Major model changes still arrive relatively infrequently for Rolls-Royce. And facelifts as they are practiced by other automakers have an entirely different meaning at Goodwood -- assuming anyone even dares to utter such a word inside the glass and steel Rolls-Royce factory, located just next door to the Earl of March estate in West Sussex. So a freshening is what we'll call the debut of the Series II Ghost which first went on sale back in 2009, becoming the smallest and most "affordable" entry in the Rolls-Royce lineup, positioned below the flagship Phantom which is now a Series II car itself.
Now 5 years old and receiving its first update, the Ghost Series II has been revised inside and out, even though at first glance you'd never guess that everything from the windshield forward has been altered. The headlights will undoubtedly be the giveaway, having been (slightly) resculpted and given increased intensity. Adaptive lights, which follow the curve of the road, are now standard on the Ghost, though that's a relatively minor adjustment to the options book. The hood, or bonnet as Rolls-Royce would call it, has been resculpted as well and now features a subtle wake channel that follows behind the Spirit of Ecstasy, as were the front fenders, or wings as they're called by the Brits, now featuring a reworked character line. The differences in the new wings are not easy to spot at first. It's much easier to see that the front fascia has been altered ever so slightly, with a new grille surround designed to give the car a taller and wider face as if striving for a more Phantom-like appearance. The front bumper has also received two chrome finishers for the lower intake area to aid in transferring cool air to the brakes.
The changes inside are just as difficult to spot unless you've been around Series I Ghosts for a a fair amount of time, but they're arguably the ones that will matter more to Rolls-Royce buyers. The front and rear seats have been redesigned. Rear seats were remade with a new focus on the individual seating arrangement. New foam has been incorporated into the seats themselves, which now also offer active headrests aimed at protecting against spinal injury in the event of a crash. Electronically adjustable thigh supports have been added to the redesigned front seats, while the instrument cluster has received fine-tuned display rings that offer a more three-dimensional look and wristwatch-like details. The cabin has received a number of leather surface upgrades, including natural grain leather for the A and C pillars, in addition to smaller updates like extra padding for the door handles. Not to imply that they were coarse and utilitarian in the first place.
The standard wheelbase Ghost Series II and the extended wheelbase versions are rolling out at the same time.PHOTO BY ROLLS-ROYCE
More noticeable (if you've ever set foot inside the Series I Ghost) is the revised front and rear suspension, which has benefitted from re-engineered front and rear struts in addition to a new steering gear setup and adjusted dampers. The latter are said to benefit the car's cornering abilities when paired with the all-new Dynamic Driving Package, which is offered for the standard wheelbase model.
Another major technological addition is Satellite Aided Transmission, which made its debut in the Wraith just last year and uses GPS data to allow the car to "see" the road ahead, anticipating gear changes and selecting the most appropriate ones for better driving dynamics and improved fuel economy.
A couple new pieces of equipment are now available, including 21-inch wheels offered in two finishes. Paldao wood veneers for the interior are also being offered and Bespoke Audio, which Rolls-Royce bills as nothing short of "the most exhaustively designed automotive hi-fi system ever developed."
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In standard and extended wheelbase form, the latter launching simultaneously in Series II guise, the Ghost retains its 6.6-liter V12 producing 563 hp and 575 lb-ft of torque. The extended wheelbase version weighs in at 111 pounds more than the standard wheelbase version, which has a 5,445-pound curb weight, and enjoys a 4.9 second sprint to 60, as opposed to 4.8 seconds for the standard wheelbase model. The extended wheelbase model is 6.7 inches longer, with 6.6 inches being the difference in wheelbase between the two models, virtually all of that for the benefit of rear-seat passengers.
The pricetag remains solidly in McMansion territory even as rivals are gearing up to invade this price range; the standard wheelbase model starts at $289,250 and the long-wheelbase model starts at $321,900. As with every other Rolls-Royce model, options come thick and all start in the four-figure range before one even considers individual requests, like your family crest stitched into the headrests, with the heftier feature selection packages dipping into Mercedes-Benz E-class price territory. Most Ghosts will end up costing at least $400,000 out the door, since adding options totalling $100,000 is easily achievable.
How does it drive?
We spent a day driving the standard wheelbase and extended wheelbase Series II Ghosts around Dallas and the surrounding area, with the near-100 degree temperatures, good roads, and a very bright sun actually providing a great approximation of two important markets for the Goodwood-based automaker: Asia and the Middle East. We had just driven the Series I Ghost in the U.K. a few weeks prior, so the changes in the Series II cars were a bit more noticeable to us than they would have otherwise been.
Those who are still concerned that the Rolls-Royce Ghost is essentially a BMW 7-series underneath will be relieved to learn that the two sedans have virtually no handling characteristics in common. Relatively gentle cornering in the refreshed Ghost elicited generous body roll, yet the steering stayed somewhat aloof and did not really communicate the positioning of the front wheels to the driver all that much. The steering itself felt sharp enough at low speeds and was nicely weighted for highway speeds, yet it tried to amplify the size of the car, as opposed to the way in which that large German sedans like the aforementioned 7-series have tried to seem smaller than they are. As in the Series I Ghost, the overall feel of the chassis at all speeds suggested a bigger car than the Ghost happened to be on the outside, akin to driving an armored sedan, with which the Ghost actually shares its curb weight. Still, the Ghost can be persuaded to dance a little bit and be called upon to execute emergency maneuvers within a split second when needed. So last-second lane changes could be executed with confidence.
Compared to the Series I Ghost, the Series II cars offer better suppresion of road surface impacts, which was a gripe we heard repeatedly about the Series I cars and experienced ourselves. The Series I cars, while being nice and velvety on most surfaces, could be easily upset by moderate imperfections in the road like drainage crates at the outer edges of lanes, and could respond with a mechanical clang of the wheel and suspension. The reworked suspension in the Series II Ghost had evidently sorted that issue, though we suspect that large wheel size was also a contributing factor to some harshness in the earlier Ghost. Either way, we'd pick wheel sizes for the Ghost depending on the quality of roads of our immediate stomping grounds.
Rear seat accommodations remain plentiful in both wheelbase variants of the Ghost.PHOTO BY ROLLS-ROYCE
Acceleration in the Ghost remains very impressive and very undramatic, with very little engine or exhaust roar. The brakes are excellent as well, with last-second braking occurring in a very drama-free manner. The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox felt very intuitive, with the gear changes occurring seamlessly, though we have to confess that we couldn't really detect the help from the Satellite Aided Transmission system. Perhaps that was the whole point.
In terms of ergonomics, the redesigned seats which now offer a greater range of adjustment and thigh support are a welcome addition. The positioning of the seats remains relatively high-perched in comparison to other entries in this class, while the rear seats remain relatively upright as well; a Rolls-Royce hallmark though not a particularly recent one. The positions of the seat cushions themselves are very high off the floor in marked contrast to those employed by team Germany (the S-class and the 7-series) whose seats remain close to the floor in order to maximize headroom. The exterior design of the Ghost mandates relatively small side windows front and back as in the Phantom, though this never really translates into an obstructed view for the driver.
Rear seat legroom is plentiful in both the standard and extended wheelbase versions of the Ghost, though a tradeoff in the long-wheelbase version is the increase in the distance between the passenger and the tray table that folds out of the seat in front of him or her. The bump in the price for the long-wheelbase version is one of the more modestly priced options in the book, and really should be considered whether or not owners want to drive themselves or be driven.
Both wheelbase versions of the Ghost offer plenty of passenger room, with the extended wheelbase Ghost being a bit of a bargain compared to other options in the book.PHOTO BY ROLLS-ROYCE
Do I want one?
The "baby" Rolls' update is a relatively mild one, and even though it's about to see competition from the upcomingMercedes-Benz S-class Maybach, it remains a slightly stealthier though just as capable alternative to the Phantom. With the difference in square footage between the Ghost and the Phantom being largely a matter of personal preference rather than actual requirements, the Ghost really offers everything the Phantom does in a slightly less extroverted package, especially when optioned in a muted everyday color. The Ghost is still a big car, but it hides its size relatively well while avoiding the needlessly tight interiors that plagued its predecessors: the Silver Seraph and the Silver Spur.
In both wheelbases, the Ghost also happens to be that $400,000-plus sedan that could be driven by its owner without having anyone assume he's the chauffer (at least in most western markets). It's also a car that could be driven to and from work without causing half the street to blind the driver with cell phone flashes, something that the Phantom arguably has trouble accomplishing. In that regard, it affords the owner the dignity of not being seen and pointed at from a mile away from every direction, a phenomenon that was never really an issue in the marque's home country.
The Ghost is that Rolls-Royce one could drive to the grocery store without causing a scene, as one could with the older Shadows and Spirits when they were new.
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