Test Drive: The All-New 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

A chauffeur is optional in this meticulously crafted driver’s car

One might assume that a Rolls-Royce is designed around the owner being chauffeured everywhere. While that’s not wrong, there’s also extensive consideration that the owner will also be the driver, and the all-new 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost epitomizes that ultra-luxury driving experience. Undeniably grandiose, the 2021 Ghost is more subtle and artfully restrained than the previous generation. No doubt, this lavish $332,500 machine exists in the Dream Car category, but we enjoyed every minute behind the wheel of it.

The Ghost is hardly a small car, but the new speed-dependent all-wheel steering (one of its new features) makes it feel more compact than it is—allowing effortless, limber turns. When driving at low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction of the front, creating a much smaller turning radius. However, they turn with the front wheels at high speeds, reducing yaw and improving lateral acceleration, which enhances straight-line stability. The previous generation (also the best-selling Rolls-Royce ever) shared a platform with the BMW 7 Series, but the new Ghost now sits on Rolls-Royce’s Architecture of Luxury platform alongside the Cullinen and the Phantom, providing a lighter, quieter, stiffer and stronger base for the vehicle.

Keeping the cabin temperature constant and comfortable, the new Ghost delivers with its Micro Environment Purification System (MEPS). An evolution to the brand’s efforts in this area debuts on the Ghost. Impurity-detection sensors detect ambient air quality and automatically switch fresh air intakes to Recirculation Mode, channeling all cabin air through nanofleece filters. The MEPS removes all ultra-fine particles (including dust and most viruses and bacteria) in less than two minutes.

Known for their “Magic Carpet Ride,” Rolls-Royce vehicles feature the Planar Suspension System that reads the road ahead and makes adjustments to the car’s ride to ensure the most comfortable passage possible. That system boasts an upper wishbone damper unit, a first (basically a damper for the car’s dampers) alongside the brand’s “Flagbearer” system (which uses cameras to read the road ahead and prepare the suspension for changes in road surfaces), as well as the Satellite Aided Transmission (which uses GPS mapping data to determine the transmission’s ideal gear for the upcoming road). These innovations are on top of the already impressive double-wishbone suspension system and the continuously variable, electronically controlled shock-absorbers and self-leveling high-volume air strut assemblies. Suffice to say, all this tech results in a smooth and supple ride—even on some of Austin’s worst roads.

Inside, there are over 220 pounds of acoustic sound-dampening materials—more than any other marque. Constructed from complex forms rather than flat resonant surfaces, this highly insulated “soundstage” designed by the brand’s acoustic engineers listens and tracks noises and determines if they are acceptable. If not, they are re-engineered to create the new Ghost’s near-silent ride. To avoid a completely silent cabin, the acoustic specialists created a “whisper” or soft undertone, which occupants experience as a single note.

Probably the most distinguishable emblem in the world of cars, the Spirit of Ecstasy is (for the first time) not surrounded by panel lines but instead stands within her own “lake” on the hood. She can hide beneath the hood if desired. The amount of engineering and testing to make this all possible is over-the-top, but this is a Rolls-Royce.

A remarkable amount of attention has also been paid to a fairly unremarkable feature. All cars have rain gutters, but those on the Ghost benefit from its engineers having measured the size of rain drops to determine precisely how far away from the body of the car they had to be to do their job with minimal visual effect.

The carmaker’s customizable “Starlight” headliner (powered by hundreds of fiber-optic lights, each placed by hand) is a signature mark of the brand. Introduced in the 2021 Ghost are two new lighting features: the illuminated fascia and grille. The passenger-side dashboard fascia features a glowing “Ghost” nameplate surrounded by 850 stars. This constellation and wordmark are completely invisible when the interior lights are off, but when they are on they create a unique emblem. It starts with 152 LEDs mounted above and beneath the fascia, each color-matched to the cabin’s clock and instrument dial lighting. A two-millimeter light guide ensures even lighting, featuring more than 90,000 laser-etched dots across the surface. This artful implementation disperses the light while creating a twinkling effect as the eyes move across the fascia, which echoes the Starlight headliner. The illuminated radiator grille is also artfully ingenious; brushing the backs of the highly polished upright vanes to perfectly diffuse the light.

With auto groups focused on shared platforms in the interest of margins and production processes, the design-informed consumer who sees past the badge and marketing could claim that the “art” of car design is gone. Rolls-Royce has chosen to go the other way; away from shared platforms and remaining focused on the art of execution. Minute and artful (if occasionally unnecessary) details make the brand stand out. The all-new Ghost continues this ethos but expands the appeal by engaging the driver as well as the passenger. The new Ghost is not what you see or feel, it’s what you don’t.

The 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost starts at $332,500 and is limited only by your imagination for customization.

Images courtesy of Rolls-Royce / James Lipman