2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost is a V12 powerhouse that'll spoil you with luxury
Shooting stars, power doors, immense power and a smooth-as-silk ride. It's a Rolls-Royce, all right.
Steven EwingFormer managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
coining the term "post-opulence" to describe the new
, few cars in the world are as posh as this one. Officially making its debut on Tuesday, the 2021 Ghost takes lessons learned from Rolls-Royce's
SUV and Phantom sedan, but adds a few clever tricks of its own. The result is one of the finest luxury cars money can buy. Opulent, indeed.
Watch this: The new Ghost is the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce to date
The Ghost's exterior design is intentionally quite simple. The clean lines and smooth creases let you focus on the details, and the hand-welded aluminum body panels are huge, allowing for as few cut lines as possible. Also, for the first time on any Rolls-Royce, the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament sits within its own "lake of bonnet," as the automaker says, rather than being housed on a separate panel. It's all very clean and incredibly handsome.
Taken as a whole, the Ghost has a minimalist appearance. But look more closely and you'll notice some incredible attention to detail. The headlights and taillights are both larger and more stylized than before and there's an added bit of brightwork in the grille. Rolls-Royce put 20 LED lights under the top of the grille that shine down on the brushed metal spokes. But since Rolls-Royce didn't want the lit-up fascia to come off as too ostentatious, the backs of the metal bars are covered in a matte finish, so they aren't quite so illuminated. Opulent, but not opulent-opulent. You know?
The new Ghost rides on Rolls-Royce's proprietary and modular Architecture of Luxury platform, the same one that underpins the Cullinan and Phantom. Its 129.7-inch wheelbase matches that of the Cullinan but the Ghost's body is 8 inches longer overall -- 219 inches, stem to stern. That's for the standard-wheelbase Ghost, by the way; an Extended version will launch later this year.
Considering the familiar underpinnings, it won't surprise you that the Ghost uses a familiar engine: Rolls-Royce's well-known 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V12. (Fun fact: This is the only engine for which we allow two decimal places.) Here, the big V12 produces 563 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque, which is enough shove to get this 5,628-pound sedan to 60 mph in a scant 4.6 seconds.
The shared Cullinan architecture means the Ghost now has all-wheel drive, whereas its predecessor relied on rear-wheel drive only. This should make the Ghost more appealing to folks who live in colder climates -- go on, park one at your grand lodge in Aspen -- and provide some small handling benefits, as well. Additionally, the Ghost's chassis incorporates rear-axle steering, which will not only make it slightly more agile while cornering, it'll make the big sedan far more manageable at slow speeds in parking lots, valet lines, private jet hangars and so on.
Of course, on-road performance is relative when it comes to a Rolls-Royce. Arguably far more important than its cornering capabilities and 0-to-60 time is how smoothly the Ghost can waft down the road, delivering Rolls' signature "magic carpet ride" effect. And to that end, Rolls-Royce created something it calls the Planar Suspension System, which the company grandly says will "create a sense of flight on land never before achieved by a motor car."
The Ghost has what's called an upper-wishbone damper unit above the front suspension assembly. In simple terms, the dampers have dampers, which should make the ride buttery smooth. Plus, the Ghost has a stereo camera in the windshield that can scan the road ahead and alter the dampers for upcoming road-surface changes. Even the eight-speed automatic transmission has a GPS link so it can seamlessly upshift or downshift in advance of an approaching hill or turn. The end result is comfort above all -- a ride quality that's nothing short of serene.
A cleaner, more glamorous interior
That serenity is something that should be enjoyed by driver and passengers alike, thanks to a cabin that's as stunning as you'd expect from a car with a Spirit of Ecstasy on the hood. All the leather is stitched together by hand with "incredibly long and perfectly straight lines," according to Rolls-Royce. In fact, the company says "complex, busy stitchwork has been eschewed," which goes back to that whole minimalist approach to the new Ghost.
Open-pore wood and "cold-to-the-touch real metal vents" accent the interior, with a few new veneer choices coming online for the 2021 Ghost. Obsidian Ayous showcases "the rich versatility of colors found in lava rock" while Dark Amber "introduces subtle glamour to the interior suite by integrating veins of fine aluminum particles into the dark wood," Rolls-Royce says. Every part of the cabin looks stunning, and we have no doubt it'll be comfortable as heck, not to mention whisper-quiet.
Clean, too. Rolls-Royce is implementing a Microenvironment Purification System in the Ghost that is like an enhanced air filtration system. The climate control can automatically switch to recirculation mode "if unacceptable levels of airbone contaminants are present," the company says, and the filtration system "is capable of removing nearly all ultrafine particles from the Rolls-Royce's microenvironment in less than 2 minutes." Take a deep breath and relax.
Loads of tech, plus shooting stars
The one thing that hasn't really changed for the Ghost is the onboard multimedia tech. Just like in other Rolls-Royce cars, the Ghost uses a reskinned version of
older iDrive 6 infotainment system. That means the menus and submenus are pretty easy to work through, and the display is bright with colorful graphics. But this also means Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't offered, to say nothing of the myriad infotainment options you get in something like, say, the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
That said, rear-seat passengers are treated to a pair of tablets that can be put away when work or entertainment isn't a necessity, and a Wi-Fi hotspot is standard. Thankfully, safety tech is in no short supply, either. The Ghost comes with night vision assist, wildlife and pedestrian warnings, a driver attention monitor, 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic asset, lane-departure and lane-change assist and a big head-up display.
With a Rolls-Royce, though, the important tech is the stuff that's meant to surprise and delight the people inside. And nothing in the luxury space compares to the company's LED Starlight Headliner, which even incorporates a shooting star function for that extra bit of flash. It's all customizable, too. Want the stars above to be a specific view of the sky as seen on a specific date? No problem. Rolls-Royce can do that.
The Ghost brings those stars into other parts of the cabin, too, with what the company calls the Illuminated Fascia. Rolls-Royce teased this in July: It's a lit-up faceplate on the passenger side of the dashboard, with stars and the word "Ghost" only backlit and visible when the cabin lights are on. A full 152 LEDs light this panel with more than 90,000 laser-etched dots across the surface. Obviously, if there's a specific star pattern or word you'd rather have here, Rolls-Royce will be happy to oblige.
Fully electronic doors, finally
This kind of seems like a no-brainer, but weirdly, Rolls-Royce hadn't implemented this before. On the company's other cars, a button inside the cabin can electronically close the doors, but on the Ghost, they'll open electronically, too.
Unlike closing the doors, however, opening them is not a single-button operation. You pull the handle once, then pull it a second time and hold it, at which point the door powers its way open. When it's open as far as you need to scoot yourself out, just let go and the door will stop. One-touch door closing is available on the exterior handle, too, assuming you're actually opening and closing the doors yourself, that is.
Arriving early next year
The Rolls-Royce Ghost caters to the upper crust of the upper crust, and its price reflects that: $332,500 to start. Obviously, the sky's the limit when it comes to personalization, and Rolls-Royce says it's already met with many customers for preliminary ordering. The first deliveries are expected to take place early next year.
Taken as a whole, we really dig the new Ghost. It's not a flashy, in-your-face flaunting of luxury, though it certainly won't have any trouble turning heads as it goes down the road. We're looking forward to driving it -- and being driven in it -- later this year.