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2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost First Drive: Luxury motoring in a ‘post-opulent’ world

Pras Subramanian
·4 min read

I was never really a big a fan of the old Ghost, but the new model addresses many of the things from a design perspective that didn’t appeal to me. For one the exterior is more sculpted, angular, and I dare say more sporty.

Rolls’ designers gave the new Ghost more presence, befitting a car that starts at an eye-watering $325,000, and not shortchanging it compared to big brother the Phantom, which seemed to have all the good styling cues.

Overall the design isn’t too lavish or excessive, but does give off the vibe of stately elegance. Perhaps this is what Rolls-Royce Americas CEO Martin Fritsches meant by “post-opulence.”

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

Under the skin is where Rolls has done a lot of work. The Ghost still weighs over 5,400 pounds and is over 15-feet long. But the engineers at Rolls-Royce headquarters in Goodwood have made this car feel a lot smaller than it really is.

And that all starts with a new architecture, an all-aluminum chassis that’s stiffer that the prior one, and one that sits on an independent air suspension system. It also includes a road-sensing planar-scanning technology that reads the road ahead, in order to stiffen or soften the dampers for what’s coming up. Couple all that with rear-wheel drive, and the car has a more nimble feel to it.

Power comes on strong and that should come as no surprise as the Ghost features Rolls’ monstrous 6.75L V-12 engine that produces 563hp and 627 lb-ft of torque.

A sumptuous cabin and that ‘magic carpet ride’

A big test of what makes a Rolls a Rolls is the sensory experience. You think of being ensconced in the finest materials, wafting around town effortlessly and without the slightest disturbance. And that also means a bespoke-like experience.

Step inside the Ghost, and it is very apparent where all that money you will part with has gone.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

In our test model’s case, that meant buttery soft Arctic White leather everywhere, which included contrasting black leather accents and purple stitching. Very striking in appearance and really a whole different grade of leather you would encounter elsewhere.

Of course there’s some story about where the leather comes from (bulls, not cows), how many hides are needed for one interior (around 8), and how selective the craftsmen are with choosing the hides to use. It’s no surprise it’s a discriminating process — one that Rolls clients expect. I can only imagine what magical forest the ebony wood veneers originated from.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

The Ghost’s instrument panel and center console have been updated as well, but still using bespoke, almost-hand crafted items like knobs that have leather grips around them, and air vents crafted form a single piece of metal. The quality is still everywhere, and the tech in this case is top notch as it is BMW-sourced (Rolls-Royce is a subsidiary of the German automaker).

Take a seat in the wide, yet comfortable driver’s seat, pull the column shifter into drive, and you’re off with a gentle woosh, and onto the road. The sheer level of silence in the cabin is something that’s first apparent to driver and passenger; indeed Rolls is using nearly 200 pounds of sound-deadening material alone to just to keep things quiet.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

The famous magic carpet ride is there, thanks to that standard adaptive, air ride suspension. Rolls keeps it plush here like ‘80s Cadillac El Dorado style. But we must not forget that’s just part of the car’s DNA - that velvety, smooth, and airy ride is how it’s supposed to be.

It really does have to be experienced to be believed. It’s the sensation of floating above it all with very little disturbance from the outside world.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)

With that being said, one thing that surprised me the most was that the Ghost did handle better than I was expecting. I think you can thank a number of features working in harmony for that: the adaptive suspension system, the planar road-scanning tech that adjusts the car’s handling ahead of time, all-wheel drive (a first for the brand’s cars), and rear-wheel steering.

The importance of the new Ghost

With the new Ghost, Rolls-Royce has accomplished the task of bringing the car into the future with the requisite cutting-edge technology, but still balancing it with the old-world charm and outright luxury that the brand has spent 116 years pursuing.

Perhaps that’s what they mean by post-opulence; or maybe it’s just a nice combination of good engineering, smart design, and quality materials.

The 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost starts at $332,500; and $440,225 as tested.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)
2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost (Credit: Pras Subramanian)


Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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