2010 Rolls-Royce Phantom and Rolls-Royce Ghost (GB)

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Introduced in 2003, the Phantom was the first all-new car to be launched by Rolls-Royce after the company was sold to BMW.  It won immediate praise in the motoring press, with some writers stating that, for the first time in many years, Rolls-Royce could truly say that they did in fact make ‘The Best Car in the World’.  More recently, fixed head and drop head coupe models have been added to the range, as well as an extended wheelbase saloon.  
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In 2009, Rolls-Royce showed its RR04 concept, which was to become the Ghost.  Designed as a smaller, more ‘real-life’ car, it too has won considerable acclaim in the motoring press, both for its refinement and dynamic abilities.

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Recently the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club reinstated its ‘Driving Day’ at Club HQ in Northamptonshire, where club members are able to sample the current models produced by the RR factory.  This was the first such event for many years and so presented an un-missable opportunity to drive the new Goodwood produced models.

Phantom
My first drive was in the Phantom.  Finished in black, with classic tan hide and piano black wood, it looked classy and elegant.  The styling has divided opinion, but I like it, preferring a bold, challenging look, to a bland approach.  The coachwork fitted to many RR cars in the 1930s would have been considered equally avantgarde in its day and many styling cues from the 1930s and 1950s can be seen in the Phantom.
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The interior is a lesson in stylish understatement, in the true RR style, with the absence of fussy, unnecessary decoration allowing the stylist’s artwork and the quality of the materials to shine through.

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Entry and exit through the wide doors is easy and the cabin manages to feel spacious and cosy at the same time.  The fussy and over-complex seat controls allow me to achieve a comfortable and commanding driving position, while the extremely large door mirrors provide a clear view of what is behind.  This is important in a chauffer driven car where excessive use of the central rear view mirror, with its view of the rear occupants, is just ‘not done’.

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One touch of a chrome button starts the 6.75-litre V12 engine. Producing  453 bhp and 531 lb ft of torque, it powers this 2,625 kg car to a governed 150 mph and accelerates to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and is almost silent in operation.  The only sound is a sort of deep, distant burble which suits the car very well indeed and is much more appropriate than the rather too sporty growl of the V12 fitted to the previous Silver Seraph model.  The high driving position and large mirrors make the car surprisingly easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces, but there are cameras front and back to help, if necessary.  There are even cameras to give a sideways view down the road, as you poke the car’s nose out of a blind opening, onto a busy road.  My route consisted of some small, twisty village roads, a short section of the A5 and a mixture of B-roads and small A-roads with twists and straights in equal measure.  While some surfaces were smooth, much of the route was pretty much what we have come to expect of our roads, with bumps and poorly made temporary repairs.  How would the Phantom cope with this, rather than the boulevards of French Riveiera?
The word ‘effortless’ is often used when describing a car’s performance, but once I am on the A5 I soon find that even this description would prove grossly inadequate.  It is possible to reach a licence threatening speed with such little drama that it seems to defy the laws of physics, the power reserve dial going nowhere near the bottom of its register.  A noticeable improvement on RRs of old is the almost total absence of wind noise, only minor tyre noise and the distant burble when the engine is asked to provide more of its prodigious reserves of thrust.  A trip to the south of France in a day would be easy and enjoyable for driver and passengers alike.
The B-road and A413 provide an opportunity to explore the Phantom’s handling characteristics.  Driving it in a style more associated with a supercharged Jaguar than a limousine it soon becomes apparent that yet again the Phantom defies the laws of Physics by handling in an astonishingly composed manner, with hardly any body roll as it shrugs off the bumpy twists with ease and comfort, but without any of the wallowing that one would expect from a softly sprung car.  I press on as hard as I dare and never feel even remotely concerned that the car is going to become unsettled.  The feedback from delightfully Roycean, thin-rimmed steering wheel is not as sensitive as on, say, a Focus, but that would miss the point.  There is sufficient feel to tell me what the front wheels are doing, I only have to point and squirt.  It quicky dawns on me just how quickly I have become at ease as I hustle this 2.6 tonne limo down a twisty road at 80 leptons.  This is the easiest car to drive I have ever experienced, by a long way.  If you like a car which will challenge you, as you input fine steering movements while balancing the throttle to achieve the best line around a bend, then the Phantom is not the car for you.  I’ll wager that the Phantom will get you from A to B almost as quickly as a well driven sports car, but the Phantom can do it with an old duffer like me at the wheel and with draw-dropping ease and refinement.

Time to swap over and make the return journey in the rear seat, as another Club member takes his turn behind the wheel.  There is, of course, plenty of room to stretch out in the back, where I have every convenience at my finger tips. Separate upper and lower temperature controls, seat heating and DVD and audio to name but a few.

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From here the ride is equally refined.  My driver is not pressing on quite as hard as me, but still makes good progress. We are able to converse without raising our voices as the Northamptonshire countryside rushes past outside.

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Back at club HQ, I can now see why the Phantom has been described as ‘The Best Car in the World’.  For the first time in many years Rolls-Royce have a car with the dynamic abilities to match its quality and refinement. It does not seem possible for a car to be any better than this, but then I am about to drive the Ghost…

Ghost
Rolls-Royce announced the Ghost in 2009 as a more ‘real-world’ alternative to the rather indulgent Phantom, so it would be interesting to compare the two in a back-to-back test.  The Ghost’s styling is less controversial than the Phantom’s, but while it is still unmistakably a Rolls-Royce, my opinion is that it lacks the visual drama and classic RR styling cues which make the Phantom stand out.  Perhaps this is deliberate, in order to make the Ghost appear less ostentatious than the Phantom.
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The frontal styling incorporates a new RR grille which is blended into the bodywork. This gives the car a more modern appearance, but has upset RR traditionalists.  ‘My’ car featured the contrast bonnet option which, in my opinion, suits the car very well.  The all over grey car alongside looked dull in comparison.

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The Ghost sits lower than the Phantom, but climbing onboard is still very easy.  The cabin is recognisably from the same stable as the Phantom, but even more simple and unfussy.

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The quality of the materials used appears to be of the same superlative standard and the blending of modern styling with traditional wood and leather has been carried off with great success, a rare event nowadays.

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The now familiar chrome button fires a 6.6-litre V12 into life. Twin turbos enable this engine to produce 563 BHP and 575 lb ft of torque; so the smaller car has the more powerful engine.  And it does feel smaller, too. While still clearly a large car, the Ghost feels much more ‘normal’ than the Phantom as I thread it between the parked cars along Paulerspury High Street, making my way to the A5.  What little sound the engine does emit is very similar to the Phantom and in keeping with the car’s character.  Remembering how effortlessly quick the Phantom was, I expected great things from the Ghost and was not disappointed. The official figures state a governed maximum speed of 155 MPH and 0-60 acceleration in just 4.7 seconds, one second less than the Phantom.  It is indeed devastatingly quick.  Still effortless, but providing more drama than the Phantom, in keeping the Ghost’s more sporting image.  Where the Phantom delivers its massive thrust in a way that its passengers might not fully notice, the Ghost, while still performing quietly, effortlessly and with plenty of power in reserve, provides more sensation that we are defying the laws of physics in propelling a 2435 kg car down the road with supercar urgency.  This is going to be fun…

The B-road blast confirms this as the sports car of the range.  Straight away I feel more involved and (encouraged by the RR salesman sat alongside) even more willing to ‘drive it like I stole it’.  From straight, to bend to next straight, to next bend and so on, I push harder and harder and the Ghost just shrugs off the twists, turns and bumps until I am grinning and giggling like a child with a new toy.  The ride is firmer, but not uncomfortable, although Sir’s gin and tonic would be well and truly splashed all over rear compartment by now.  Remember how I stated that the Phantom was a very easy car to drive? Well this is even easier. Within moments it felt like I was completely at home in the Ghost and fully confident to press on down any road.  I am getting more feedback through the thicker rimmed steering wheel and it seems that it would take an act of sheer lunacy to loose control on the dry tarmac.

There was thing I did notice, but couldn’t quite put my finger upon, until the RR chap explained that the steel bodied Ghost was not as rigid as the aluminium Phantom.  That was it.  On corrugated roads, compared to the Phantom, I was able to detect some very slight movement in the Ghost’s structure.  To say wobble or flex would be going much too far, but there was just something which made it feel not quite as granite solid as the Phantom.  I am sure that compared to any other car of its size, being driven in a hooligan fashion down a bumpy road, it would compare very well.

Time to take my place in the back seat and be driven back in a much less spirited fashion, by a rather more elderly Club member.  The rear compartment is entered via rear hinged ‘coach doors’, as on the Phantom, which are closed from inside by pressing a button on the door pillar.

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Again, the seat is extremely comfortable and I have every possible luxury at my fingertips, with some controls on the rear centre armrest.

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The ride is smooth and comfortable, but noticeably firmer than in the Phantom.  Surprisingly so, in fact.  If I were looking for a chauffeur driven car, then I would have no hesitation in choosing the Phantom over the Ghost.  The ride in the rear of the Ghost would shame most cars, but it is not as good as the magic carpet ride in the Phantom.

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So, back to club HQ and time to sum up.  While sharing a lot of RR character, the Phantom and Ghost are two very different cars to drive.  Driving the Phantom is a special occasion. Its sublime comfort while delivering rapid pace and impeccable road manners makes it the choice for long distance continental cruising.  The Ghost is a more involving and a more ‘normal’ car to drive; the clear choice if you want set a personal best time from A to B while grinning uncontrollably all the way.

Decisions, decisions…


2010-10-09 21:16:53

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Home Forums 2010 Rolls-Royce Phantom and Rolls-Royce Ghost (GB)

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