2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost: This Is the Car You Really Want When You Strike It Rich
The smallest Rolls-Royce is by far the classiest—and it’s even fun to drive.
Everyone has a list of cars they'll get if they ever make a ton of money. Even those of you who say you'll give a chunk to charity probably have "well, I should at least pick up a nice road car" on the to-do list. Say you have at least $332,500 to mess around with. Take it from me: You want to get the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost.
A Rolls-Royce gets more attention than a Lamborghini, yet is way more comfortable on garbage city roads. Sure, there are faster cars, but at that price point, most are too fast to wring out on the street to the point where a dedicated track car sounds like a better, more fun option. What you want for the road is the Ghost.
The Ghost is the ultimate modern high-end upgrade from one of my favorite styles of cars ever, the brougham. It oozes fancy, but has the sleek lines, nice materials and more pared-down look that defines luxury today in place of the opera windows, ruched couch-like seats and chrome trim of yore. Even the exterior was designed to look like one solid, seamless piece of metal so nothing distracted from the form of the car. It's so overkill, but it's beautiful in person.
It's everything I dreamed of sitting in Mom's Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, except it was designed from the ground-up to be as smooth and comfortable as possible. The big V12 up front doesn't hurt, either.
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost, By the Numbers
- Base Price (as Tested): $332,500 ($428,125)
- Powertrain: 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 | eight-speed automatic transmission | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 563 at 5,000 RPM
- Torque: 627 at 1,600 RPM
- Curb Weight: 5,628 pounds
- 0-60 mph: 4.6 seconds
- EPA Fuel Economy: 14 MPG combined | 12 MPG city | 19 MPG highway
- Quick Take: A sleek, modern take on the ultra-luxurious car for those who appreciate the finer things in life and crave comfort over all.
Driving on a Lambswool Magic Carpet
The extra effort Rolls-Royce put in to make this car as smooth as possible definitely pays off. I got to test the Ghost out in my home city of Austin, where road surfaces are sometimes hot garbage. Rolls-Royce calls their fancy bump-masking suspension tech its "Magic Carpet Ride," and it glided over some of the worst lumps and unavoidable potholes this city. It went over a large speed bump so smoothly that I could have probably taken it at the neighborhood's speed limit without spilling my coffee.
Here's how serious Rolls-Royce takes smoothness: There is an extra set of dampers for the shocks themselves. Rolls' reps described them as "shocks for the shocks," but they don't look like the tube-shaped shocks you're probably thinking of. Still, they do the job of making sure the car soaks up the bumps while maintaining the smoothest possible ride.
The Ghost's Flagbearer system scans the road ahead using onboard cameras to prepare the suspension for upcoming bumps. I couldn't tell if it was working or not, and that's the point. The car was the smoothest vehicle I've ever ridden in.
Likewise, the eight-speed automatic transmission was designed so that shifts would be imperceptible to the people inside, and that was true unless you floored it. The car even uses satellite data to predict what gear it needs to be in for the next corner so it can get there as smoothly as possible.
The engine is a velvety smooth 6.75-liter V12 good for 563 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. While it does feature twin turbos, those don't kick in with a big jolt of power. According to Rolls-Royce, the drivetrain was tuned for maximum torque just 600 RPM over its 1,000-RPM idle, which makes it rather effortless to reach cop-baiting speeds in no time.
Yet just because it was designed to isolate occupants from harsh bumps, potholes and the drivetrain itself doesn't mean they ignored the driving experience. The car's designers even made sure that the front and rear doors were roughly the same size to emphasize that the car is enjoyable from any seat inside.
This is no ultra-nimble sports car, and you certainly feel its heft at times, but driving it is a blast. For as well as the suspension isolates you from potholes and speed bumps, it's not floaty or unwieldy at all.
You can feel it transfer its 5,628-plus-pound curb weight to one side in a turn, and while you feel the sheer inertia of that mass as you move between switchbacks, it's surprisingly good. The controls are as light as you would expect—which means that I spent a couple minutes driving with my pinkies out in town to get it out of my system—but the steering wheel gets more resistance with speed.
It's all-wheel drive, but all-wheel steering helps it turn in way better than it has any right to. Under 25 mph, the rear wheels turn the opposite direction as the front wheels, but over that, the wheels all turn in the same direction. For you, this makes the big beast easier to maneuver. My daily driver is roughly 2,500 pounds lighter, yet I noticed that the Ghost was able to take some of the familiar curves in town at about the same speeds with little drama.
To handle its hefty curb weight, huge brakes and 280-treadwear Pirelli P Zero tires—a surprisingly low figure for a heavy car. The 21-inch wheels are staggered in an odd way, too, with 255/40 R21 tires up front and lower-profile but wider 285/35 R21 tires in the rear.
Look At It
If you want to hide in a cocoon of pure luxury, this is the car. Every component I touched felt solid. The car I tested had a full console armrest in the rear, including crystal glasses, a champagne fridge and a crystal decanter. Both seats had a huge 12-inch 720p flip-down infotainment touchscreen and fold-down table not unlike an airplane seat, except this one wasn't flimsy and could be folded up or down with the press of a button.
Speaking of buttons, you can even shut the back door using a button located on the C-pillar. Need an umbrella when you step out? There's a handcrafted umbrella hiding in the door, which has become somewhat of a Rolls trademark over the years.
The Starlight Headliner (which is now standard) and Illuminated Fascia for the dashboard look as stunning in person as they do in photos, and while you could turn both off if you really wanted to, neither was distracting when I drove the car. Stare long enough at the headliner, and you'll see a shooting star go by. It's very relaxing.
Rolls Royce was so adamant about silencing out the outside world that they actually added barely-perceptible white noise back into the interior so it wouldn't feel too eerie.
To wit: The car was wind-tunnel-tested not just to make sure it was the most aerodynamic Rolls to-date, but also to make sure everything would be quiet. There's roughly 220 pounds of sound deadening used in the car, including different materials within the doors meant to handle road noise, ambient noise and wind noise as well as semi-liquid sound deadening that was pumped into the chassis. The air conditioning ducts are lined with a fleece-like material to reduce noise. The interior surfaces of the pipes under the center console were also engineered to be as quiet as possible. Rolls-Royce discovered that the seats emit a different frequency than the body of the car when the car was in motion, so the seat frames have dampers in them both to reduce motion and prevent them from making noise. Variable-length ports were added under the rear parcel shelf to remove low-frequency booming between the luggage and passenger compartments.
Rolls-Royce's engineers said that they used no active noise cancellation at all, yet the results were remarkable. Out of curiosity, I cranked the volume knob up all the way on a Gwar song and shut the door, only to hear barely anything outside. Your questionable listening habits will stay between you and the car. Even the horn sounds relatively quiet from the inside.
The Bespoke Audio stereo didn't sound as nice as Audi's Bang & Olufsen systems—perhaps the tech trick of using the headliner as another speaker doesn't work as well as a traditional audio setup. It was fine, though, and the sound quality improved at louder volumes.
The seats all have massage functions and recline, even in the back. The short-wheelbase Ghost I tested didn't have leg rests, though, and my shorter legs would have appreciated the extra support since the rear seats were just a bit too tall for me, and my legs felt like they were dangling at full recline. (The leg rests were an option with the longer-wheelbase Ghost, of course.)
I didn't feel as if I really needed to recline all the way to feel comfortable. Rolls-Royce's focus on using high-quality materials meant that everything I touched was soft, from the smooth leather to the high-pile lambswool floor mats.
I appreciated the decision to let the quality of the leather shine through by forgoing complicated stitchwork as it made for vastly more comfortable seat cushions. Even though there was sufficient support from the adjustable lumbar support and side bolsters, it still felt like riding on a combination of well-placed pillows.
To put all of this to the test, Rolls-Royce let me be chauffeured around town to see exactly how long it would take for me to fall asleep. I can fall asleep just about anywhere when I'm tired—at my desk, in a lifted Jeep, in a car that's being worked on and even standing up after my trigonometry teacher in high school got sick of me falling asleep at my desk. Yet this day was different: I was well-rested for a change. Do your worst, you fine-tuned chunk of bespoke luxury.
It only took about fifteen minutes, according to the driver who admitted that he didn't want to say anything and wake me up.
The Ghost is a car that doesn't try too hard with high-tech gadgets and features. As a result, it's a better, more functional car than those trying to be at the bleeding edge of technology.
Rolls-Royce's cars have a longer life-cycle than most—the outgoing generation of the Ghost lasted for a decade, for example—so the company has to future-proof things a bit.
Because of that, it felt validating to see physical buttons to control the car's most-used controls for the radio and the climate control. Buttons are much easier to use and frankly safer than shuffling all of those controls onto a big screen that lures your eyes off the road. This is a design hill I will die on, and I'm determined not to let that death happen in my car from distracted driving. The Ghost's button layout was intuitive and easy to use, and as with the rest of the car, every control felt smooth and substantial.
BMW's ownership of the brand is easy to see throughout the interior, particularly with the iDrive-style "rotary controller" knobs for the 10.25-inch infotainment screen up front as well as various functions in the back. The button layout on the dashboard is also reminiscent of the current BMW 7 Series. Rolls-Royce's representatives at our drive event touted this as a positive, as it allows them to access the research and design resources of a larger company and choose the exact items that fit their brand the most—and even improve them if need be.
The Ghost features active cruise control and blind-spot detection, but no lane assist or semi-autonomous features. A Rolls-Royce spokesperson said that their customers wanted more passive technology in these cars.
Most charging and connection ports are USB-C as more phones are starting to use that standard, although the rear seats get both traditional USB plugs as well as USB-C. There's bluetooth and wifi onboard, plus a Blu-ray player for the back. The optional onboard wine cooler even had two different settings depending on which wine was inside.
The familiarity of all of the Ghost's systems was by design. If a feature would have to be explained at length in a manual or taught at a dealership, they didn't add it. If the technology was so new that there might be bugs, they didn't add it—after all, who wants to spend over $332K (or $428,125 in my test car's case) on a car only to have functions not work? The goal was effortlessness, which made for one of the easiest-to-use interiors I've experienced in a new car.
Everything Is Truly Yours In a Rolls-Royce
Perhaps the most impressive thing is the level of customization available to Rolls-Royce owners. The different color and material combinations are seemingly endless, with some 44,000 different paint colors to choose from for the exterior alone. If you order your own custom color, Rolls-Royce will copyright that color for you if you'd like, such that no one else can use it without your permission.
The accent pinstripe down the side is even hand-drawn by a specific artist on staff and color-matched to the interior—provided that you want one and you want it to be that color.
A car with this level of customization and price point truly is conspicuous consumption at the highest level, even though this is the smallest Rolls on sale. While I got more positive attention from other drivers than in anything else I've driven to date, I also have to admit that it felt worse than usual to pass homeless camps under bridges in this thing. It's a great luxury car coming out at a truly awful point in history, and there's no way that the car can isolate you from that aspect.
Still, in every other metric, this is one of the most enjoyable cars money can buy. It's a luxurious vessel that isn't trying to be a tech gadget, a sports car or anything else beyond the absolute pinnacle of class and comfort—and that's precisely why it's awesome.
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