The Rolls-Royce brand of 15 years ago wasn’t the brand it is today. Through a careful strategy of vehicle launches, it has revived its once-lustrous image into something stronger than ever. The Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II continues that new tradition.
Updating the Ghost, or any Rolls-Royce, is a tricky matter: the need to add new features and update designs has to be balanced against the investment current owners have made in their cars. Nobody wants to have “last year’s Rolls” in their garage. Fortunately, the folks at Rolls-Royce are very circumspect in their redesigns.
So circumspect, in fact, that it may be hard to notice the changes to the Ghost Series II at first. Visual cues are few and minor, though ultimately they add up to produce the desired effect: a newer, bolder look, while maintaining the core of the original.
Changes to the Ghost Series II exterior include a slightly revised front bumper, a new hood with a “wake channel” trailing back from the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, chrome inserts in the air inlets, new daytime running light surrounds for the LED headlights, and a redesign of the headlights themselves. Individually, each of these details is rather insignificant, but together, they bring a freshness to the face of the Ghost, as well as a wider, stronger frame to that face.
Under the hood, there are no changes to the Ghost for its Series II incarnation. The same 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 engine gently emanates the same 563 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque. In the Ghost’s 5,445-pound frame (or 5,556-pound in extended-wheelbase form), that’s still abundant power. Acceleration from 0-60 mph happens in just 4.8 seconds, a 0.2-second improvement from the last Ghost despite the same power output.
What is new with the drivetrain is the transmission, or rather, its programming. The eight-speed automatic now features Satellite Aided Transmission technology, allowing the Ghost Series II to predictively select gears based on the road’s bends and rises. This smooths out the driving and yields an even more serene experience.
Behind the wheel, the Ghost is a satisfying car to drive. Press on the accelerator, and it glides forward—rapidly—without any seeming effort. Press on the brakes and its halts, again, rapidly if you desire, with a minimum of fuss. Turn the wheel, and you’ll find slightly more feedback than in the previous Ghost thanks to a new steering configuration, and that steering wheel rim will be thicker for greater comfort. The ride quality, however, is were the Ghost truly shines.
Size, weight, and very large wheels coupled with fairly low-profile tires, are known enemies of good ride quality; it can be very difficult to tune a car to control such a combination of physics while also coddling the occupants. Rolls-Royce’s engineers have figured out how.
The Ghost’s large air struts, dynamic dampers, and rear-end kinematics have all be re-engineered for the Series II. The result is an incrementally, but noticeably, smoother, more settled ride. The handling has improved, too, though the physics of the Ghost’s weight still rule supreme when it comes to nimbleness, or the lack thereof.
Inside the Ghost Series II, updates are equally subtle, with a slight refinishing of the clock in the dashboard and the instrument panel dials that evokes premium luxury watches; the rear seats have been slightly angled toward each other for easier conversation; and the front seats gain adjustable thigh supports. Decoratively, the Ghost also gets a new Spirit of Ecstasy inlay under the infotainment system’s rotary controller, as well as extended leather upholstery options and a pair of new wood trims from the Bespoke program.
On the technology front, the Series II introduces a new WiFi hotspot to the Ghost, offering easy connectivity for any on-the-go data needs. Also new is a Bespoke Audio System, which Rolls-Royce bills as the “most exhaustively engineered and finest audio system in automotive history.” That’s a very proud claim, and unfortunately, in our limited time with the car thus far, it doesn’t live up to the hype. Sound from the system proved to be tinny at high frequencies, muddy in the mid-range, and weak on bass—even after adjusting the settings in the infotainment system. With other luxury and ultra-luxury carmakers offering truly excellent—and unique to individual cars—sound systems from brands like Burmester, Bang & Olufsen, and Bowers & Wilkins, it’s hard to recommend the in-house-developed Bespoke Audio System over the alternatives.
That one beef aside, our time with the 2015 Rolls-Royce Ghost proved that the conflicting goals of updating and redesigning the car, while preserving the investments of existing owners, has been not only met, but met brilliantly. The Ghost presents a compelling, luxurious package of features and capabilities, well-suited to its target audience: the younger half of the movers and shakers in the technology, financial, and business worlds. For those lucky, capable few, the Ghost Series II may be just what they’re after.
- 2015 Bentley Flying Spur
- 2015 Mercedes-Benz S Class
- 2015 Porsche Panamera
The Rolls-Royce Ghost's only real natural competitor is the Bentley Flying Spur, that brand being a historical partner of Rolls-Royce's (though no longer) and fitting largely into the same space. The Ghost aims slightly higher up-market, however. On the other hand, the Flying Spur's recent redesign, unlike the Ghost's, was a complete and utter transformation. Its sleek new exterior and modern interior may appeal to buyers who find the Ghost a touch staid. Other alternatives for those seeking powerful, luxurious sedans with large executive seating include the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera. Both offer variants with extended wheelbases, extremely comfortable seating, advanced technology packages, and more. The Porsche tends toward the higher-performance end of the spectrum, while the Mercedes is more about refinement. Both hit different marks than the Ghost on design, too, with the Panamera's somewhat awkward profile polarizing shoppers, and the S-Class's more brand-themed shape making it perhaps seem more common than its price tag would indicate.