The Ghost is the first expression of Rolls-Royce in its new age of post-opulence. Officially unveiled today, this highly significant car has been completely redesigned and re-engineered to be a product that speaks the language of contemporary Rolls-Royce and chimes with the wants and needs of its new breed of clientele.
The Ghost has been a phenomenal success story for Rolls-Royce. Introduced ten years ago as a brand-new concept for the marque, the car has since become the most successful model in the company’s 116-year history. From the start the Ghost was designed to be driven rather than chauffeured like the flagship Phantom and it introduced the brand to an altogether different set of customers: a more international and certainly younger group. The impact of this car, the Wraith that followed and the edgy Black Badge editions has been such that the average Rolls customer is now in their forties.
“The first Goodwood Ghost was a response to a whole new generation of clients, both in age and attitude,” says company CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös. “These men and women asked us for a slightly smaller, less ostentatious means to own a Rolls-Royce. The success of the product we created for them fulfilled our most ambitious expectations.”
He notes that the only components carried over from the first Ghost is the Spirit of Ecstasy emblem and the umbrellas stored inside the car. “Everything else was designed, crafted and engineered from the ground up,” says Müller-Ötvös. “The result is the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce yet. It distils the pillars of our brand into a beautiful, minimalist, yet highly complex product that is perfectly in harmony with our Ghost clients’ needs and perfectly in tune with the times.”
But first a little explanation of “post-opulence”, the term being used by Rolls-Royce to communicate its new brand positioning and to help steer its creative direction. Speaking to me in the midst of the pandemic lockdown, Alex Innes who heads up the marque’s Coachbuild division introduced the idea, explaining the concept as design through reduction and substance. “In my role I’m afforded direct access to our clients – hearing first-hand their perception of how things are moving,” he told me in June, referring to the marque’s ultimate customization service. This new mode is the antithesis of premium mediocrity – a term often used in the fashion world to describe the value of an object when it is defined more by the brand than the substance. “There has been a move towards reduction,” Innes said, “and our patrons largely want fewer things but better things. It has been informing our representation as a marque, but also our future product development.”
How post-opulence translates aesthetically is evident the moment you see the 2020 Ghost. I was one of the few journalists who got to see the car in a secret location a few months ago and it is an altogether quieter and more refined product than the one it replaces. Much of this has been possible thanks to the marque’s aluminum spaceframe architecture which is already used to create the Phantom and Cullinan.
For instance, the hand-welded aluminum body structure appears as one fluid canvas, uninterrupted by shut lines to recall the coachbuilt Silver Dawn and Silver Cloud. The architecture has also allowed the Ghost’s width to expand by 30mm and, for the first time, the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot is not surrounded by panel lines but is positioned alone, almost floating, on the bonnet. These are subtle changes but together really alter your perception of the car.
The Ghost face has a unique character formed through the play of light whereby 20 LEDs underneath the top of the radiator grille subtly illuminating the veins. To achieve this, the engineering team brushed the back of each metal grille bar to make them less reflective for a more restrained glow.
At the flanks, a single straight stroke is used to emphasize the product’s length. The lower Rolls “waft line” borrows from nautical design and uses reflection to lighten the surfacing and create a pure, uncomplicated sense of motion. The glasshouse too references boats with the doors sharing an equally proportioned window graphic as a way of visually expressing a car that is equally happy driven or chauffeured. The roofline is subtly arched, while the rear-end follows the sense of movement with the discreet squarish-shaped light graphic modified to slightly tilt forward.
Needless to say, the cabin offers a super luxurious sanctuary with a focus on material quality and craftsmanship. For instance, each of the hides used to create the interior suite are subject to full control checks to ensure that the 338 panels are of the finest quality. Consciously moving away from the sort of over complicated stitch-work now favored by the more mainstream carmakers, here the Goodwood crafts people have worked with long and perfectly straight stitch lines on the leather elements.
Elsewhere, wood is available in an open-pore finish for a more authentic aesthetic. A couple of new finishes have also been developed specifically for the Ghost: Obsidian Ayous is inspired by the rich colors found in lava rock, while Dark Amber integrates veins of fine aluminum particles into the dark wood. Much like the leather, the wood is left exposed as long, single-veneer leaves, bisected by tactile metal vents.
The former Ghost’s decade-long presence has allowed the Rolls engineering team to gather a great deal of consumer feedback. What they learnt is that US and European clients largely self-drive their Ghosts, while in Asia clients were engaging heavily in the connected technology on board. Responding to the feedback, the Ghost is powered by a 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 petrol engine to deliver 563bhp/420kW and 850Nm/627lb ft of torque to the all-wheel steer, all-wheel drivetrain with maximum torque available from just 1600rpm.
The marque’s famous magic carpet ride has also evolved. The suspension is redesigned to deliver what is called the Planar Suspension System. Named after a geometric plane, which is completely flat and level, the system, says Rolls-Royce, offers a sense of flight on land never before achieved by a motor car.
Müller-Ötvös says the Ghost project has largely been led by the needs and desires of his customers. “These business leaders and entrepreneurs demand more of their Ghost than ever. They require a new type of super-luxury saloon that is dynamic, serenely comfortable and perfect in its minimalism. The Ghost is this product.”
Rolls-Royce’s latest car is certainly a highly accomplished product. And while the Ghost is possibly not forging a path to post-opulence – this is, after all, a rather exclusive product and by its very nature a lavish purchase – it wears its luxury lightly and is therefore a fine illustration of a more subtle and discreet post-pandemic luxury landscape.