Kindred Spirit

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The new Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II is only subtly different from its predecessor, and the lack of radical change is for the best.

With the lightest of touches, Rolls-Royce has updated the Ghost, making only mild styling revisions and adding just a thin layer of engineering sophistication. In fact, if the old Ghost were parked alongside the new one, the Ghost Series II, it might appear as though the company had changed only the name.

Thus the Ghost Series II, which was introduced last March at the Geneva International Motor Show and is available now, is as luxurious and elegant as its predecessor, which had been in production since 2010. It also promises to be just as exclusive, because the starting prices are about $286,000 for the standard-wheelbase version, which is more than 18 feet long, and roughly $320,000 for the extended-wheelbase variant, which includes more than 6.5 inches of additional legroom for backseat passengers. 

The Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament now tilts forward slightly and, as an option, is available in gold plate. The headlamps are set slightly higher and marginally farther apart, making the car appear as though it has a wider and more powerful stance. The lamps are rimmed with LED lights that look like jewelry and serve as ultrabright running lights.

The Parthenon grille, a signature design element of every Rolls-Royce since the first one was produced in 1904, is fractionally taller than it was on the Ghost, but it is also softly rounded and not as ponderous. New styling lines flow from the feet of the hood ornament to the windshield firewall, breaking up the bulk of the bonnet. To some observers, they may imply speed by evoking contrails, a supersonic shock wave, or the wake of a Riva runabout.

The mechanical differences between the Ghost and the Ghost Series II are minuscule. The new model has the same BMW-sourced 6.6-liter, twin-turbo V-12, which provides enough power to shove the 5,490-pound vehicle from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. (The extended-wheelbase model weighs 5,500 pounds and reaches 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.) 

A notable new feature for the Ghost Series II is the satellite-aided transmission, which Rolls-Royce introduced in 2013 with the sportier Wraith. The system uses GPS to survey the road ahead for upcoming curves and corners and select the appropriate gear for the car’s 8-speed ZF transmission. 

Richard Carter, director of global communications for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, says the company had good reason to resist making dramatic changes to the Ghost. “We have done exactly what our customers want: a restyling that is very subtle,” he said in October in Dallas, where Rolls-Royce invited U.S. media members to test-drive the Ghost II. “They don’t want us to make radical change.”

The headquarters for the media launch was the Joule Hotel, located in downtown Dallas. The hotel, which is named for a unit of energy, first opened in 2008 in a neo-Gothic building that housed the Dallas National Bank when its construction was completed in 1927. A recently completed renovation expanded the hotel into two adjoining buildings, both of which were built in the early 20th century. The project included a complete redesign of the hotel’s rooms, suites, and spa by Adam Tihany.

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An Andy Warhol original now hangs at the Joule, as do framed sections from the mosaics by the artist Millard Sheets that were rescued from Dallas’s landmark Mercantile Building. The rooftop swimming pool juts out 8 feet from the hotel’s bank building and hangs over Main Street. In these ways and others, the Joule represents a happy coexistence of the modern and the antique, of old-world crafts and new technology, and the metaphor was not lost on the event planners at Rolls-Royce.

Unfortunately the roads around Dallas lack the energy of the hotel. Dull and flat, they can neutralize the excitement of test-driving a new luxury car. Then again, a Rolls-Royce is not intended for climbing or descending hairpins. A flat landscape may be the perfect setting to showcase the comfort, majesty, smoothness, grandeur, elegance, and whispering quiet that characterize the brand’s cars. 

The Ghost Series II drives surprisingly small for a vehicle of such size and weight. The steering is light without being delicate or twitchy, yet heavy enough to obey a firm set. Rolls-Royces were once reviled for their down-pillow suspension and waffle and float, but this car handles as well as most mainstream family sedans. For drivers who want more spunk in their motoring, the company offers an optional Dynamic Package that stiffens or tightens the front and rear struts, the dampers, and the steering.

Like other Rolls-Royce models, the Ghost Series II contains a number of automotive anachronisms, some of which contribute to its charm. The heating and air-conditioning controls are push-pull knobs that resemble organ stops, and the vents look like portholes. There are no paddle shifters, just a quaint stalk on the steering column with elementary settings for park, reverse, neutral, and drive. Rolls may dig even deeper into the past and exhume a design element from the heyday of Packards. “We have been discussing whitewall tires,” a company insider revealed.

The palette of Rolls-Royce options seems to have no limits. It includes body colors by the thousands and interior materials by the hundreds. According to company executives, every Rolls-Royce buyer orders some form of custom work. 

The long sections of straight highway across the flatlands outside Dallas invited occasional blasts at full throttle to confirm the Ghost Series II’s performance specs, but most of the drive involved meandering around Dallas County, which provided a chance to consider the merits of owning and driving a Rolls-Royce. 

There is, of course, the waftability—the sensation that the car is producing and delivering power effortlessly—and the interior’s wood trim and leather upholstery selected, cut, and polished or stitched by employees whose parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents practiced the same crafts. These elements exemplify the fact that the car is conceived and constructed like no other, which is the true appeal of a Rolls-Royce. There are no flaws in a car of this quality, just conflicting preferences of the motorist and passengers.  

As a Rolls-Royce, the Ghost Series II comes with cachet by the ton, infinite luxuries, and more cosseting than a hundred doting parents. As for prestige, a Rolls-Royce carries more status than an engraved invitation from Buckingham Palace.  

    

Rolls-Royce, rolls-roycemotorcars.com

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