After five days in the Rolls-Royce Ghost, my friends and I have decided that what the company really needs to build is a mini version – something you can actually use on British roads without offending people.
Sadly, the Ghost is simply too large to be a practical tool in the UK. This is a car that is best used on the wide open expanses of the Middle East and the USA.
Just parking the thing is a nightmare. It’s too long for British parking spaces – and God help you if you hold people up in the manoeuvre too. This is the car everybody loves to hate.
And that really is the one major drawback about the Rolls that you won’t find in many car reviews or brochures – you have to have a very thick skin to drive it.
Silence is golden? Well, not if you are designing a luxurious modern car. These days, pretty much every expensive motor I test is equipped with a button that opens the ports on the exhaust to let a roar out.
And if there’s no button, like in an Aston Martin, then the exhaust has been tweaked to produce a suitably atmospheric grumble. There’s one fitted to my Porsche 911 S but to be honest, it’s pretty tiresome if you are trying to listen to the radio or touring.
So what an unexpected joy it is to slip into the Ghost and discover there is no such vulgarity. It really is true what they say, you can only hear the clock ticking in a Rolls (actually you can’t because even the clock is silent these days).
In fact, my only major cock-up in the Ghost has been pressing the start button twice. The V12 is so quiet you can’t hear the thing start. Try that in a Maserati…
I’m just getting used to feeling unloved driving the Ghost. It’s quite the maddest sensation when a woman in a £100,000 Range Rover snarls at you – especially as I could barely afford to fuel her car on a daily basis.
Driving a Rolls-Royce obviously means I’m successful. And we Brits just love to knock a success story at every available opportunity.
And that means if I make the slightest driving cock-up at the wheel, it’s open season on the posh bloke in the driving seat!
At least I am cocooned in a cabin of luxurious bling. My favourite feature thus far? Forget the grunt from that V12, the armchair seats and the whisper quiet engine, it’s the fairy lights.
Yep, the Ghost has an interior headlining covered in hundreds of star-like twinklers when you get in at night. It’s quite lovely and reassures me that even Rolls-Royce has a sense of humour.
Unlike the Cotswold lady in the Range Rover.
Nobody else on the road is going to love you in a Rolls-Royce. To most people it’s as vulgar as a real fur coat. Statement cars don’t get any more verbal than this – or much more expensive.
For the price of a detached house in Leeds you can ponce around in the equivalent of an Englishman’s castle on wheels – cocooned in your own little world of hope and glory.
I sat in a hotel on Park Lane last week and saw a steady stream of Rolls-Royces passing by. They’re everywhere in the West End but a rarer sight in the West Country, where I’m going to be steering it for the next seven days.
So what’s it actually like to own a Rolls-Royce – to pop to the shops, do the daily commute and squeeze in to a normal sized parking space?
Well, I’m about to find out in the Ghost II. Join us for daily updates from the back and front seats of the Rolls to find out…
Unless my dog strikes oil burrowing in the garden, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to afford a Wraith. However, if I’m honest, I’m not sure it’s really the car for me!
This is a vehicle that belongs to the chairman of the board and retired City types. I’m 51 and would probably spend my £234,000 on buying a gull-wing Mercedes and driving it across Europe, endlessly.
It is also quintessentially British (despite the German owners), which might explain why so many Rollers end up in the Middle east, US and Russia. The Wraith is just too big for UK roads and needs more room to roam.
So does that mean the Wraith is just an expression of wealth and social standing? Possibly. It could hardly be described as practical at this price. However, a world without Rolls-Royce would be a less beautiful place and no other luxury limo comes close…
The arrival of British autumn always leads to some shenanigans on the road. This morning I drove past a Mercedes E-class which had slipped off a leafy corner and was on it’s roof. Cars never look as pretty upside-down.
At least in a Rolls-Royce you can be sure to keep your dignity intact if the worst happens. The Wraith has centre wheels caps that are weighted, so you will never see the ‘RR’ logo upside-down. Brilliant.
And the days of stealing the Spirit of Ecstasy figure off the front grille are long gone too. Fiddle around with the chrome Spirit and she automatically lowers into the bodywork. It can also be lowered before you park up.
You can pay around £5k for a gold-plated version – or there’s another option for an LED light at the base. How times have changed… Somehow I can’t imagine even the Queen wanting such blingness.
Some might say that Rolls’ first fastback is a coupe that has been a tad over-engineered. Apart from rambling on about the ‘suicide doors’ (they are rear-hinged) and hidden umbrellas, I keep finding features which I do wonder are quite what one would expect in a Roller.
The night vision feature is an example. The centre sat nav display can be switched to infrared night vision that identifies potential hazards more than 200 yards ahead. They show up as a white blurs, rather like a cine-film in the negative.
It is sure to entertain your passengers on a long night trip but I can’t help but think this smacks of gimmick. And besides, you have to take your eyes off the road to study it properly and that can’t be good.
Our test car didn’t have the ‘star light’ roof lining, which brightens up the interior with a star-spangled top. But it did boast the inch-thich, lambs wool floor mats that are a bugger to clean.
Am I being picky? It just seems like the Wraith is something of a luxurious fairground ride with too much going on. Sure, it’s a class car but I think I can do without all the extras that I’m unlikely to ever need.