Money does not buy style or taste. That is a well-worn statement in my household. But it has often rung true particularly as I grew up, noticing nouveau-riche parents with their red braces (usually men) collecting peers from the school gates in their Mercedes.
“Was it really necessary to flash their Filofaxes and mobile phones,” I pondered, quarter of a century ago. Things haven’t changed much although Filofaxes seem to have been replaced by dreaded iPhones.
Those who appreciate the finer things in life, and have sufficient funds, have always been drawn to Rolls-Royce. This historic British brand is a byword for quality and those who are fortunate enough to drive one do not need to shout about their success. In fact more often than not they try to keep quiet for fear of reprisal.
As the Ghost four-door saloon glides past a bus stop one rain-drenched bystander nods his disapproval, which is unfortunate. If he had just considered what this vehicle actually stands for, he might have reacted differently. The Rolls-Royce is a magnificent example of what Britain can still achieve in terms of engineering and car production. There is no finer car on the world’s roads. In this day and age where most vehicles roll off a production line, the Rolls-Royce is still hand built in Great Britain, at Goodwood, near Chichester to be precise.
All this heritage and craftsmanship realises an asking price of just over £265,000 for the Ghost Extended Wheel Base tested, a drop in the ocean to highly successful British, American and Chinese businessmen. In China, due to hugely inflated taxes on luxury imported vehicles a Ghost EWB is reported to cost £482,000. Footballer David Beckham has taken delivery of an all-black £250,000 standard wheelbase version in Los Angeles.
My test takes place at a time when there are 170 storm alerts across the UK. As the Ghost makes its way along Britain’s sodden roads, the engine is a mere whisper – just like a ghost.
The journey to the National Trust’s Petworth House in West Sussex – to see paintings by Turner and Van Dyck – gives the Rolls ample opportunity to show its mettle. Not even continual downpours and excess surface water present a problem to the larger than life Roller.
Travelling – at no matter what speed – is thoroughly relaxing for any passenger. If urgency is necessary then a push of the accelerator into the deep pile blue carpet will effortlessly power the 6.6-litre V12 from 0 to 60mph in 4.8 seconds and on to 155mph.
Driving from A to B is a grand occasion in the Ghost. Finished in Midnight Sapphire with a striking contrasting silver bonnet it is both opulent and elegant. Interestingly, the first Rolls-Royces had two-tone paintwork. The extra 170mm (the EWB measures 5569mm long compared to the 5399mm of the SWB model) provides rear passengers with a massive quantity of leg room, making it particularly well-suited to those over six feet tall such as serial entrepreneur Peter Jones. If he hasn’t got one already, this comes highly recommended.
The entire cabin is spacious, light and airy, helped by the cream leather upholstery and the electric tilt and slide panorama sunroof.
This modern Rolls hasn’t forgotten its roots – the traditional design has received an injection of modernity with its chunky and purposeful appearance. Both the interior and exterior hark back to Rolls-Royces of old. A striking characteristic is the old fashioned gear shift – a gear lever is located to the right of the steering wheel – push this downwards for selecting drive mode on the eight-speed box as well as reverse, neutral and park. This certainly helps to set the elegant Rolls-Royce apart from the crowd.
Additionally, the steering wheel harks back to classic cars – reminding me of my late grandfather’s 50-year-old Rover 75, which I drove a few times.
Just like that fine car there is an abundance of chrome, wood and leather but with the addition of satellite navigation and heated front and rear seats. The front centre arm-rest and the door inserts mirror the Midnight Sapphire of the exterior. On start-up a wooden cover on the dash retracts to reveal an information panel, which displays among other things the vehicle status highlighting any issues such as when a service is due.
When the Rolls is unlocked the magnificent Spirit of Ecstasy automatically rises. It retracts when the car is locked. This can be operated from inside the vehicle, too. Also referred to as Emily, Silver Lady or Flying Lady, this work of art was designed by Charles Sykes. The result of a secret passion between John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, (second Lord Montagu of Beaulieu after 1905, a pioneer of the automobile movement, and editor of The Car Illustrated magazine from 1902), John’s secretary Eleanor Thornton is the model for the emblem.
The push of a button sees the heavy rear doors close under their own steam. Rear occupants are treated to highly polished wooden picnic tables and multimedia screens, controls for which are mounted on the rear armrest. The boot automatically opens and closes, also at the push of a button.
Safety is paramount and its sophisticated cruise control intelligently keeps the Rolls at a safe distance behind the car in front. It also accelerates and brakes.
All in all the Rolls-Royce Ghost Extended Wheel Base is as you would expect from a vehicle costing in excess of quarter of a million pounds. It is a splendid achievement to both build and own.
Rolls Royce Ghost Extended Wheel Base
New price: £265,408 OTR
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: circa 20mpg
Road tax: £1,000
Cost to fill up: £120 a tank
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