Penetrating lonely high mountain pastures on miles of straights, pavement glistening with the faintest gleam of dew in the light of dawn, my Gray Mind raged with astonishing ease to extra-legal speed. Speed sweeps the periphery, just like in a supercar, but it’s experienced not through a mail slot windshield and hips hanging just inches above the tarmac, but instead from Gray Ghost’s high and mighty observation deck.
With its air suspension and heavily beefed-up fingertip steering, a Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost isn’t a supercar or super-sized sports sedan, but on my mountain test run with the sharper calibration selected, this 5600-pound sporty luxury cocoon proved manageable when guided with a soft hand, shrinking with every mile, with every curved curve. Ghost is an interstellar battlecruiser of the imagination.
Beneath that bonnet billiard table sits a twin-turbo V12 with 664 lb of torque. ft. available from 1700-4250 rpm, grounded via a four-wheel drive system. Ghost takes the company to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, about half a second slower than BMW’s Z4 M sports car.
Still, Ghost is 0.7 seconds FASTER than a standard Z4 roadster. Ghost has the point-it-and-punch-it acceleration of a muscle car, but with the sweet sounds of a V12, not a raw V8. Hammer down in a straight line, Ghost is the iron fist in a plush, padded velvet glove.
Across the pitifully hard highways of Los Angeles, Gray Ghost delivered the famous Rolls-Royce ‘magic carpet ride’, expansion joints and hideous tarmac patches felt like nothing more than subtle timpani slamming through the dense blankets of sound-absorbing material. Ghost is a boulevardier first and foremost, like any Goodwood Rolls-Royce, designed to float along Sunset Boulevard, PCH, or Huntington Drive.
The bus doors open 90 degrees, creating a sense of opportunity even for kids climbing into their Chiccho booster for the 10-minute ride to the summer swim camp. Every time little feet land on deep-pile lambskin, screams of delight fill the air.
Ghost’s considerable length, taller than a BMW X2 CUV, is masked by the steep angle of the windshield, the sweep of the rear roof pillar into a high trunk and the sheer length and width of the car.
Seats are anything but the thin shells of a supercar. If Ghost’s hefty front seats were wedged into that BMW Z4 M roadster, not only would some drivers be looking over the windshield frame, but the 0-60 sprint could soar above 4 seconds, such is the weight. Lyrics of Peter Gabriel’s old song, “Big Time” are coaxed from the far corners of the mind – these are huge pieces of furniture.
Front door surrounds are high polygons thanks to the extreme swing of the windshield, requiring tall drivers to think carefully and plan to enter with grace. For people of average height, it only takes a slight bend of the knee to sit on the driver’s seat to lean forward and fall onto the wide leather surface. But for those much over six feet, the noggin has to pass through the back of the door frame. The doors are so big and heavy that they are closed by pressing a button on the center console, motors swinging gently in, the locking mechanism then pulls the last ¾ inch to seal the deal.
Rolls-Royce engineers master the intricacies and installation quality of the luxurious plug-and-play interior. With the exception of all those black and dark green Phantoms being sold to the world’s major hotels to serve as A-list airport shuttles, almost every Rolls is a unique artistic expression, especially inside. Why buy one and not commission at least a few special features?
My Gray Ghost’s black leather dash, door panels and seats were accented in a kinky shade, “Tailored Purple”, which would be ridiculous on a KIA or Camry, but in the Ghost’s mens study, the Tailored Purple blooms work beautifully . (The other Ghost I tasted had my favorite Rolls interior color, Hotspur Red.) Even the dash clock hands were in Tailored Purple; it is believed that the clock painter builds ships in a bottle as a relaxing hobby. And as a reminder of how special the car is, the impeccable hand-assembled work – not a single stitch of Tailored Purple thread fluffing, warped or loose anywhere in the car – is a perfect color match for the leather and hands. Every time I got behind the sturdy steering wheel, I reached for the cliff-like leading edge of the top dash to run my fingers over the wires.
With tall people in the front, leg and foot room in the back is very good, but no rival to the acres of an extended wheelbase (EWB) Phantom, which is, of course, a driver-driven car, not an owner. Still, no one will complain during the 30-minute drive on LA’s 110 freeway to a concert at Disney Hall, or the 90-minute drive south to Laguna.
On my second day with the Gray Ghost, I drove two hours south to San Diego’s Mission Bay for the Rolls-Royce Owners Club National Meeting, where I spent the morning in two 100-year-old Henry Royce masterpieces, a Silver Ghost. straight-sided Barker open tourer and a bulkhead Mayfair sedan, both built in the 1920s at Rolls-Royce’s short-lived U.S. plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. Both cars are regularly driven and the maroon car has completed “Wholly Ghost” rallies on several continents, logging ten thousand miles and more every year. These vintage cars helped define Rolls-Royce, helped build its image as one of the world’s best cars. Driven alongside these two ancient Spirits, my Gray Spirit seemed a fitting successor to our century.