2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost — Review
This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2012.
By Marc Lachapelle of MSN Autos
Rolls-Royce is one of the grandest names in automobiles, with a history that dates back to 1904. Yet the cars sold today under this name are made by one of the youngest carmakers of all. Indeed, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was created in 1998 after BMW acquired the rights to this epical badge. With only a paper title in hand, the new German owners had to start from scratch, in search of "the Rolls-Royce DNA." A development team was assembled in Munich, Germany, and a new, ultramodern "green" factory was built in Goodwood, England. Its first car, the spectacular Phantom sedan, was launched in 2003. Since Rolls-Royce was always at its best with two complementary car lines, enter the all-new Ghost: a somewhat smaller, more powerful, more nimble and more affordable ultraluxury sedan. With it, Rolls-Royce expects to double, if not triple, its annual sales worldwide. You can bank on it.
A single version will be offered at first, but expect the announcement of a "drophead" or convertible model soon. Almost 18 feet long (212.6 inches, to be precise) the newest Rolls-Royce is nonetheless 17.1 inches shorter, 3.3 inches lower and 1.6 inches narrower than its daunting Phantom sibling. Its 129.7-inch wheelbase is also 10.9 inches shorter and its front and rear wheel tracks narrower by 2.4 and 0.3 inches. Yet because its structure is a steel monocoque instead of the Phantom's more expansive aluminum space frame, their interior space is comparable. The Ghost weighs 5,445 pounds, which is 353 pounds less than a Phantom.
The body shells are built in a separate facility at the Dingolfing plant in Germany, where BMW produces its 7-Series and 5-Series models. They are then whisked in special trucks to the Goodwood plant in England, where the preparation and paint process takes a full week. Building each Ghost requires 20 days of work, mostly done by hand. There are 12 exterior colors, eight shades of leather and five types of veneer from which to choose.
Styling and design are paramount for Rolls-Royce, and the Ghost's lineage is immediately recognizable, signified by the Spirit of Ecstasy, or Flying Lady, ornament that automatically retracts at speed from the leading edge of the long hood. Yet the lines are less angular, the chromed vertical grille less massive and the roof's rear pillar more slender than on the Phantom. Unsurprisingly, the Ghost is also more aerodynamic than its larger predecessor, with a drag coefficient of 0.33 to the Phantom's 0.38.
Rolls-Royce designers and engineers have open access to BMW's leading-edge facilities, systems and technologies. The Ghost is said to share about 20 percent of its components with BMW's 7-Series flagship, but you would be hard pressed to single them out by look, feel or function. Components such as suspension anti-roll stabilization, dynamic and cornering brake control, dynamic stability and traction control systems have all been adapted, redesigned or tuned to work seamlessly with the larger, taller, heavier and more powerful Ghost, in keeping with the car's different mission and Rolls-Royce's exacting and specific handling and ride objectives.
As one would imagine, the list of standard equipment is lavish and includes exclusive Rolls-Royce touches such as deep pile carpet and Teflon-coated umbrellas tucked into the front doors. Yet Ghost buyers can still get substantially more by checking boxes on the list of available options, which includes a Silver Satin finish for the aluminum hood, larger 20-inch alloy wheels — chromed or not — and a camera system that provides side, rear and top views of the car.
Optional driving and safety systems include an infrared Night Vision camera, a clear and effective heads-up display, a lane-departure warning system, high-beam assistance that automatically dips the bright xenon lights for oncoming traffic, and an active cruise-control system that can stop the car completely and get it rolling again in traffic, as well as modulate its speed in curves.
Under the Hood
Rolls Royce claims the Ghost accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and it sure feels that quick.Its governed top speed is quoted at 155 mph. Official fuel-economy ratings have not been published yet, but the carmaker is proud to say that the Ghost gets 20 mpg and even better in normal highway driving.
The driving position is impeccable, with a wide and flat footrest, easily reached seat adjustments and memory buttons that remain active at all times. The classic Rolls-Royce steering wheel has a relatively thin rim draped with smooth anthracite leather, a large round hub and chrome buttons for most of its secondary controls. Pity there's no "cancel" button for the cruise control.
In true Rolls-Royce style, one of the three classic white-face gauges is not a tachometer but an "energy reserve" indicator. The most recognizable interior feature shared with BMW's 7-Series is the wide, clear control screen at the center of the instrument panel. Hidden under a polished veneer cover until called into service, it displays menus arranged according to Rolls-Royce's interpretation of BMW's latest iDrive system. Quite elaborate, but still not as simple and user-friendly as claimed. By contrast, simple round buttons — black with chrome trim — and large thumbwheels are used for the climate-control system, eschewing numbers to adjust temperature by color: Blue is cold, red is hot. Fan speeds can be "soft," "med," "high" or "max."
Optional features include individual lounge-type rear seats, front and rear massage and ventilated seats, a Panorama double sunroof, rear window and compartment curtains, rear veneer "picnic" tables, a "cool box" (for your champagne, Rolls says) and lamb's wool floor mats. The audio system is a 600-watt affair with 16 speakers, including two floor-mounted subwoofers. A 12.5-gigabyte hard drive can store files through the USB or auxiliary connection. The optional Theatre Configuration adds individual 9.2-inch LCD screens for rear passengers. Also worthy of note is a vast, 17.3-cubic-foot trunk that is fully trimmed in deep-pile carpet, with a decently low sill protected by a chrome scuff plate.
On the Road
The newest Rolls glides along quite serenely, with only the minutest shudder felt through the seats over expansion joints, already a feat with standard run-flat tires. But it is most impressive when driven briskly, on a twisty road. Belying its consequential girth and weight, the Ghost tackles corners with amazing balance and poise. The steering, suspension and brakes work in remarkable harmony, seamlessly processing even energetic inputs. With quasi-perfect 50/50 front-rear weight distribution and the solid grip of our test car's optional 255/45R20 tires, understeer was virtually nil.
Power is abundant and delivered in perfectly linear fashion, with precise upshifts and a most satisfying growl under full acceleration. It is matched by braking prowess provided by huge ventilated discs shared with BMW's armored 7-Series sedan, a full 16.1 inches in diameter at the front and 15.8 inches at the rear. Brake modulation is impeccable, and body dive superbly countered by the air suspension in hard application. A sedan as large as the Ghost is not supposed to handle this well and be this much fun to drive on a canyon road.
Right for You?
A professional auto journalist for more than 25 years and the founding editor of Sympatico / MSN Autos, MarcLachapelle is a two-time winner of the Canadian Journalist of the Year award from the Automobile JournalistsAssociation of Canada, an accomplished photographer and licensed racer.