungainliness from the longer wheelbase. That is also because the weight gain has been kept in check to below an incremental 50 kg thanks to the increased use of aluminium.
The engine in the new Ghost EWB continues to be the same 6.6-litre, twin turbo charged V12 engine used in the Ghost standard wheelbase. The engine delivers the same 563 HP of peak power and 780Nm of peak torque all of which is available at just 1,500 rpm. For a hulk that weighs almost 3 tonnes when all four passengers are in, the Ghost EWB still manages to be nimble and quick on its feet, travelling from 0-100 kmph in just five seconds. Top speed is limited to 250 kmph.
Obviously, I was going to attempt to test its real prowess on Mumbai's crowded streets, but it was still amazing how quick this car could be when the need arose. And it is still a pleasant feeling to observe that all that acceleration and even braking comes smoothly, seemingly with effortless ease and without a hint of any lurching.
The famous intelligent four corner air suspension system also makes its presence felt silently in the Ghost EWB. It can't quite be explained, but the best way to put it would be to ask you to imagine a suspension set up that seems to capture every undulation from the road and then kills it before it can reach your backside. And remember your backside is already being cooled through the perforated leather and is being massaged by a set of silent rollers embedded in the plush seats.
For the driver in you, apart from the very serene, yet agile driving dynamics that the Ghost EWB offers, there are other modern day aids too like the heads-up display and lane departure warning system.
The Rolls-Royce brand sells without any selling being needed whatsoever. The Ghost EWB will be available in small numbers for discerning buyers this year. Prices start at Rs 3.05 crore (including import taxes). The new Ghost EWB will be available in 12 exterior colours, each of which can be contrasted by an optional silver satin aluminium bonnet.
For the new Ghost's buyers real estate will have never looked as attractive an investment even during these inflationary times!
For more on cars, visit http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/smartbuy/
Keywords: Rolls-Royce Ghost