The world's insatiable appetite for super-luxury car has taken a new twist with the Rolls-Royce Ghost. By any measure, from its size to the weight and price, the Ghost is a heavyweight car. Yet, by the standards of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the car is relatively affordable, relatively compact and relatively ordinary.
Which is not to say that ordinary, in this car, is remotely related to most people's idea of it.. How can it be, with a price of $645,000 - before optional equipment or on-road costs - and a weight of 2.4 tonnes? And there is always that world-famous flying lady mascot on the nose.
The all-new Ghost is the car you have when a Phantom is too much and a Mercedes-Benz is not enough. More than 30 orders have already been placed for local deliveries at the R-R factory, at Goodwood in Britain, gears up towards full production.
The Ghost has been three years in the making, and will eventually spin- off a number of other body styles, but for now it is a full-sized limousine with a V12 engine, R-R's signature 'clamshell' doors and more than enough luxury for any appetite.
It goes almost without saying that the Ghost has wood and leather trim, no sign of a tachometer, and that everything you see and feel would be right at home in a luxury home. And yet the Ghost is a twin-beneath the skin with the BMW 7 Series - since R-R. is part of BMW Group - and a couple of things, the iDrive controller, dashboard display and radio 'fin' on the roof, peek up from beneath the surface. They are non-identical twins, and you cannot detect the family ties once you are driving, but the link is there.
"Everything relevant to the character of Rolls-Royce is different. We passionately believe the important things much be proprietary," says Hanno Kirner of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. The commitment to a 'real' Rolls-Royce runs as deep as a major revision of a BMW Group V12 engine to product the sort of effortless thrust expected for the luxury brand. The numbers, 420kW/780Nm, say it all.
There is an eight-speed automatic transmission with rear-wheel drive, and a full complement of safety equipment from airbags to ESP stability control, but the vital thing for any Rolls-Royce is the size and heft of the car. And the engineers have ticked the boxes.
The Ghost is already creating the inevitable waiting lists, even in Australia and despite the massive bottom line. "The first customer customers will be in Australia in June," says Hal Serudin, the R-R executive responsible for Asia-Pacific. Motor Cars.
The Ghost feels exactly like the Phantom, just condensed. It has the same rock-solid connection to the road, the same wafting feel at any speed on any surface, and the all the luxury you could possibly need.
Yet is is more grunty and responsive, more taut in turns, and a little disappointing in the BMW stuff I can see and hear. It's little things like the seat-belt warning tone and the look of the iDrive display, but little things can mean a lot when you have spent $645,000 and your best mate has a 7 Series for less than half that amount.
The R-R people don't see it, and you don't feel it at the wheel, and yet the Ghost has the same tangible magic feel as the Phantom, and is clearly drawn from the same DNA and the same commitment to the best of the best. It is, by any measure, a brilliant car. It's just a pity that so few people will get to experience one.
Price: from $645,000
Engine: 6.5-litre V12
Output: 420kW/5250 revs, 780Nm/1500 revs
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Economy: 13.6 litres/100km
Emissions: 317grams/kilometre CO2