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Rolls-Royce Ghost


BMW M3

Summary

Rolls-Royce Ghost

Rolls-Royce says its out-going Ghost is the most successful model in the company’s 116-year history. 

No bad, when you consider the first ‘Goodwood’ Ghost has ‘only’ been around since 2009. And although the factory isn’t quoting specific numbers, that all-time best-seller claim means it’s surpassed the more than 30,000 Silver Shadows produced from 1965 all the way through to 1980.

Unlike the brand’s Phantom flagship, the Ghost is designed for owners who want to drive, as well as be driven. The aim is a less conspicuous, more engaging experience, and according to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, development of this new generation Ghost involved a lot of listening. 

He says a team of “Luxury Intelligence Specialists” connected with Ghost owners around the globe to gain a clearer understanding of their likes and dislikes. And the result is this car.

While its predecessor’s engineering DNA included more than a few strands of BMW 7 Series (BMW owns Rolls-Royce), this all-new car stands alone on an all-RR alloy platform also underpinning the Cullinan SUV and Phantom flagship.

The factory claims the only parts carried over from the prior model are the ’Spirit of Ecstasy’ ornament on the nose, and the umbrellas slipped into the doors (the holders for them are heated, by the way).

We were offered the opportunity to slip behind the wheel for a day, and the experience was a revelation.

Safety rating
Engine Type6.6L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency14.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

BMW M3

You could argue the BMW M1, a stunning wedge of late ‘70s Giorgetto Giugiaro design, first inserted the Bavarian maker’s 'M' performance brand into the public consciousness. 

But there’s a second, more enduring alpha-numeric BMW nameplate, that’s more likely to pass the person-in-the-street word-association test.

‘M3’ is synonymous with BMW performance, from touring car competition around the globe, to more than three decades’ worth of superbly engineered and entertainingly dynamic road cars. 

Read more about the BMW 3 Series

The subject of this review is the current (G80) M3, launched globally last year. But more than that, it’s the even spicier M3 Competition, which adds six per cent more power, and 18 percent more torque, as well as $10K to the price tag.

Does the Competition’s extra bang justify those additional bucks? Time to find out.  

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency—L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Rolls-Royce Ghost8.5/10

You might see it as an obscene indulgence or a piece of engineering excellence, but there’s no denying the new Rolls-Royce Ghost is exceptional. Incredibly refined and capable, it’s arguably the most impressive ‘entry-level’ car in the world. 


BMW M37.9/10

Is the M3 Competition worth $10K more than the ‘base’ M3? In percentage terms it’s a relatively small jump, and if you’re already in the $150K ballpark, why not take it?  Extra performance in a technically sophisticated package more than capable of handling it. Add top-shelf safety, a laundry list of standard features, with the practicality of a four-door sedan and it’s hard to resist. The way it looks? Well, that’s up to you?

Design

Rolls-Royce Ghost9/10

Rolls-Royce adopted what it calls a ‘post-opulent’ philosophy in development of the new Ghost’s design. Specifically, restraint, “rejecting superficial expressions of wealth.”

That’s because, as a rule, Ghost customers aren’t Phantom customers. They don’t want to make that big a statement, and prefer to drive the car as much as they might be chauffeured in it.

This Ghost is longer (+89mm) and wider (+30mm) than the outgoing model, yet it’s a superbly balanced shape, with minimalism the guiding design principle. 

That said, the iconic ‘Pantheon Grille’ is bigger, and now downlit by 20 LEDs under the top of the radiator, with its individual slats polished even more carefully to subtly reflect the light. 

The car’s broad surfaces are tightly wrapped and deceptively simple. For example, the rear guards, C-pillars and roof are fabricated as one panel, which makes sense of the absence of shutlines around the rear of the car (except for the boot outline, of course).

Rolls-Royce refers to the Ghost’s cabin as an ‘interior suite’ consisting of no less than 338 individual panels. But despite that number, the feeling inside is simple and serene.

In fact, Rolls says its acoustic engineers are experts in serenity. Sounds like Darryl Kerrigan needs a Ghost for the family road trip to Bonnie Doon.

A few details stand out. The open pore wood trim is a welcome, tactile change from highly finished veneers that often do their best to look like plastic.

The proper metal chromed trim elements around the cabin confidently say quality and solidity, and the steering wheel, as well as the buttons around the multimedia controllers are subtle throwbacks.

The wheel has a circular central pad, with ancillary buttons around its lower perimeter, which echoes the style of the 1920s and ‘30s. You half expect an ignition advance/retard lever to sprout from its centre.

And the buttons around the media controllers use a combination of shape, colour and typeface to conjure up thoughts of the same era. They could be made of Bakelite.

For those that way inclined, the signature ‘Starlight Headliner’, using untold LEDS to create a glittering night sky in the roof, now incorporates a shooting star effect. You can even option up the constellation of your choice.


BMW M37/10

It feels like once in a generation, BMW feels the need to polarise automotive opinion with a controversial design direction.

Twenty years ago, then head of design for the brand, Chris Bangle, took a fearful hammering for his determined push towards more ‘adventurous’ shapes. Passionate BMW fans picketed the company’s famous ‘four-cylinder building’ HQ in Munich demanding his departure.

And who else but Bangle’s second-in-command from those days, Adrian van Hooydonk, has been leading the design department since his boss eventually left the building in 2009.

Van Hooydonk has created another firestorm of opinion in recent years by gradually increasing the size of BMW’s signature ‘kidney grille’ to what some see as comical proportions.

The latest variation on the oversize grille theme has been applied to various concept and production models, including the M3, and its M4 sibling.

As always, a purely subjective call, but the M3’s large, descending grille puts me in mind of a well known carrot-munching, cartoon rabbit’s upper incisors.

Time will tell whether such a bold treatment ages well or lives in infamy, but there’s no denying it dominates first visual impressions of the car.

Almost as much as our test example’s ‘Isle of Man Green metallic’ paint, a deep, lustrous shade that highlights the cars’s curves and angles, and regularly stopped passers by in their tracks.  

The bulging bonnet carries angular strakes back from the grille, and features a pair of faux vents, which along with darkened headlight interiors (BMW M Lights Shadow Line), accentuate the car’s tough expression.

A modern M3 wouldn’t be an M3 without pumped up guards, in this case filled by fat 19-inch forged alloy rims at the front, and 20s at the rear. 

The framing around the windows is ‘M high-gloss Shadow Line’ black, balancing the dark front splitter and side skirts. 

The tail is a multi-layered stack of horizontal lines and sections, including a thin ‘Gurney Flap’ style bootlid spoiler, and a protruding lower third housing a deep diffuser with quad, dark chrome tailpipes either side.

Sidle up closer to the car and the crowning glory is a gloss carbon-fibre roof. It’s flawless, and looks stunning.

Just as stunning is the first viewing of our test car’s full ‘Merino’ leather interior in ‘Kyalami Orange’ and black. In combination with the bold exterior colour it’s a bit rich for my blood, but the technical, athletic feel is strong.

The dash design is little changed from other 3 Series models, although the digital instrument cluster strengthens the high-performance flavour. Look up and the ‘M headliner’ is in ‘Anthracite.’  

Practicality

Rolls-Royce Ghost9/10

The new Rolls-Royce Ghost is over 5.5m long, more than 2.1m wide, and close to 1.6m tall. And within that substantial footprint sits a 3295mm wheelbase, so no surprise utility and practicality are exceptional.

First, there’s getting in. The ‘coach’ or ‘clamshell’ doors will be familiar to current Ghost owners, but their “effortless” operation is new, a gentle pull on the door handle bringing welcome electronic assistance.

Once inside the rear of the car, as on the previous model, the press of a C-pillar-mounted button will close the door.   

But up front, easing onto the generous driver’s seat is a breeze thanks to the Ghost’s sheer scale and a large door aperture. 

There’s plenty of space for people and things in a thoroughly considered layout. A large glove box, big centre storage box (containing every connectivity option known to humankind) a lined slot for your phone and twin cupholders under a sliding timber cover. The door pockets are generous, with a sculpted section for bottles. 

Then the rear. Obviously designed for two, the back seat will seat three. The sumptuous full-leather seats are multi-way electronically-adjustable, and NBA players (almost certainly prospective owners) will be happy with the leg, head and shoulder room provided.

Need even more room in the back? Step this way to the ‘Extended’ long-wheelbase version of the Ghost, measuring 5716mm long (+170mm), with a 3465mm wheelbase (+170mm), and stepping up in price to $740,000 (+$112,000). That’s $659 per additional millimetre, but who’s counting?

But back to the rear of the standard wheelbase car. Fold the large centre armrest down and twin cupholders pop out the front. Then, a wood-trimmed lid on the top flips forward to reveal a rotary multimedia controller.

Behind that, a beautifully trimmed storage box offers generous space and 12V power, and behind door number three (a pull-down leather panel in the back of the armrest aperture) is a small fridge. What else?

The rear of the front centre console houses individual climate-control outlets as well as USB and HDMI sockets.

Touch a discreet chrome button and small desks (RR calls them picnic tables) fold down from the front seat backs, faced in the same open pore wood as the dash, console, steering wheel, and door trims, and finished off with flawless chrome.

The entire interior benefits from a ‘Micro-Environment Purification System’ (MEPS), and rather than bore you with the details, let’s just say it’s exceptionally efficient. 

Boot volume is a solid 500 litres, with an electrically-assisted lid and plush carpet lining. Of course, the air suspension system can lower the car to make loading heavy or awkward objects that little bit easier.


BMW M38/10

At just under 4.8m long, a fraction over 1.9m wide, and a little over 1.4m tall, the current M3 is right in the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class size bracket. 

There's plenty of room up front, and lots of storage, including a big box/armrest between the front seats, as well as two large cupholders and a wireless charging pad in a recessed section in front of the gear shift (which can be closed off with a roll-top style cover).

The glove box is large and there are sizable bins in the doors with separate sections for full-size bottles.

At 183cm (6’0”), sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my position, there’s lots of rear head, leg, and toe room. Which is surprising, because in other current 3 Series models, headroom’s been tighter for me.

One of three climate control zones is reserved for the rear, with adjustable vents and digital temperature control at the back of the front centre console.

Unlike other 3 Series models there’s no fold-down centre armrest (with cupholders) in the back, but there are pockets with big bottle holders in the doors.

Power and connectivity options run to a USB-A slot and 12V socket in the front console, a USB-C port in the centre console box, and two USB-C outlets in the rear.

Boot space is 480 litres (VDA), which is slightly above average for the class, with a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat increasing cargo flexibility. 

There are small, netted bays on both sides of the load space, tie down anchors to secure loose loads, and the boot lid has an auto function.

The M3 is a no-tow zone and don’t bother looking for a spare of any description, a repair/inflator kit is your only option.

Price and features

Rolls-Royce Ghost10/10

Good value is open to broad interpretation in this rarefied part of the new car market. On the surface, value could relate to standard equipment; the features that make life with a car safer, more comfortable, and efficient.

It might also have you lining up the competitors, to determine how much sheet metal, rubber and glass you’re getting for your money. Maybe a Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, or Bentley Flying Spur?

But peel away those layers and you’re getting closer to the heart of the Rolls-Royce value equation. 

A Rolls-Royce is a statement of wealth, confirmation of status, and indicator of success. And that will be enough for some. But it also delivers value to those who appreciate the last few percentage points of creativity and effort that deliver exceptional results.

Sounds like a bit of a gush. But once you dip into the background of this car’s development and experience it first-hand, it’s hard not to.

We could produce a separate story on the Ghost’s standard features, but here’s the highlights reel. Included are: LED and laser headlights, 21-inch twin-spoke (part-polished) alloy wheels, electrically-adjustable, ventilated and massaging seats (front and rear), an 18-speaker audio system, electrically-assisted ‘Effortless Doors’, a head-up display, full leather trim (it’s everywhere), multiple digital screens, active cruise control, adaptive air suspension, and there’s lots more.

But let’s pick a few of those out for closer inspection. The audio system is designed and produced in house, featuring a 1300W amp and 18-channels (one for each RR built speaker). 

In fact, there’s a team dedicated to audio performance, and it’s made the entire car an acoustic instrument, calibrating resonance through its structure to optimise clarity. Not the work of five minutes, requiring complex collaboration with the design and engineering teams, not to mention the bean counters.

And yes, there’s leather everywhere, but it’s of the highest quality, analysed to (literally) a granular level to ensure it makes the cut for use in this car. Even the stitching is set to a particular (longer than typical) length to minimise visual noise.

How about RR personnel travelling the globe to measure rain drops to make sure the roof rain channels perform as well as they can (true story). Or the 850 LED ‘stars’ in the dash fascia, backed by a 2.0mm thick ‘light guide’ with 90,000 laser-etched dots to disperse light evenly, yet add a twinkle.

You get the idea. And as much as they say, ‘If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it’, the cost-of-entry for a 2021 Ghost, before any options or on-road costs, is $628,000.

Depending on your perspective, a stupendous sum that will by 42.7 entry-level Kia Picantos, a car every bit as capable of transporting you from A to B as the Ghost. Or alternately, brilliant value, in that it buys the ultimate attention to detail applied to this car’s design, development and execution. You be the judge, but for what it’s worth, I’m in the latter camp.


BMW M38/10

With an entry-price of $154,900, before on-road costs, the M3 Competition lines up directly with Audi’s RS 5 Sportback ($150,900), while an outlier at the edge of the M3’s orbit is the Maserati Ghibli S GranSport ($175K).

But its most obvious, long-time sparring partner, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S has temporarily stepped out of the ring. 

An all new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is set to emerge in September this year, and the hero AMG variant will adopt F1-derived hybrid tech in a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, powertrain. 

Expect huge performance, with a price tag exceeding the outgoing model’s circa $170K ask.

And that AMG hot rod better be loaded because as well as a bunch of performance and safety tech (covered later in the review), this M3 boasts an impressively long standard equipment list.

Included are, ‘BMW Live Cockpit Professional’ with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch high-res multimedia display (managed via touch, voice, or the ‘iDrive’ controller), sat nav, three-zone climate control, customisable ambient lighting, ‘Laserlight’ headlights (including ‘Selective Beam’), ‘Comfort Access’ keyless entry and start, and 16-speaker harman/kardon surround sound audio (with 464-watt, seven-channel digital amp and digital radio).

Then you can add, a full leather interior (including the steering wheel and gearshift), electrically-adjustable heated ‘M Sport’ front seats (with memory for the driver), ‘Parking Assistant Plus’ (including ‘3D Surround View & Reversing Assistant’), an auto tailgate, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, wireless smartphone integration (and charging) including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, anti-dazzle (interior and exterior) mirrors, and dual-spoke forged alloy wheels (19-inch fr / 20-inch rr).

As visual icing on the cake, carbon-fibre is sprinkled over and inside the car like shiny, lightweight confetti. The entire roof is made of the stuff, with more on the front centre console, dash, steering wheel and manual shift paddles.  

That’s a solid features list (and we haven’t bored you with all the details), substantiating a strong value equation in this small, but mega-competitive market niche.  

Engine & trans

Rolls-Royce Ghost9/10

The new Ghost is powered by an all-alloy, direct-injection, 6.75-litre, twin-turbo V12 (also used in the Cullinan SUV) producing 420kW (563hp) at 5000rpm, and 850Nm at 1600rpm.

The ‘six-and-three-quarter-litre’ V12 has a distant link to BMW’s ‘N74’ engine, but Rolls-Royce is at pains to point out this unit stands on its own two feet, and that every piece of it bears a RR part number. 

It runs a Ghost-specific engine map, and permanently drives all four wheels through a GPS-guided eight-speed automatic transmission.

That’s right, the GPS link will pre-select the most appropriate gear for upcoming bends and terrain with the aim of producing “a sense of one endless gear.” More on that later.


BMW M39/10

The M3 Competition is powered by BMW’s (S58B) 3.0-litre in-line, six-cylinder engine, an all-alloy, closed deck unit featuring direct-injection, ‘Valvetronic’ variable valve timing (on the intake side), ‘Double-VANOS’ variable camshaft timing (intake and exhaust side) and twin mono-scroll turbos to produce 375kW (503hp) at 6250rpm and 650Nm from 2750rpm, all the way to 5500rpm. A solid jump from the ‘standard’ M3’s already substantial 353kW/550Nm.

Not known for sitting on their hands, BMW M’s engine techs in Munich have used 3D printing to manufacture the core of the cylinder head, incorporating internal forms not possible with conventional casting. 

This tech has not only reduced the head’s weight, but allowed its coolant ducts to be re-routed for optimal temp management.

Drive goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ‘M Steptronic’ (torque converter) paddle-shift automatic transmission, with ‘Drivelogic’ (adjustable shift modes) and a standard ‘Active M’ variable locking differential.

An all-wheel drive ‘M xDrive’ version is scheduled for Australian launch before the end of 2021.

Fuel consumption

Rolls-Royce Ghost6/10

Rolls is currently quoting European Regulation (NEDC) fuel consumption numbers for the new Ghost, which for the combined (urban/extra-urban) cycle is 15.0L/100km, the big V12 emitting 343g/km of CO2 in the process.

On the launch drive, covering around 100km of urban pottering, B-road cornering, and freeway cruising, we saw a dash-indicated figure of 18.4L/100km. 

Premium 95 RON unleaded fuel is recommended, but if circumstances (presumably in the back-of-beyond) demand it, standard 91 unleaded is usable. 

Whichever you choose, you’ll need no less than 82 litres of it to fill the tank, at our average fuel use, enough for a theoretical range of 445km.


BMW M37/10

BMW’s official fuel economy figure for the M3 Competition, on the ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban cycle, is 9.6L/100km, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo six emitting 221g/km of C02 in the process.

To help get to that impressive number, BMW has deployed numerous cunning devices including, an ‘Optimum Shift Indicator’ (in manual shift mode), on-demand operation of ancillary units, and ‘Brake Energy Regeneration’ which tops up a relatively small lithium-Ion battery to power an auto stop-start system, 

Despite this tricky tech, we averaged 12.0L/100km (at the bowser), over a range of driving conditions, which is still pretty good for such a powerful and focused performance sedan.

Recommended fuel is 98 RON premium unleaded although, amazingly, 91 RON standard fuel is acceptable at a pinch. 

Either way, you’ll need 59 litres of it to fill the tank, which is enough for a range of over 600km using the factory economy figure, and close to 500km based on our real-world number.

Driving

Rolls-Royce Ghost9/10

So, if this Rolls is designed to be driven, what’s it like behind the wheel? Well for a start, it’s plush. As in, the front seats are big and comfortable, but surprisingly supportive and endlessly adjustable.

The digital instrument cluster tips its hat to classic RR dials, and despite thick pillars (especially the bulky B-pillars) vision all around is good.

And if you’re thinking 2553kg is a lot of Ghost to get moving, you’re right. But there’s nothing like applying 420kW/850Nm of twin-turbo V12 muscle to the task.

Peak torque is available from just 1600rpm (600rpm above idle) and Rolls-Royce claims 0-100km/h in 4.8sec. Plant the right foot and this car will calmly have you at throw-away-the-key speeds in the blink of an eye, the eight-speed auto shifting imperceptibly all the way. And even at full throttle, engine noise is relatively subtle.

But aside from that prodigious thrust, the next eye-opener is unbelievable ride quality. Rolls calls it ‘Magic Carpet Ride’, and it’s no exaggeration.

The bumpy road surface disappearing under the front wheels just doesn’t compute with the unruffled, perfectly smooth progress you’re experiencing. It is unbelievable.

I’ve only had that sensation once before, behind the wheel of a Bentley Mulsanne, but this was possibly even more surreal.

Rolls-Royce’s ‘Planar’ suspension system refers to, “a geometric plane which is completely flat and level”, and it works.

The set-up is double wishbones at the front (incorporating a unique to RR upper wishbone damper) and a five-link arrangement at the rear. But it’s the air suspension and active damping that create the magic Rolls calls “flight on land.”

A ‘Flagbearer’ stereo camera system in the windscreen reads the road ahead to proactively adjust the suspension up to 100km/h. It’s name recalls the early days of ‘motoring’ where a person waving a red flag walked in front of cars to warn unwary pedestrians. This slightly more sophisticated approach is just as arresting.

This time around the Ghost is all-wheel drive (rather than RWD) and it puts its power down brilliantly well. We dared to push it fairly aggressively on a twisting B-road section and all four fat Pirelli P Zero tyres (255/40 x 21) kept things on track without so much as a squeal.

A 50/50 weight distribution and the stiffness of the car’s aluminium space-frame architecture help keep it balanced, planted and under control. But on the flip side, steering feel is almost completely MIA. Numb and overly light, it’s the missing link in the Ghost’s otherwise impressive dynamic performance.

Drop into a freeway cruise and you become aware of the impossibly low noise level. But it’s not as quiet as it could be. Rolls says it’s able to achieve near silence, but adds that becomes disorienting, so it introduced an ambient “whisper”... “a single, subtle note.” 

To achieve this level of calm the bulkhead and floor have been double-skinned, interior components are tuned to a specific resonance frequency, and there’s 100kg worth of acoustic damping materials within nearly half the architecture of the car, in the doors, roof, double-glazed windows, even inside the tyres.

The four-wheel steering system helps with agility on the highway (where the front and rear axles steer in unison), but comes into its own at parking speeds (where they counter-steer), because even with numerous cameras and sensors, parking this 5.5m long, 2.5-tonne machine is quite an undertaking. Turning circle is still 13.0m, though, so beware. If all else fails, the car will park itself, anyway.

Beefy ventilated disc brakes front and rear wash off speed progressively and without a hint of drama.

Other highlights? The multimedia system is the only thing openly borrowed from BMW, but that’s not a problem because the interface is great. And that 1300W, 18-speaker 18-channel audio system absolutely cranks!


BMW M39/10

Any production-based performance sedan claimed to accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than four seconds is straight-up fast. 

BMW says the M3 Competition will hit triple figures in just 3.5sec, which is properly rapid, and a full-bore, launch-control assisted start in this car is... impressive.

Aural accompaniment is suitably raucous, but beware, at its loudest it’s mostly fake news, with synthetic engine/exhaust noise able to be dialled down or turned off altogether.

That said, with maximum torque (650Nm!) available from 2750rpm all the way to 5500rpm, mid-range pulling power is prodigious, and despite the twin turbos this engine loves to rev (thanks in no small part to a forged, lightweight crankshaft). 

Power delivery is beautifully linear, and a surge from 80-120km/h takes 2.6sec in fourth, and 3.4sec in fifth. With peak power (375kW/503hp) arriving at 6250rpm, you can thunder on to a maximum velocity of 290km/h. 

That’s if the electronically-controlled limit of 250km/h isn’t enough for you, and you’ve ticked the optional ‘M Driver’s Package’ box. Enjoy the big house!

Suspension is basically strut front, five-link rear, all in aluminium, and working in concert with ‘Adaptive M’ dampers. They are brilliant, and the transition from ‘Comfort’ to ‘Sport’ and back is amazing. 

The ride quality this car delivers in Comfort mode is nuts given it’s riding on huge rims shod with licorice thin tyres. 

The sports front seats also offer an amazing blend of comfort and extra lateral support (with the touch of a button).

In fact, fine-tuning the car’s set-up across suspension, brakes, steering, engine, and transmission calibrations through the ‘M Setup’ menu is easy and adds extra involvement. Blaringly red M1 and M2 pre-set buttons on the steering wheel allow storage of preferred settings.

The electrically-assisted steering points nicely, and road feel is excellent. 

The car remains flat and stable in enthusiastic B-road corners, the active ‘M Differential’ and ‘M Traction Control’ putting all that power down from a steady state mid-corner, through to a scorchingly fast and balanced exit. 

No surprise, front to rear weight distribution for this 1.7-tonne machine is 50:50. 

Rubber is ultra-high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S (275/35x19 fr / 285/30x20 rr) which deliver confidence-inspiring grip in the dry, as well as a couple of torrentially wet days during the latter part of our week with the car. 

And washing off speed is a fuss-free experience thanks to standard ‘M Compound’ brakes’ consisting of big ventilated and cross-drilled rotors (380mm fr / 370mm rr) clamped by six-piston fixed calipers at the front and single-piston floating units at the rear.

On top of that the integrated braking system offers Comfort and Sport pedal feel settings, altering the amount of pedal pressure required to slow the car. Stopping power is immense, and even in Sport mode brake feel is progressive.

One technical niggle is the wireless CarPlay connectivity, which I found frustratingly patchy. Didn’t test the Android equivalent this time around, though.

Safety

Rolls-Royce Ghost8/10

Rolls-Royce doesn’t submit its cars for independent safety assessment, so no ANCAP rating for the new Ghost, unless, of course, the local testing authority chooses to purchase one. Enough said...

The previous Ghost was limited by its ageing 7 Series platform when it came to the latest active safety tech, But this version, sitting on a bespoke RR chassis, brings the entry-point Roller up to speed.

Included are AEB, incorporating ‘Vision Assist’ (day and night wildlife and pedestrian detection), active cruise control (with semi-autonomous driving mode), cross-traffic warning, lane-departure and lane-change warning, as well as an ‘Alertness Assistant.’

There’s also a four-camera system with panoramic and helicopter view, as well as a self-park function, and a hi-res head-up display 

If all that’s not enough to avoid an impact, passive safety includes eight airbags (front, front side, full-length curtain, and front knee).

There are also top tethers and ISOFIX anchors on the two outer rear seat positions for safely securing child restraints for kids fortunate enough to be travelling in this kind of style. 


BMW M38/10

The M3 Competition hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP, but 2.0-litre 3 Series models received a maximum five-star rating in 2019.

Standard active crash-avoidance tech includes ‘Emergency Brake Assist’ (BMW-speak for AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, ‘Dynamic Brake Control’ (helps apply maximum braking power in an emergency), ‘Cornering Brake Control’, a ‘Dry Braking’ function that periodically skims the rotors (with the pads) in wet conditions, ‘integrated wheel slip limitation’, lane change warning, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. 

There’s also ‘Park Distance Control’ (with sensors front and rear), Parking Assistant Plus (including ‘3D Surround View & Reversing Assistant’), an ‘Attentiveness Assistant’ function, and tyre pressure monitoring. 

But if an impact is unavoidable there are front, side, and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as side curtain bags covering both rows of seats. 

On sensing a crash the car will make an ‘Automatic Emergency Call’, and there’s even a warning triangle and first aid kit on board.

There are three top tether points across the rear seat with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions for securing baby capsules/child seats.

Ownership

Rolls-Royce Ghost8/10

Rolls-Royce covers its Australian range with a four year/unlimited km warranty, but that's just the tip of the ownership iceberg.

The mysterious ‘Whispers’ owners portal, a “world beyond”, is claimed to offer the opportunity, “to gain access to the inaccessible, to discover rare finds, to connect with like-minds.” 

Plug your car’s VIN into the app and you’ll be on the receiving end of curated content, event invitations, news and offers, as well as access to your own ‘Rolls-Royce garage’, plus a 24/7 concierge. All complimentary.

What’s more, service is recommended every 12 months/15,000km, and it’s free-of-charge for the duration of the warranty.


BMW M37/10

BMW offers a three year/unlimited km warranty, which is off the pace given the majority of mainstream brands have stepped up to five-year cover, with some at seven, or even 10.

And the luxury tide is turning with premium players, Genesis, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz now at five years/unlimited km.

On the upside, bodywork is covered for 12 years, the paint for three, and 24-hour roadside assistance is complimentary for three years.

The ‘Concierge Service’ is another three year, complimentary deal, providing  24/7/365 access to a personalised service through a dedicated ‘BMW Customer Information Centre.’

Servicing is condition based, so the car tells you when maintenance is required, and BMW offers a range of ‘Service Inclusive’ capped price servicing plans, starting from three years/40,000km.