Rolls-Royce Ghost Series ll

Words: Sirish Chandran

Photography: Gaurav S Thombre

Rolls-Royce doesn’t do sporty. Call the Ghost a sporty Rolls and an invisible hand will emerge from the dash, in a white glove of course, and smack you in the face. There’s no such thing as a sport button to distract from the decadence of a Rolls-Royce cabin. You don’t sacrifice a forest of oaks to then go and hustle a Rolls. A Rolls is about stately progress; opulence and isolation in equal measure. Or so they say.

I wave to the guards manning the barrier that marks the start of the superbly surfaced hill climb leading to the Oxford golf club, and sink my right foot into the shag pile. The chaperone lounging at the back shrieks, the vast prow of the car lifts and the engine does a Jekyll and Hyde act. The hushed isolation is replaced by a deep and startling growl as the power reserve gauge swings the other way and the Ghost picks up its skirts. And takes off. Literally, takes off. I trawled the spec sheet later and discovered it does 0-100kmph in 5.1 seconds. Behind the ’wheel the speed gets amplified multi-fold, and a genuine fear might seize the passengers at the rear who were hitherto basking in decadent opulence. Those guards must have been treated to a sight; a stately Rolls squatting on its rear tyres, scampering up the hill and making all sorts of angry noises. It’s hardly the most elegant way to make progress but when asked of it, the Ghost can hustle hard.

And behind the wheel you’re grinning like an idiot at the totally unexpected turn of speed, and also because the chaperone is squealing away like a little girl. You see the Ghost makes no pretentions of sportiness. The seats are the most incredibly plush armchairs; you want to mount it on a frame and stick it in your living room. The steering is a thin-rimmed wheel of a rather large diameter. You sit four feet high, almost at the same eye level as the Range Rover. And the wheels are connected to the body by pillows stuffed with goose down. The Rolls makes every attempt at disconnecting you from the world outside and nothing prepares you for the violence that ensues when 563 horses get whipped. It’s disconcerting to be honest.

Brake hard for the first corner and the Ghost dives on to its nose, turn in and it heaves on to its side. This is a vast, vast automobile and it makes no attempt at hiding its size and weight. The bonnet for instance, it goes on forever; the Sprit of Ecstasy has exited the corner long before the car has even entered it. And there’s a reason why the bonnet is so massive, it houses a vast V12 motor that displaces 6.6 litres. It is as smooth as your mum’s kanchivaram saree but it also has so much torque (780Nm if you’re asking, peaking at just 1500rpm), that it doesn’t take much to get the rear to squirm.Our dear chaperone is howling so much I dare not ask where the ESP-off switch is. Instead we lean hard on the outside tyres – vast 20 inch items! – hear them howl, feel it fold on the sidewall and then hard on the gas as we gobble up the straight and present ourselves at the next corner. Turn in, heave-ho, hard on the gas. I know it will raise your eyebrows but Sir Rolls is a strangely involving beast. It doesn’t feel disconnected and behind the wheel you end up having a whale of a time, no pun intended. So much so, that our friend at the back has pulled out his mobile phone and the barf-bag (where did that come from?) but before he can connect with Goodwood (or use the bag), we roar past the golf club gates and run out of road.

Truce. I promise to behave on the way back. A hat has come flying from the back seat and I stick it on my head, and drive like a Rolls-Royce driver should.
Hilariously quick the Ghost might be but this is what it’s been built for. It used to be said that the only sound in a Rolls-Royce is the ticking of the clock but the one on the dash doesn’t seem to have a mechanical movement and there’s not even the tick of the clock to be heard anymore. There’s no road noise, no wind noise, no engine noise and the power reserve gauge hardly moves from 90 per cent reserve. The only indicator of progress is the blurred scenery.

This is high-end luxury! Splendid isolation. The Ghost puts you in a cocoon, triple-glazed glass between you and the great unwashed. You don’t hear anything, you don’t feel anything. You’re the king of the world. And then I wonder why I’m the one chauffeuring the chaperone!
Swap seats and caps. Kick off my shoes. Sink feet into the shag pile.

Have you ever run your feet through a lush lawn? This is ten times better. Your sofa at home? Forget it – you haven’t sat in seats as plush as the Ghost’s back seat. It all feels so rich, so expensive, you feel like a total fraud as the guards salute you. There is this overpowering regal air to the Ghost. For example you press a button and the Merc S-Class’s seats do all sorts of calisthenics to transform into an awesome business class recliner. The Ghost’s seats do recline but the front seats don’t tumble out of the way and neither do leg rests and foot rests pop out, even though there’s ample space for it in this extended wheelbase trim. In the back of the Rolls you conduct yourself with dignity; sprawling out like a teenager would be most unbecoming. And, of course, the suicide rear doors offer up the most elegant way to exit an automobile. There’s even an umbrella tucked into the door so that your lady love won’t dissolve in a drizzle.

A word on the appointments in the cabin. The Series II gets BMW’s updated iDrive and though the menus have been tweaked with Rolls logos there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a BMW unit (or that the new 7 Series does everything much better). But that pales into insignificance when you take in the woods. The plush leathers. The solid organ stops for the air-con vents, which itself are solid metal items (keep the windows down for a bit in a humid city like Mumbai and dew condenses on it!). If you resist the urge to option a sunroof, you can get the starlight headliner that has hundreds of optical fibres embedded in the roof which lights up in the pattern of some constellation above Goodwood on the day the Phantom first rolled out. It’s so decadent that you press a button and the door shuts itself, god forbid your chauffeur chips his nail shutting the door for you. Such is the obsession with perfection that it uses data from the navigation to avoid superfluous gear changes, making it that wee bit more comfortable. And they say money can’t buy you happiness…

Money can buy you a magic carpet, cause that’s how good the ride is. It’s 2.5 tonne mass pummels the roads into submission. You feel nothing. Did I already say that? No matter – it begs repeating. The Ghost is hardly a boat, underpinnings borrowed from the 7 Series ensure a high degree of dynamic competence, but it just glides over everything. Wafts. Yes, that’s the word. Waft. Unless you’ve been driven in a Rolls-Royce you will never know the true meaning of ‘wafting along’. Sure the Merc and even the Range Rover have an excellent ride, but only a Rolls wafts. And because the Ghost is the sporty Rolls everything is tighter. It does a sporty waft.
Oh wait, am I allowed to say that?

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