The first time I had the opportunity to test drive a Rolls-Royce, the event played out over an afternoon in Scottsdale, Ariz. behind the wheel of the Wraith. After arriving at a luxury hotel within sight of Camelback Mountain, a Rolls-Royce executive with the kind of geometrically cut pocket square that only comes with a suit cut on Savile Row welcomed me into a conference room and described the world of Rolls-Royce automobiles.
Rolls-Royce doesn’t consider any car builder to be a competitor. That makes sense as they’re the automaker other product realms use to describe the best of the best. You’ll hear some million-dollar house on wheels called the “Rolls-Royce of Motorhomes.” The ever-present AK-47 and its eternally reliable design is often called “the Rolls-Royce of machine guns.” You get the idea.
As a result of its exclusivity, Rolls-Royce defines its own product category. It’s ultra-luxury, exclusive, bespoke and created to transport the blessed buyer in the car’s own dimension of total comfort. Their assemblages protect and elevate drivers above and beyond the pavement. They’re mobile fortresses of solitude and dignity.
That well-dressed executive back in Arizona made a couple points very clear. First, while it’s fair to describe any Rolls-Royce model as a super luxury car, they are not super cars in the performance since. The word “performance” is frowned up in general. Rolls-Royce creations are not sports cars. Such machines are rough and impudent. Call RR-logo’d, gas-powered royalty a sports car, and a team from England will take the cane down from the cupboard, fly to you and give you a jolly good thrashing.
Designs like the all-new Rolls-Royce Ghost exist to rise above not just average cars but common descriptions like “performance” and “sporty.” Designed with deliberately simplified aesthetics externally and filled with seemingly limitless artificial intelligence within, it’s a car that ascends beyond common concepts of four-wheeled transport.
A 12-cylinder, 6.75-liter engine provides 563 horsepower and a top speed of 155 mph to leave lesser humans behind, but you won’t hear much of that fuss because the industry’s best soundproofing keeps the exhaust notes at bay. The driving experience is transcendental as the well-muscled suspension and counter-balancing rear wheels kill off understeer while nullifying any guff broken pavement might provide.
If there’s a haughty quibble to make with the Ghost’s interior (…and I can’t imagine any other breed of quibble that might be appropriate for such a car…), it would be a throwback to that Wrath I mentioned earlier. Both that spectral model and its haunting 2021 sister have between 800 to 1,600 hand-installed pin lights built into the roof to present a simulated night sky overheard wherever the unworthy road takes the Ghost.
That feature never fit the two ton-plus stacks of elegance that come out of Goodwood, UK. Lights in the roof seem more appropriate for a limo you take to prom – not a $370,000 base MSRP super luxury car.
Still, buyers of the Ghost seem uninterested in my opinion as many pay thousands of dollars to have those penlights arranged into their favorite constellations or perhaps the night sky overhead at the times and places of their births.
In the end, Rolls-Royce doesn’t make it easy – not on their intimidated would-be competitors, and not on reviewers. They make a machine like The Ghost that provides pure driving pleasure with absolute precision and total technological competence.
They manage to upgrade the perfection of that experience into the realm of hyper cars with seemingly unlimited power and utterly grounded handling. They even smooth out and simplify the traditional Rolls-Royce lines on the Ghost to give it a smoother, yet more aggressive stance.
Still, I’m not supposed to use words like sporty or performance to express how much I enjoyed the sublime hours spent driving the Ghost. So, I’ll just leave it at that and head outside to count the pinholes in the sky.