This is what a smaller, more affordable sedan from Rolls-Royce looks like. The all-new 2021 Ghost is longer than some full-size SUVs, powered by a 12-cylinder engine and fronted by the marque’s Spirit of Ecstasy mascot – a statue of a woman bent forward in a flowing gown – who stands atop an illuminated grille that emits a soft glow at night.
Rolls-Royce calls this “post opulence,” which the company explains is about, “rejecting superficial expressions of wealth.” Although, presumably, that idea doesn’t extend as far as choosing not to buy a Rolls-Royce with a light-up grille.
The type of customers who made the outgoing Ghost, introduced in 2009, the best-selling model in Rolls-Royce’s 116-year history are business leaders and entrepreneurs, according to the company. They’re often educated abroad and well-travelled, and – somewhat unusually for Rolls-Royce – they prefer to drive themselves instead of being chauffeured.
“They require a new type of super-luxury saloon that is dynamic, serenely comfortable and perfect in its minimalism,” Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. As a result, for the all-new 2021 Ghost sedan, Roll-Royce’s designers tried to deliver something more subdued and substantive, at least in contrast to the gilded Rollers of old.
Besides, the desire to tone down the ostentatiousness of its latest luxury car is, perhaps, an understandable response to the precariousness, anxiety and hardship of this particular historical moment.
Whether Rolls-Royce has, in fact, succeeded in making the Ghost less ostentatious is another matter.
In developing the light-up grille, for example, designers found the polished metal slats reflected too much light. “In the spirit of post opulent aesthetics, the marque’s engineering team brushed the back of the metal grille bars, making them less reflective, subduing the effect,” according to the company.
Engineers devoted two years and more than 10,000 hours to making a glowing “Ghost” badge surrounded by 850 miniscule dots of light that appear to twinkle like stars. It’s on the passenger-side dashboard, and it’s completely invisible when the car is off.
The car’s doors can open and close automatically. Once inside, you’ll find more than 20 half-hides of leather, covering 338 different panels. Ornate stitching patterns – as is the norm on most luxury cars – have been eschewed in favour of perfectly straight stitched lines.
Hidden beneath all the leather and wood is the biggest change to the new Ghost. While the previous model was built on the same platform as the more pedestrian BMW 7 Series, the new Ghost is built on the aluminum spaceframe architecture that’s shared only with the Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan and Cullinan SUV.
The 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 motor churns out 627 lb.-ft. of torque and 563 horsepower. All of that torque is available just a few hundred rpm above idle, which means it should pull like a locomotive.
Mueller-Oetvoes has gone on the record saying the company won’t build hybrids but will instead offer fully-electric vehicles. For now though, your only option in the Ghost is this big V12; don’t expect great fuel economy.
The chassis has every piece of automotive technology imaginable, including all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering, air suspension, a transmission that uses GPS guidance to figure out when to shift gears and stereo cameras that scan the road ahead for bumps so the car can prime the suspension accordingly.
There’s more than 100 kilograms of sound-damping material stuffed into the doors, roof and even inside the tires. Early in development, however, the cabin was found to be so silent that the experience was disorienting; engineers had to let some sound back in. They made sure the car’s components – the seat frames, the chassis, the cavernous trunk – all shared a common resonant frequency. The result is, “a ‘whisper,’ a soft undertone that is experienced as a single, subtle note.”
Rolls-Royce saw a strong rebound in sales in Canada and the U.S. over the past three months as dealerships began to utilize new digital tools and services, said Martin Fritsches, chief executive officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Americas. “Our clients are still in the market, and as we’ve seen them become younger and more diverse, they are very adaptable to using new tools to commission and order a Rolls-Royce,” he added.
No price for the 2021 Ghost has been announced yet, but – as the saying goes – if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it. The larger Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan starts at $518,700 in Canada, and the outgoing Ghost is $359,000.
While it is hard to see how a car with a dashboard that twinkles like the stars can be considered anything other than opulent, this is Rolls-Royce, and these things are relative.
Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up for the weekly Drive newsletter, delivered to your inbox for free. Follow us on Instagram, @globedrive.