Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) review

By Chris Chilton (photography by Mark Fagelson) 10 December 2009

By Chris Chilton (photography by Mark Fagelson)

10 December 2009

This is the new Rolls-Royce Ghost, a £192k British-built luxury limo. Find the majestic Rolls-Royce Phantom a bit gauche? Some potential owners do, says Rolls, so the smaller, more demure and slightly more affordable Ghost is the answer. Read on for CAR's verdict on the new Rolls-Royce Ghost.

Demure? Surely the whole point of having a Rolls is to make a statement.

We’d have thought so too, but some potential buyers wanted all of the luxury of the Phantom in a package that they could leave on a parking meter without attracting undue attention. The more restrained presence and £192,500 list price (£80k less than the Phantom) means 80 percent of Ghost buyers will be new to the brand. And over half of those are likely to come from Bentley, not something the Crewe concern will be happy to hear.

So Rolls just chopped a chunk out of the wheelbase and made the grille smaller?

No, this is an all-new car. Well, all-new if you discount the BMW 7-series with which the Ghost shares some mechanical components. The Phantom is constructed around an aluminium spaceframe but the Ghost’s chassis is a steel unibody. Aluminium chassis are chunky affairs so sticking with steel allowed Rolls to endow the Ghost with interior space not far short of the Phantom while keeping the footprint much smaller. The 5399mm Ghost is 435mm shorter, 42mm narrower and 82mm shorter than a Phantom with the standard wheelbase.

So it’s just a 760i in a posh dress?

No, it’s a very different car with its own personality. And this one actually rides well. But if you examined their DNA, you’d see similarities. The supercharged V12 for instance, is a 6.6-litre version of the 6.0 motor in the 760i and backed up by the same eight-speed automatic gearbox. Power climbs from 537bhp in the BMW to 563bhp, and torque from 553lb ft to 570lb ft. The Phantom carries on with its own different (and much less powerful) V12.

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Rolls-Royce Ghost first drive

Didn’t Rolls used to quote power as ‘adequate’? The Ghost appears to be substantially better endowed than that.

At 2435kg (185kg more than the BMW, but 115kg less than the Phantom) it’s no lightweight but the big V12 thrusts it to 62mph in 4.7sec. It feels at least that quick, too, pushing you back in your seat when you flatten the pedal but emitting just a distant moan. This being a Rolls there are no steering paddles or sport modes for the gearbox though.

But what happens when you come to the corners?

You round them in a most un-Rolls fashion. The steering is perfectly weighted and far more communicative than you’d expect. Rolls doesn’t use the BMW’s active steering system that varies the steering ratio according to speed, but employs adaptive roll control to stiffen and slacken the anti roll bars to help turn the car into corners, ensure strong body control and good ride comfort. The dampers are adaptive but again, there’s no sport setting and no real need for one. Yes, if you really push hard on a B-road, then it doesn’t feel quite as tied down as more sporting rivals. But we can’t imagine many owners (or their chauffeurs) driving the Ghost in such an unseemly manner.

Because surely more important than outright cornering ability in a Rolls, is the ride comfort, and it’s here that the Ghost best disguises its BMW origins, smoothing away bad surfaces and transmitting very little road noise back to the cabin. Only a willingness to feed the shock of a bad pothole or ridge back into the cabin disappoints, and even then, only because I seem to remember the Phantom being slightly less perturbed.

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Rolls-Royce Ghost first drive

But does it feel like a Rolls Royce?

The stunning vault-thick rear suicide doors, baby soft leather, generous rear room, effortless performance and supple ride say it certainly does. This might be the most driver-focussed Rolls yet, but it’s still the rear seat that defines this car. This standard Ghost (a stretched version will likely follow) has as much rear legroom as a long wheelbase 7-series and the rear-hinged doors make accessing it easy, although it’s quite a stretch to step over the wide sill to reach the pavement, at least with pins as stumpy as mine. Clever positioning of the rear pillars means rear passengers are afforded much more privacy than they would be in an Audi A8 or 7-series.

The front compartment feels more intimate. Not cramped, but certainly less spacious than a Phantom, more like a normal luxury car, albeit a very nicely trimmed one, and one with a Spirit of Ecstasy visible at the end of that bonnet. That bonnet, incidentally, is also available in a silver finish that mimics the Phantom’s stainless steel panel. And while the quality is generally beyond reproach, the occasional detail jars: chrome effect plastic on switches, plastic door pulls and a glovebox lid that doesn’t feel right on a £200k car. Again, by normal car standards, they’re excellent. But you expect more from a £200k car, especially one wearing the Rolls grille.

Verdict

For us, the Phantom is still the real Rolls. It’s a genuinely bespoke product, it looks and feels like nothing else on the planet and, in the context of £200k-plus cars, is not even that much more expensive.

But the Ghost is deeply impressive, destined to be a smash for Rolls and deservedly so. It has already attracted 1500 orders and has the potential to be more profitable than the Phantom if that demand continues. It drives brilliantly, is beautifully finished and is usable in a way the huge Phantom can never be.

>> Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know what you think of the new Rolls-Royce Ghost

Statistics

How much? £192,500
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 6529cc 48v twin-turbo V12, 563bhp @ 5250rpm, 575lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 21mpg, 317g/km CO2
How heavy / made of? 2360kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 5399/1948/1550

Ratings

Handling 4 out of 5
Performance 5 out of 5
Usability 4 out of 5
Feelgood factor 5 out of 5
CAR's Rating 4 out of 5

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  • Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) CAR review
  • Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) CAR review
  • Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) CAR review
  • Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) CAR review
  • Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) CAR review
  • Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) CAR review
  • Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) CAR review
  • Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) CAR review
  • Rolls-Royce Ghost (2009) CAR review