Rolls-Royce Ghost — Ultimate luxury in a smaller package

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Entry level takes on a new connotation when discussing the Rolls-Royce Ghost. In most automobile brands the entry level car is the one with the lowest price, the smallest engine, and lacking in amenities and creature comforts reserved for the more popular, but more expensive higher trim levels. To say the Ghost, which hit the market in 2010 wearing an historic name going back more than 100 years into Rolls-Royce motor car history, is an entry level car is accurate to a degree.

It is the lowest priced Rolls and it is considerably smaller than the opulent Phantom sedan. But from there the Ghost is anything but entry level when compared to virtually anything else in the world. You might say the Ghost has the presence and luxury of a Phantom, but with a more maneuverable size and a significantly lower price tag.

What is small for Rolls-Royce is considerably larger than the largest mainstream European luxury sedans. The extended wheelbase version we tested stretched out 219.3 inches long with a 136.4-inch wheelbase, the epitome of limousine stretch-out room for those riding in the rear.  That's 13 inches longer than the long-wheelbase Jaguar XJ with a 12-inch longer wheelbase, and 12 inches longer with a 14-inch longer wheelbase than the extended version of the Audi A8.

Our biggest delight was the Ghost's performance from its standard twin-turbo 6.6-liter V-12, produced by parent company BMW. It dispenses 563 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque that translates into performance commensurate with the sedan's world-class quality. Zero to 60 has been measured in 4.8 seconds. Throttle tip-in is smooth and steady, no lurching. But put your foot into it and a steady stream of power is unleashed sending the car quietly rocketing toward illegal speeds with the eight-speed automatic providing almost imperceptible shifts.

We figure no Ghost owner will be concerned over gas mileage, but for the record it's measured at 13 mpg city, 21 city and 15 combined. There is a $2,000 gas guzzler tax attached to the purchase price.

The Ghost handled quite well for a big car with well-weighted steering making maneuverability easy despite the sedan's size. Our biggest problem was constantly fighting the perception we were traveling slower than the speedometer indicated. It reminded us of riding a European bullet train where high speed is camouflaged in quiet, comfortable surroundings.

Despite the wide array of high-tech features, the Ghost sports a clean-looking dash and center console. This comes in part because the multi-display screen is neatly hidden behind a wood panel when not in use. We actually found many of the features familiar because they are BMW derived including the multi-controller knob near the driver's right hand. Included are huge video screens positioned on the front seatbacks and rich fold-down wood tray tables. We were equally astounded at the interior solitude ("Lexus quiet" has never been, well, this quiet), the quality of the world's finest leather and exotic wood veneers, and the solid feel of the big sedan as it glided over all road imperfections thanks to its active air suspension.

When you contemplate the price, we figure the Ghost should be everything that it is and perhaps more. At Rolls Royce "entry level" luxury starts at $258,650 including destination charge for the standard model and $298,000 for the extended wheelbase version. But like most luxury vehicles, those prices are just suggestions. For instance, our Alpine model test car with a fairly extensive list of options, priced out for $356,770. The options list seems endless and although our test car featured nearly $60,000 worth of extras, there were a considerable number of boxes that remained unchecked. One $3,300 option we wished for but wasn't included — adaptive cruise control.

Perhaps you can characterize the Ghost as the daily driver Rolls-Royce, a full-fledged ultra-luxury car that is more maneuverable, quicker, and less expensive than the larger Phantom, but lacks nothing in terms of Rolls Royce image, engineering and appointments.

Our time with the Ghost was punctuated daily by visits from neighbors; some of whom we didn't even know existed. What did we expect? This is average middle class suburbia that never gets closer to a Rolls-Royce than occasionally seeing one whiz past on the highway. One Ghost feature that seemed to intrigue a majority of our onlookers was the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament that would rise from the hood when the car was unlocked and return to the safety of the enclosure when the car was locked.

Aah - the Spirit of Ecstasy!

Base price: $258,650; as driven, $356,770
Engine: 6.6-liter twin turbo V12
Horsepower: 563 @ 5,250 rpm
Torque: 575 foot-pounds @ 1,500 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 136.4 inches
Length: 219.3 inches
Curb weight: 5,556 pounds
Turning circle: 45.9 feet
Luggage capacity: 14 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 21.8 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 21 highway, 13 city
0-60: 4.8 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Aston Martin Rapide S, Bentley Flying Spur Sedan

The Good
• Exhilarating performance
• Quiet, luxurious cabin
• Extremely customizable
• Rolls Royce prestige

The Bad
• Barely adequate trunk space

The Ugly
• Astronomical price tag