Testdrive The Ghost gets its nomenclature from Silver Ghost, the car that made Rolls Royce's reputation worldwide. The new Ghost brings that legacy to the luxury saloon class. Joy Chaudhuri reports
I t's nearing midnight as I drive my Palio back home. The traffic has thinned out. All the eyeballs have vanished as my ‘celebrity for a day' status has come to an end. It's the after-effects of spending a day behind the wheel of Rolls-Royce's newest, the Ghost. The Ghost gets its nomenclature from one of RR's greatest names from its past, the Silver Ghost made between 1907 and 1926. This was the car that made Rolls' reputation. The new Ghost now brings that legacy to the luxury saloon class.
The Ghost uses a steel monocoque chassis unlike the bigger Phantom's unique aluminium spaceframe. This chassis is related to that of the BMW 7-Series. The Ghost also shares 20 per cent of its parts with the 760Li. These commonalities can't be seen as they include hidden parts such as the electronic systems, climate control, suspension parts and some engine components. Both cars' twin-turbo direct-injection V12 motors come from the same engine family. But the Rolls' motor is a notch larger at 6.6 litres from the 760's 6-litre unit. Like the engine, all the shared parts have been tweaked to work better to maintain the superiority of the RR badge.
BMW bits and pieces are found inside the cabin too. The screen of the iDrive is very BMW in its layout and design. Though they have all been refaced, BMW owners will easily spot the similarity due to the location, action and operation of many of its various switches, knobs and buttons.
The Ghost is the smaller of the two in comparison to the mammoth Phantom, but small is subjective here. It is 44cm shorter in length than the Phantom, but it is still 17cm longer than the Mercedes S-class. It may be a small Rolls but is still a massive car.
Although the Ghost has trimmed proportions compared to the Phantom, it is easily recognisable as a Ghost. The chrome-vaned radiator housing is a sleeker expression of the Parthenon-type grille of the Phantom. The proportions are classic Rolls. The 2:1 ratio of the height of the wheels to the height of the body. The long wheelbase and bonnet. The short overhang at the front and long overhang at the rear.
On the inside the RR's traditional touches are kept intact. The frosted white dials, violin-key switches, organ-stop vent pulls and the analogue watch. The chairs are perfectly padded, positioned and proportioned. The trim, leather and fittings are uncompromisingly top class.
Surprisingly, for a car that's longer than the S-class, rear seat space is not as much. This does not mean that you sit cramped for space but for a car that cost thrice as much, you'd want more space. The cabin is so well insulated from the outside world that it's unreal. The V12 is incredibly smooth and quiet. Silent as a Ghost.
The nose of the Rolls pitches about a bit but the ride is cosseting as it wafts over the road without fuss or drama. It's only on big potholes that you are stirred from your slumber with the kickback from the wheel, due to the stiff sidewalls of the run-flat tyres.
Rollers are cars built to be enjoyed from the back seat. Lately, Rolls has been producing cars that can be enjoyed by the owners who like to drive. The Phantom Coupé was one. The Ghost is another. So have they succeeded?
It's difficult to believe that it's a two-and-a-half-tonne car. At six in the morning, traffic on Mumbai's Sea Link is sparse. Seeing an open stretch in front of me, I flex my right foot. What happens next is amazing. The acceleration is unending as the Ghost rides a creamy wave of torque with an ethereal hush and gentlemanly poise. No V12 wail, no burning rubber. All I feel is a gentle squeeze around my chest that tightens when I glance at the speedometer and get on the brakes. You have to remember that this car will get to 100kph in less than five seconds. That's Porsche 911 territory. The secret is in the engine. The 6.6-litre V12 produces 563bhp at 5250rpm. What's even more impressive is the 80kgm of torque from as low down as 1500rpm. A number comparable to the best diesel engines. If you looked at the fact sheet, you will discover that the output figures of the Ghost are about 25 per cent more than the Phantom which is about 200kg heavier.
For such a big car, getting the Ghost around town is pretty easy. The light steering, smaller and thicker than the Phantom's, masks the Ghost's substantial mass. And then there is my favourite car gizmo — a grouping of cameras that channel an aerial view of the Ghost's surroundings for dent-free parking.
It is definitely not a driver's car but feels surprisingly sporty for a 5.4-metre-long Rolls Royce.
The car is not perfect though. There are some niggling issues. The horn takes a mighty heave to operate. And in a car as silent as this, in a country with traffic as chaotic as ours, it's an issue. The huge wing mirrors stick out like an elephant's ears. The arc of the bonnet means that you can't see the front corners. .
I have spent the whole day with the car and not budged out of the driver's seat and I realise that for a car that will most often be chauffeur driven, there are no pictures of me sitting in the back seat. Anyway, it's time to call for the Ghost again. This time to check it out from the back seat. A few more hours of my princely life.