- Max Speed
I had no idea The Apprentice was back on our screens?
You should know better. This isn't Lord Vader's - sorry, Lord Sugar's - Rolls-Royce Phantom doing the obligatory London city-run, it's the brand new Rolls-Royce Ghost. It's called the Series II, and right off the bat we must say this: it's bloody excellent.
We'll come to that shortly. First, let's pick through the updates to the Series II, because to do so is to understand the Rolls-Royce modus operandi. Nothing too drastic, slight tweaks here and there, but tweaks with a significant amount of effort in the detail.
Every single panel on the front of the car has been changed. The headlights are brighter LED units, and have been very subtly tweaked and now feature unbroken daytime running lights around the frame.
The bonnet has been treated to a ‘wake channel' across the middle, to replicate a jet's vapour trail coming from the Spirit of Ecstasy's wings (itself leaned forward by seven degrees). The whole grille now sits 13mm higher than the Series I, too.
And while the car's width hasn't increased, the bumpers have been resculpted to make it appear so. The ‘waft line' - the crease running across the side towards the front wing - has been given more lean too.
Speaking of lean, the rear seats have been subtly angled towards each other, the front seats are completely new ("our best seat ever built", says RR), there are individually applied polished metal chaplets around the instrument dials and the option of two new veneers. Speaking of which, a Rolls veneer is "more unique than a human fingerprint", because no two are ever the same.
Then there's the new 10.25-inch high-def screen, and a touchpad on the crystal rotary controller (a neat, erm, touch) that can replicate a smartphone's ‘pinch' functionality.
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The audio system is now bigger and better and sounds suitably bombastic, and most importantly, the Series II now get the excellent Satellite Aided Transmission we first saw in the Wraith.
It's a system that analyses GPS data and your driving style to select the appropriate gear from the ZF eight-speeder. There are new hydraulic rear axle bearings to better the ride quality, and if you spec the ‘Dynamic Driving Pack', new front and rear struts, new steering gear, adjusted dampers and a thicker steering wheel will appear.
So what's it like?
Brilliant. Cosseting. The ride isn't completely beyond reproach - the most spiteful elements of our roadwork still manage to sneak into the cabin very slightly, most likely a result of our car's Dynamic Pack - but on the whole it's just a magnificent way to travel. It's quiet, calm, hushed and majestic in the way it just sweeps you up the road, soaking up the imperfections and keeping your physiology stable.
The engine remains the same 6.6-litre V12 with 563bhp and 575lb ft of torque, but you'd never guess, because you can never hear it. All you feel is the poweeerrr. And for a car weighing in at 2,470kg, it's got a serious kick. You could embarrass professional helmsmen in this. We assume the Rolls would disapprove of such malarkey, though.
The new trick GPS-saddled gearbox is, as we found in the Wraith, also wonderful. No paddles, no fuss, just progress. Never once did the car falter for the appropriate gear. Spookily on point. It's also got a moderate amount of sporting intent, too; that steering wheel erring on the side of caution in relation to feel, yet not heavy enough to cause any undignified manhandling. Though as we've mentioned before, you can't really define the Ghost in terms of normal road-testery metrics, because it's above that.
It's because of the feel of the Ghost. From the opulence inside - the thick, deep carpet, incredible detailing on the veneer, superlative audio and leather sourced from its own dedicated planet - to its poise on the road, the car feels like a superbly schooled personal assistant. Everything it does is to remove pressure, not add it. A fine, fine thing.