Review update: 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost summons a sense of occasion

It’s a special day when a Rolls-Royce graces your driveway. A rolling tribute to the spoils of wealth, the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost manages to be stately and classy, but not crass or ostentatious. It’s resolutely committed to quality, so much so that you want to up your game as a driver. You want to dress better, act more civilized, show it to your friends and family, and attempt to live a more sophisticated life.

That’s what I did in my three short days with a 2021 Ghost, the smaller of Rolls’ two ultra-luxury sedans. I gave friends a high-end experience they wouldn’t normally have and took my family out to a fancy socially distanced dinner. Along the way, I learned some of the ways the auto industry’s benchmark for luxury hits and misses.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

Hit: It pampers passengers

The Ghost comes up with new ways to pamper passengers. The so-called “interior suite” has the requisite features you can get in most luxury cars: heated and cooled seats, multiple power-seat adjustments, seat massagers front and rear, and four-zone automatic climate control. Then there are the features that you don’t expect: doors that open and close automatically at the push of a button or pull of a handle, rear infotainment controls, heated armrests, rear seat tables, plush lamb’s wool carpeting, and umbrellas in the doors.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

Hit: It’s about the details and attention to detail

The Ghost is full of details that surprise and delight. The Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament rises and retracts when the car is turned on and off. The Starlight Headliner has thousands of pinhole lights to approximate the night sky and it even simulates shooting stars. The passenger side of the dash has 850 stars of its own lit by 152 LEDs, and yet they’re not visible during the day.

More than the party tricks, the Ghost is built to an exacting standard. The metal controls are cold to the touch and move with weighty precision. The leather is buttery smooth, and all the tolerances are tight.

Even the sound is a purposeful whisper that isn’t as disorienting as complete quiet. The floors and cowl are double skinned to sandwich sound deadener, the tires have sound deadener of their own, the seat frames are damped to match the interior frequency, and ports were added under the parcel shelf to equalize highway thrum with the interior frequency as well.

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This all creates a serene environment for driver and passengers alike and makes the Ghost perhaps the most comfortable road trip car on the market.

 

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

Miss: It’s intimidating

My Arctic White tester cost more than the average mortgage, and it made me treat the car with kid gloves. Making it worse was the Arctic White leather interior, which seemed like an invitation for scuffs, nicks, stains, and anything else that could possibly go wrong. And something almost went terribly wrong. It was amazing how quickly I sprung into action to stop the car and open the rear door when my ailing sister said she felt queasy. I wasn’t about to try to clean the pristine leather (it’s made up of 20 cowhides with 338 individual panels, each subject to the industry’s toughest quality checks) or the lamb’s wool carpets. Quick action averted the crisis, though the road did suffer. Clean up on Hwy O.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Planar suspension system

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost Planar suspension system

Hit: It works harder to isolate passengers than any other car

Beyond sound, the Ghost employs a lot of technology to isolate occupants from the feel of the road, and it works incredibly well. The suspension technology starts with the high-end basics: air springs and adaptive dampers. From there, Rolls-Royce further damps the ride with a damper on a damper. Each of the front wishbones has an additional damper on top of it to damp the already damped road imperfections. That damping is further damped proactively with the Flagbearer system that uses stereo cameras in the windshield to read the road ahead and prepare the suspension for upcoming bumps and ruts. Flagbearer also uses the satellite navigation system to determine the location of the car and change the gears in the 8-speed automatic transmission to prepare for bends and corners.

The upshot of all this technology is the smoothest ride you’ll find. Despite 22-inch wheels, minor road imperfections never get through to the well-heeled backsides of riders, and larger bumps are only minor disturbances. Rolls-Royce calls it Magic Carpet Ride, and that name couldn’t be more appropriate.

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2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

Hit and Miss: It’s more controlled than ever

It’s just as much of a pleasure to drive the Ghost as it is to be driven in it. Yes, it still drives like a land yacht, but a smaller more controllable land yacht than the last generation. A lot of suspension technology and an exclusive Rolls-Royce aluminum spaceframe architecture that also underpins the flagship Phantom sedan and Cullinan SUV create a controlled ride that we’ve already established as exceedingly comfortable.

A big car at 218.5 inches long, the Ghost is packed with features that also make it heavy at 5,628 pounds. However, standard all-wheel drive and subtle engine tuning keep the 563-hp twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V-12 tamed, rear-wheel steering makes the car feel shorter than it is, and the aforementioned air suspension and adaptive dampers counter much of the body lean.

It still leans in corners but not so much that passengers will spill their Perrier-Jouet or have to look up from their MacBook Airs. It’s not nearly as sporty as a BMW 7-Series, but it’s also even more comfortable than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which is the benchmark luxury sedan for mere mortals.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

Miss: Breathtakingly expensive

My Arctic White tester had a starting price of $332,500, but Rolls-Royce finds a way to charge for much, much more. My tester was outfitted with $102,375 in options, and with a $2,600 gas-guzzler charge and $2,750 for destination the total came to $440,225. Among those options were $1,600 for the umbrellas, $4,800 for a lit version of the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, $7,925 worth of open-pore Obsidian Ayous wood trim, $6,200 for an Indulge analog dashboard clock, $10,575 for Rolls’ 18-speaker audio system with 1,300 watts of power, and $5,325 for the fold-down rear tables. 

Ghost buyers have a lot of money and Rolls-Royce is willing to take as much of it as possible. In exchange, buyers get the ultimate in luxury personalized to their tastes.

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2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

Base price: $332,500

Price as tested: $440,225

EPA fuel economy: 12/19/14 mpg

The hits: Pampers, isolates, controlled, the details

The misses: Yacht-like handling, intimidating, expensive

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