Piercing lonely high mountain meadows on mile-long straights, pavement glistening with the faintest sheen of dew in dawn’s light, my Grey Ghost hurtled to extra-legal velocity with stunning ease. Speed smears the periphery just like in a supercar, but it’s experienced not through a mail slot windshield and with hips slung mere inches above the tarmac, but instead from Grey Ghost’s tall and mighty observation deck.
With its air suspension and heavily boosted fingertip steering, a Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost is no supercar or super-sized sports sedan, but over my mountain test loop with the sharper calibration selected, this 5600-pound sporting luxury cocoon proved wieldy if guided with a gentle hand, shrinking with every mile, with every bowled curve. Ghost is an interstellar battle cruiser of the imagination.
Under that billiard table of a hood sits a twin-turbo V12 with 664 lb. ft. of torque available from 1700-4250 rpm, put to the ground through an all-wheel drive system. Ghost does the business to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, roughly a half-second slower than BMW’s Z4 M sports car.
Yet Ghost is 0.7-second QUICKER than a standard Z4 roadster. Ghost has the point-it-and-punch-it acceleration of a muscle car, but with the sweet sounds of a V12, not a raucous V8. Hammer down in a straight line, Ghost is the iron fist in a plush, padded velvet glove.
Over the miserably harsh freeways of Los Angeles, Grey Ghost delivered the famed Rolls-Royce “magic carpet ride,” expansion joints and hideous asphalt patches sensed as nothing more than subtle timpani strikes through the dense blankets of sound deadening. Ghost is first and foremost a boulevardier, like every Goodwood Rolls-Royce, engineered for wafting along Sunset Boulevard, PCH or Huntington Drive.
coach doors open 90 degrees, creating a sense of occasion, even for children climbing into their Chiccho booster seats for the 10-minute drive to summer swim camp. Every time little feet land on deep-pile lambskin throws, squeals of delight fill the air.
Ghost’s considerable height, taller than a BMW X2 CUV, is masked by the steep angle of the windshield, sweep of the rear roof pillar into a high trunk and the sheer length and breadth of the car.
Seats are anything but the thin shells of a supercar. If Ghost’s hefty front seats were wedged into that BMW Z4 M roadster, not only would some drivers be looking over the windshield frame, but the 0-60 sprint might rise above 4 seconds such is the weight. Lyrics of Peter Gabriel’s old song, “Big Time” are coaxed from the recesses of the mind—these are enormously big-time pieces of furniture.
Front door frames are tall polygons thanks to the extreme sweep of the windshield, requiring thought and planning for tall drivers to enter with grace. For those of median height, settling onto the driver’s chair requires only a slight dip of the knee to lean in and fall onto the broad leather surface. But for those much over six foot, the noggin must pass at the rear of the door frame. The doors are so large and heavy that they are closed by pressing a button on the center console, motors gently swinging them inward, the locking mechanism then pulling the last ¾ of an inch to seal the deal.
Rolls-Royce engineers have mastered the intricacies and assembly quality of the luxury plug-and-play interior. Excepting all those black and dark green Phantoms sold to the world’s grand hotels to serve as A-list airport shuttles, almost every Rolls is a unique artistic expression, particularly inside. Why buy one and not commission at least a few special features?
My Grey Ghost’s black leather dash, door panels and seats were accented in a kinky shade, “Tailored Purple,” which would be ridiculous on a KIA or Camry, but in the gentleman’s study of the Ghost, flourishes of Tailored Purple work beautifully. (The other Ghost I sampled had my favorite Rolls interior color, Hotspur Red.) Even the dash clock’s hands were rendered in Tailored Purple; one assumes the clock painter builds ships in a bottle as a relaxing hobby. And to remind just how special the car is, the flawless hand assembly work—not a single stitch of Tailored Purple thread flubbed, crooked or loose anywhere in the car—is a perfect color-match for the leather and clock hands. Every time I settled behind the chunky steering wheel, I reached to the cliff-like leading edge of the upper dash to run fingers over the threads.
With tall folks up front, rear seat leg and foot room is very good, but no rival for the acres of an extended wheelbase (EWB) Phantom, which of course is a car to be driven by a chauffeur, not an owner. Still, no one will complain during the 30-minute trip on LA’s 110 freeway to a concert at Disney Hall, or a 90-minute trip south to Laguna.
My second day with the Grey Ghost I drove two hours south to San Diego’s Mission Bay for the Rolls-Royce Owners Club national meet, where I spent the morning in two 100-year-old Henry Royce masterpieces, a Silver Ghost straight-sided Barker open tourer and a Mayfair sedan with partition, both built in the 1920s in Rolls-Royce’s short-lived U.S. plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. Both cars are driven on a regular basis and the maroon car has completed “Wholly Ghost” rallies on several continents, logging ten thousand miles and more every year. These long-timers helped define Rolls-Royce, helped build its image as one of the world’s finest cars. Driven alongside these two ancient Ghosts, my Grey Ghost seemed a fitting successor for our century.