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Rolls-Royce reveals the Ghost in all its glory

Ready to roll: The Rolls-Royce Ghost is designed to be "an escape from the world".

Rolls-Royce’s Ghost comes to life ahead of Frankfurt show and 2010 Australian launch

6 Sep 2009

WE MIGHT be less than a decade into the current millennium, which makes assertions about the ‘most important’ new model for these times a little ill-advised. But a completely new vehicle from one of the most hallowed brands in history – Rolls-Royce – deserves our undivided attention.

Full details were released this morning of the production version of the British blueblood brand’s new scion, the medium-large Ghost sedan, ahead of its world premiere at the Frankfurt motor show next week, September 15, and its Australian arrival in 2010.

Its starting price, revealed five weeks ago, will be $US300,000 ($A357,320 at current exchange rates) throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

With the protracted slow-release teaser campaign now over, the production Ghost has, as expected, emerged as a near-identical match to the 200EX concept car shown at the Geneva motor show in March, with all the panache and performance expected of a car bearing the (electrically retractable) Spirit of Ecstasy on the bonnet, and from a marque that can draw on the engineering and technological prowess of parent BMW.

Although dimensions and basic chassis and powertrain details of the Ghost have been released at various stages over the past six months, we can now look across the final design, see inside the sumptuous cabin and mull over the full specifications of 7 Series-based limousine.

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“Simplicity is the hardest design principle to follow,” said chief designer Ian Cameron, who has incorporated into the ‘Yacht Line’ design a number of classic references, including a long bonnet, short (867.5mm) front overhang, elevated prow, steeply raked A-pillar and an elegant tail – but has also aimed for the Ghost to exude “an informal aura”.

He points to the self-righting wheel centres, Xenon headlights and the new take (for Rolls, at least) on the air intake, which has rounded edges and vanes set back into the opening.

“We wanted this to be less reminiscent of the traditional ‘Parthenon style’ and more like a jet intake,” Mr Cameron said.

This emphasis on performance in the aesthetics can also be seen in details such as the optional chromed exhausts, while the two-tone ‘Silver Satin’ finish on the bonnet, grille and the windscreen surround has remained on the production version, albeit as an option.

The overall drag co-efficient is 0.33Cd.

Inside, the interior designers have remained true to the tradition of using fine materials and creating outstanding comfort, with exquisite detailing and nostalgic touches including frosted lamps, frosted white dials, chrome doorhandles, violin key switches, chrome eyeball air vents, (Teflon-coated) umbrellas housed within the front doors and an abundance of leather sourced from bulls “raised in paddocks free of barbed wire”.

The veneers are also taken from the “finest logs”, and from a single tree for each car to ensure a matching grain and consistent ageing and colouring over time.

Modern appointments include a thumping 600-watt stereo delivered through a 10-channel amplifier and 16 speakers, including two floor-mounted subwoofers. A 12.5GB hard drive and USB and aux inputs are also onboard, while a more comprehensive ‘Theatre Configuration’, which includes full rear-seat control, two 9.2-inch LCD screens in the front seatbacks and a six-disc multi-media changer, is available as an option.

Described as more driver-focused that any Rolls-Royce car before it, the Ghost positions the driver in a slightly elevated position – dubbed the ‘authority position’ – and presents him or her with a clear fascia, neatly sculpted controls, a soft-light instrument panel (which includes a ‘power reserve’ gauge rather than a regular tachometer) and a roller-ball central controller.

The latter is sure to have drawn from BMW’s iDrive experience and is used for satellite-navigation, telephone, communication and entertainment functions, the screen for which is confined behind a veneered panel until its services are required.

Optional driver assistance systems and technologies onboard the Ghost include keyless Comfort Entry (with voice control), cameras that provide a view of the rear, front side and top of the vehicle, a Night Vision camera (working in conjunction with Pedestrian Recognition), a Head-up Display, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assistance, Active Cruise Control, Active Brake Intervention, and a Curve Speed Limiter.

This might be one of the smallest and most driver-oriented Rollers ever built, but the rear compartment, which is accessed via traditional rear-hinged doors that open to 83 degrees (and, once the passenger is inside, can be closed at the touch of the button), looks to have no shortage of room or accoutrements.

Seating three in the back, the Ghost’s high shoulder line and ‘lounge seat’ positioning behind the C-pillar are designed to impart an intimate, cosseting and private environment, although natural light can be broadened with an optional panoramic sunroof (which also serves to reduce rear headroom to 975mm, down from the standard 990mm).

Four-zone climate-control air-conditioning with separate controls front and rear, automatic air recirculation, “condensation prevention” and “solar compensation” is also fitted standard.

Options include individual lounge seats with a massage function and perforated leather, a cool box with integrated champagne flutes, lambswool floor mats (to plonk on the standard deep-pile carpet), and veneered ‘picnic tables’ on the front seatbacks.

“Ghost is as refined and cosseting as anything this marque has ever produced,” said interior designer Charles Coldham, while colleague Alan Sheppard added: “Ghost is designed to be an escape from the outside world.” Resting on a 3295mm wheelbase, the Ghost measures no less than 5399mm long (400mm shorter than the Phantom, but with a “comparable interior space”, according to Rolls), 1948mm wide and 1550mm high. The rear overhang is 867.5mm, the front/rear track is a respective 1622/1660mm and the turning circle 13.4m. The luggage compartment’s maximum volume is 490 litres.

Weight, which is another of the few crucial details withheld until now, has come in at 2435kg, which is heavier than expected (about the same as the Phantom) but no real impediment to the V12-powered Ghost’s acceleration – 4.9 seconds from 0-100km/h, as announced two months ago.

It does, however, reflect in the EU fuel consumption figures, which are now revealed as 13.6L/100km combined, 20.5L/100km on the urban cycle and 9.6L/100km extra-urban. CO2 emissions, based on the EU5 standard, are 317g/km.

As GoAuto has reported, the Ghost uses a BMW-developed 6.6-litre direct-injection twin-turbocharged V12 petrol engine that produces 420kW at 5250rpm – making it the most powerful car Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has ever produced – and 780Nm of torque from 1500rpm. Combined with an eight-speed shift-by-wire ZF automatic transmission, the engine enables the Ghost to cover 1km from a standing start in 23.1 seconds and to reach a maximum speed of 250km/h.

“Our challenge has been to preserve the prerequisite levels of comfort while delivering the most modern, dynamically interesting drive ever in a Rolls-Royce,” said engineering director Helmut Riedl. “The balance of refinement and dynamic ability is astonishing.” We knew that the Ghost would feature a premium ‘four corner’ version of BMW’s air-spring suspension system, which also incorporates a ‘lift and kneel’ function that can raise or lower the vehicle 25mm and electronic variable damping. The double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension design is shared with BMW’s donor 7 Series chassis.

The additional electronic handling aids now confirmed for Ghost include Anti-Roll Stabilisation, Dynamic Brake Control and Dynamic Stability Control (working with Dynamic Traction Control and Cornering Brake Control).

Ventilated disc brakes are used at each corner, measuring 410x316mm at the front and 402x30mm at the rear. The standard wheel and tyre combination is a 19-inch set-up with 8.5J rims and 255/50 R19 tyres front and rear. A 20-inch package with 8.5/9.5J front/rear rims and 255/45 front and 285/40 rear rubber is also available.

The steering is a conventional power-assisted hydraulic rack-and-pinion system, with 3.1 turns lock to lock.

Safety technologies onboard include an Advanced Crash and Safety Management (ACSM) system, which is said to take measurements 2000 times per second from crash sensors around the vehicle.

The Ghost will be built at the British marque’s production plant in Goodwood, West Sussex, to the same exacting standards as other members of the Rolls-Royce range. The body is engineered with a double front bulkhead to help insulate the cabin from engine noise. It is constructed from steel sections and then wrapped in steel panels, which are brazed by hand.

Rolls-Royce claims that this allows a near-seamless join, which is then sanded by hand until it is “perfect”. In total, the Ghost’s frame contains 4.9m of seam weld and braze and 6988 spot-welds. The bonnet and windscreen surround are then honed from aluminium.

The Ghost is available in 12 exterior colours, each of which can be contrasted by the optional Silver Satin bonnet. The colours are Adriatic Blue, Claret, Darkest Tungsten, Dark Indigo, Diamond Black, English White, Ensign Red, Jubilee Silver, Lunar Blue, Metropolitan Blue, New Sable and Sea Green.

Interior leather trim colours are Black, Consort Red, Crème Light, Dark Spice, Fleet Blue, Moccasin, Pine Green and Seashell, while veneers are available in Elm Cluster, Dark Wenge, Malabar, Piano Black and Walnut Burr.

“Ghost is a vision of simplicity – of taking the core values of Rolls-Royce and creating contemporary, effortless luxury,” Rolls-Royce asserts in its official literature.

“Ghost has been engineered to ride and drive in peerless fashion. The chassis’ poise delivers a dynamically engaging experience for the driver, yet a serene, comfortable ride for passengers. Engine power is delivered in a manner which has become an engineering signature, seemingly effortlessly and endlessly. The latest in-car technology falls easily to hand while forming part of the background.

“Ghost embodies 21st-century Rolls-Royce – more than 100 years of engineering and design excellence expressed in modern and uncompromised style.”

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