I spent a day in a $750,000 Rolls-Royce motor car, and now I think I have ruined the experience of sitting in and driving just about any other vehicle. This is what three quarters of one million dollars, about the price of an average Sydney apartment, will buy you in outright motoring bliss.
What Is It?
It was my birthday back at the beginning of May, and as a little present to myself I took a day off work. That day off also coincided quite nicely with my overnight loan of a Rolls-Royce Ghost II — a Salamanca Blue model with black stained ash interior, beige leather seats with heating, air conditioning and massage settings, a panorama sunroof, electronically self-closing rear "coach doors", a completely bespoke audio system, et cetera. All this with an on-road price of a mere $747,860.
The Ghost Series II is Rolls-Royce's super-premium, super-luxury four-door saloon car. Made as much for the person driving as for the person being driven, the Ghost sits in between the two-door Wraith and the full-on limousine-spec Phantom in size and stance and purpose.
The Ghost Series II is powered by a twin-turbocharged, 6.6-litre V12 developing enough power. (That is, 420kW at 5250rpm and 780Nm from 1500rpm onwards, but it's not polite to ask.) You can only buy the Ghost with a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, which is as smooth as silk to drive, and utterly buttery to be driven around with. This combination allows a surprisingly spirited sprint of 4.9 seconds to 100km/h.
I say surprising because the Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II weighs a hefty 2940kg. It's every bit as big as you'd expect, too — 5.4 metres long, 1.95 metres wide, and 1.55 metres tall. All that means there's a fair amount of internal space for the intended four occupants — there's no centre seat in that rear pew, because the centre is given over to an executive armrest with cupholders, ashtray and a cigar box inside.
What's It Good At?
Oh, man. Sitting inside the Ghost is like sitting inside a movie theatre, whichever seat you take. Close the door and it's like closing the door to your house — it's so quiet, and comfortable, and luxurious. It's everything you would expect a Rolls-Royce to be, basically. The leather seats are all individually adjustable in so many ways that I can't describe them, with heating and air-conditioning ventilation and massage settings and individual thigh support. The lambswool carpeting is so plush that you can feel it through a pair of shoes. Everything just looks perfect.
The driver's seat, though, is the place to be in this particular piece of motoring bliss. Not only is it incredibly comfortable, but it provides you with direct access to an incredible array of technology, all of which is discreetly hidden away until you need it or want it. The 10.2-inch high-res centre LCD display? Hidden away behind a thin, veneered cover that slides out of the way or moves up to seamlessly conceal that display whenever you so desire. A quartet of cameras in the bumpers and wing mirrors show you a live, three-dimensional readout of everything around you when you're reversing. Oh, and there's a night-vision camera in the front bumper that senses pedestrians and animals on dark, distant stretches of highway as you're travelling.
It's actually really nice to drive, too. I was actually surprised to note that the Ghost II feels the most like a Tesla Model S of any other car I've driven. It accelerates incredibly smoothly and constantly from a standstill — not one ounce of lurching from the transmission changing gears, whether you're gliding away slowly from a set of lights or accelerating down a freeway on-ramp. It's certainly quick — that five second sprint to 100km/h actually feels shorter — but what is most impressive is how smoothly it comes to a stop, even if you're pulling up quick. It's not a light car by any stretch of the imagination, but it responds when you jump on the anchors if you really need it to.
It's also so comfortable, as both a passenger and as a driver. This particular Ghost II had Rolls-Royce's adaptive air suspension, and it handled potholes and speed bumps with aplomb. You can corner quickly and the car keeps itself composed. This isn't a sports car — it's a Rolls-Royce, you heathen — but it moves around like it knows what it's doing. If you want to roll around like a baller, you can set the suspension to low, but I kept it at standard height for the most part — I'll happily admit I was scared of scraping the underbody and driving back to Rolls to own up to it.
Honestly, I'm sure you're not surprised by this fact at this point, but the Rolls-Royce Ghost is just such a cool car. Everyone looked. A bunch of people asked what it was, if they could take a look inside, if I could give them a lift. I spent my entire day driving around and showing it to people and driving them around. It was something that I doubt I'll ever do again, but I think I'll treasure the memory nonetheless. Apart from the massive fear of scratching it or running into something.
What's It Not Good At?
It's expensive. It's really expensive. It's super expensive. But I guess you already knew that from the three or four times I already mentioned it, right? This particular Rolls was specced out to $747,860, from a base price of $545,000. That's over $200,000 of options. I am certain that the base model Ghost II is still an amazing piece of machinery and of heritage motoring, but know that the experience I had was with a car that had some amazing things added on top. The auto-closing rear doors, for example — a feature that I made sure to show to everyone that rode in the back of the car — is a five-figure extra.
It's also really big. I drove around Sydney for most of the day, and when I parked it in the East Village shopping centre in Zetland, the extra-large car spaces inside were only just big enough to fit the Ghost II. Parking spaces on the street around Zetland? Almost impossible. I parked on the street in Redfern when I went out with a couple of mates for lunch, and barely fit into what I thought was a massive spot — of the kind that I'd easily fit my VW Polo into with room to spare for just about a second car. That kind of heft means lots of space for the occupants inside, but also means you have to be really careful when you're driving it around.
That size also means fuel consumption is not great. To be absolutely fair, it's not nearly as bad as you'd expect from a twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 pushing 3000kg of steel and aluminium, but I did register average fuel economy of around about 20 litres per 100 kilometres over the 24 hours that I had the car. I drove just under 200km — Rolls did ask that I didn't put too many kays on their one demonstrator car — and that's 40 litres of your finest 98 octane petrol used, probably slightly over $50 out of your pocket for the privilege. That doesn't make too much of a difference in the scheme of the car's asking price, for what it's worth.
One more tangential consideration is that if you drive a Rolls-Royce Ghost II and you don't have the kind of income that means $750,000 is throwaway cash, you'll always be worried about where it is and who is looking at it. I parked it on a street in Redfern over lunch, and checked on it about five times in half an hour — just in case someone was scratching it or kicking the tyres or breathing on it the wrong way. It's probably my own stupid paranoid brain more than anything else, but if you end up owning this car be prepared to pay for parking tickets at a lot of valeted garages where someone will be taking care of the car while you're not.
All of these complaints, I hope you realise, are so minor that they wouldn't even register on the radar of anyone remotely considering purchasing a Rolls Royce Ghost II. It's just not that kind of car, and I don't have any kind of real complaints that I'd actually consider worth mentioning. You pay the asking price, you get a genuinely amazing car that is genuinely amazing to sit inside, to drive, to be driven around in, to show off, to worry about whenever it's not within your line of sight.
Should You Buy It?
The Rolls-Royce Ghost II is an amazing piece of technology. It's an amazing piece of motoring history, of pure driving experience of luxury, of understated decadence. Of course you should buy one. Of course, not many of you will actually be able to afford it, nor will most of the people that live in Australia today. For the most part, this car functions for us as a symbol — it's a piece of prestige that makes you feel special whenever you come into contact with it.
If you get the chance, though, I strongly recommend you experience it in at least some way. Find one at a motor show, rent one out for the day, order a fancy limo trip when you go the airport for your next holiday. Hell, go peek in the windows of one when it drives past you. I can almost guarantee that you'll be every bit as impressed as I was, and you'll find dozens of little things that stand out to you. It's an experience that you won't forget quickly.