2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost first drive review: An exemplar of luxury
Don't get too hung up on Rolls-Royce's theme of "post-opulence;" the new Ghost will definitely make you feel like a million bucks. It might not be as outright imposing as its Cullinan or Phantom siblings, but the 2021 Ghost nevertheless fulfills the mission of a Rolls-Royce: To be the most luxurious car money can buy.
In fact, that whole "post-opulence" language really just applies to the sedan's design. The Ghost certainly strikes a commanding pose on the road, but its body is free of unnecessary sculpting, and the brightwork is rather subdued. Of course, the metal vanes in the grille are top-lit with 20 LEDs, so the whole thing has a prominent glow at night. Post-opulence doesn't mean total restraint, after all.
The 2021 Ghost rides on Rolls-Royce's modular vehicle platform -- the aptly named Architecture of Luxury -- that also underpins the Cullinan and Phantom. At 219 inches long, the Ghost is 8 inches longer than a Cullinan, despite the two having identical wheelbases. Not long enough for you? Wait for the Ghost Extended, which adds 6.7 inches of stretch-out room between the front and rear wheels.
Regardless of wheelbase, the Ghost's interior is nothing short of palatial. Headroom and legroom are generous for all passengers, and from the moment you open the coach doors -- which can now be opened and closed electronically, by the way -- you're enveloped in an aura of luxury that you'll only find in a Rolls-freaking-Royce.
Push a button to close the door and sink into the soft, leather chair. Take a brief pause before pushing the engine start button and just take it all in: The open-pore wood, the hand-stitched hides, the real metal finish on the air vents and levers and the impeccable attention to detail. It's all fantastic, and there isn't a bad seat in the house.
The cabin's design is familiar; you'll notice strong resemblance to the Cullinan and Phantom. But there are a few new touches for the Ghost that give it a slight edge over Rolls' other vehicles. For starters, there's the Illuminated Fascia -- a lit-up section of the dashboard with the word "Ghost" surrounded by stars. Rolls-Royce says this bit of flair uses more than 90,000 laser-etched dots across the dashboard surface, with 152 LED lights set behind the panel. Want a specific star pattern or a different word displayed here? Not a problem; Rolls-Royce has you covered.
Oh, and don't worry, Rolls' super-cool Starlight Headliner makes its way into the new Ghost, too, complete with a shooting star program that'll send a beam of light across the roof every so often. That's in addition to requisite Rolls-Royce features like a cooler, champagne flutes, picnic tables, internet-connected tablets and, uh, anything else you could ever want. True story: A Rolls-Royce rep once told me that, as far as interior customization possibilities are concerned, as long as it doesn't affect the car's safety systems, the company can probably make it happen if you fork over enough cash.
The one complaint I have about the Ghost is that it uses outdated infotainment tech -- specifically, a reskinned version of BMW's iDrive 6 software, though Apple CarPlay is also included (but not Android Auto). The overall menu structure isn't that difficult to work through, but it's often quite laggy to respond. Honestly, though, this doesn't really matter in a Rolls-Royce. The company says its clients don't care about multimedia tech; that's not why they're buying a Ghost in the first place. And considering the average Rolls-Royce owner has roughly 10 cars in their stable, if you're really concerned about cabin tech, surely one of your other cars can scratch that itch.
Instead, the Ghost's seriously cool tech is found under the sheet metal. Rolls-Royce calls it the Planar Suspension System, which is comprised of three parts. First, there's the double-damper front suspension assembly -- as in, the dampers have dampers. Next, there's a stereo camera in the windshield that scans the road ahead and adjusts the suspension for upcoming road-surface changes. Finally, the eight-speed automatic transmission is connected to the car's onboard GPS to preselect gears based on hills, turns, intersections and the like. All of this works together for one overarching goal: an utterly perfect ride.
Does it work? Heck yeah, it does. The Ghost drives like a dream, buttery smooth at all times, virtually flattening the road beneath you -- which, considering its 5,628-pound curb weight, isn't too far of a stretch. But for all its good graces when you're just wafting along, the Ghost doesn't lose any of its composure should you chuck it into a corner. I definitely don't advocate for this kind of behavior while driving a Ghost, as it simply isn't a car that lends itself to sporty driving. But it's nice to know that the suspension tech works wonders when the road gets twisty, too. Said another way, you can feel free to push it through bends with the confidence that your passengers won't spill their Veuve.
The Ghost will get up and go, too. Don't forget, it's powered by Rolls-Royce's 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12, with 563 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. Hitting 60 mph takes a scant 4.6 seconds, which is pretty damn quick considering the size of this thing. On the other hand, the Ghost isn't exactly what I'd call efficient, with EPA ratings of 12 miles per gallon city, 19 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined. Then again, if you can afford one, the fuel cost is hardly an issue.
Because it shares a platform with the Cullinan, the Ghost now has all-wheel drive. That not only makes it slightly more agile on the road, it means the Ghost is better suited to driving in inclement weather. Speaking of agility, the Ghost now has rear-axle steering, which virtually shortens the wheelbase while cornering and makes the long sedan far more maneuverable in parking lots -- or valet lanes.
As far as good-driving luxury barges are concerned, the Bentley Flying Spur is a bit sportier and more eager to be hustled, but the Ghost hands-down takes the cake for overall serenity at speed. And while I'm on the subject of the Bentley , it's worth pointing out that the Spur is the Ghost's closest competitor, but again, if you can afford to buy one, you can almost certainly afford to buy both.
"Afford" is definitely the word, too; the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost starts at $332,500 and the tastefully spec'd example you see here costs $428,625. As far as buyers are concerned, it's not a question of whether or not it's worth it, but whether or not they want it. And considering how lovely the new Ghost is, whether you're the driver or the one being driven, trust me, you definitely want it.