Over the years, researchers have pondered the impact of someone’s name over their actions and life choices. Along the way, researchers have found that names can influence choice of profession, where we live, whom we marry and what we earn. Our names can even determine how we donate money and to whom. To connect the same level of psychological influence to a vehicle, albeit a very special one, might be a bit of a stretch, but you do have to wonder with the all-new Rolls-Royce Ghost if there is not some living-up-to-your-name destiny thing going on.
The first case for this position is the fact that the “post opulent” exterior and interior aesthetic is so refined that it almost has an otherworldly thing going on. This post opulence is best defined as a ‘less is more’ philosophy, intelligent and unobtrusive. This philosophy is essentially the opposite of ‘premium mediocracy’ which refers to products that use superficial treatments, such as large branding or, in the context of motor cars, busy stitching and other devices that create an illusion of luxury but really lack the substance. So, while there are not loads of flashy shiny bits where there really doesn’t need to be, what remains are all the necessary elements for an ethereal work of art.
Our test drive, courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Auckland, also added to this sense with pairing of an Arctic White interior and Tailored Purple exterior which really stands out but in a very refined way, of course. And this is really the thing. This focus on absolute refinement without the fallback of excess really provides very special levels of detail throughout the vehicle. Even the way that unseen parts of the doorskin feel to the touch, or the way that the boot eases into position, or the way that the hooting start headliner flickers in just the right way. It’s just this culmination of incredible touches that really create something very special.
A lot of this detail is also hidden. The only components carried over from the first Goodwood Ghost are the Spirit of Ecstasy and umbrellas. Everything else has been designed, crafted and engineered from the ground up, including the marque’s proprietary aluminium spaceframe architecture. First used on Phantom, then Cullinan, this spaceframe enables the brand’s designers and engineers to work free from the constraints of platforms from high-volume vehicles. The spaceframe’s flexibility and scalability enabled engineers to be able to work to the mechanical demands of new Ghost without compromise. This plays out in terms of things like acoustics and wider build quality, but also in the fundamentals like where the engine goes. The moveable aluminium bulkhead, floor, crossmembers and sill panels were able to be positioned specifically to allow the cast suspension mounting assembles to be pushed to the very front of new Ghost, placing its 6.75-litre V12 behind the front axle to achieve an optimum 50/50 weight distribution.
This all becomes very academic of course when on paper but this, along with Planar self-levelling high-volume air suspension technology, Satellite Aided Transmission (yes, that is as the name suggests), all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering, stability control and self-drying braking systems, creates a drive experience that is like no other. Effortless, ghostly comfortable even, but powerful and precise.
On the open road, the V12 is more than happy to cruise but at the slightest hint of a command it is ready to jump into action. The power response is instant and the powerband seems endless. This kind of instant energy carries through to the handling also, it is just so responsive and nimble. This is a chauffeured sort of vehicle and with rear seat theatre configuration, built-in TV receiver, and a rear compartment cool-box for the champagne, this is a really nice way to travel, but the driver’s seat really is where the joy is at. Regardless of where you are seated though, you will be encased in what has to be the most sophisticated mobile soundbooth ever created.
Rolls-Royce engineers used the unique aluminium framework (aluminium has higher acoustic impedance compared to steel) to help create an insane level of acoustic control inside the cabin. And we mean insane. This was furthered by the use of complex forms, rather than flat, resonant surfaces and also double-skinned, sandwiching composite damping felts to reduce road noise intruding into the passenger suite. Any components that generated even almost imperceptible sound waves were tracked and dealt to. Every component was interrogated to assess whether it created noises that engineers defined as unacceptable and were completely reengineered as a result. The inside of the air conditioning ducting, for example, created an unacceptable level of wind noise so it was removed and polished to inform the production of the final component. The engineers achieved a completely silent interior suite but found the experience to be disorientating so they added back a ‘ghostly whisper’, a soft undertone. And even this was no small task. To achieve this, each component had to be tuned so it shared a common resonant frequency. The seat frames in early prototypes, for example, resonated at a different frequency to the body, so damping units were developed to bring the noise together into a single note. Additionally, the large, 507-litre boot cavity produced a low frequency that could be felt at motorway speeds.
Ports were built underneath the rear parcel shelf that allowed these disruptive sound waves to escape and allow the boot to harmonise with the rest of the vehicle. This level of detail and thinking is, of course, not really required for a normal vehicle, but then again, this is no normal vehicle.
See the new Rolls-Royce Ghost in the flesh at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Auckland before it disappears.