As a boy, I distinctly remember my father telling me it was against the law to drive barefoot. Though I never explored the legality of his claim, it rushed to my memory the instant I stepped inside the Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II. In this case, it seemed almost criminal to be shoed or otherwise buttoned and encumbered amidst its rich comfort.
Etching out a profile akin to the larger Phantom—which requires a chauffeur and bears association with old-money exclusivity—Ghost II is a driver’s car; positioned to attract a younger, more entrepreneurial spirit that doesn’t care to hide away behind strategically-placed C-pillars and curtains. Chiseled in classic lines, which are both understated and unapologetic, the second iteration of this coach has subtle differences from its forerunner: most noteworthy a channeled hood that seemingly lays a trail from the famed Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament and surrounding wind-swept LED headlamps. Taking a pull of its stout, chrome door-handle, I swiftly discovered its refined beauty to be more than these skin-deep niceties.
Everything about the Ghost II’s cabin space is butter—from the floors’ standard two-inch pile of lamb’s wool carpeting, to the leather devoid of any imperfection, the car’s smoothness defies poetics. Hard surfaces are hand- lacquered and polished to soft-touch levels. Outfitted with BMW’s iDrive control system, navigating the in-car electronics is a breeze. But atop the familiar control dial (also located in back for passenger convenience) Ghost II is equipped with a remarkably well-performing touch-pad that takes its cues from finger strokes. Why should one scroll, point or click, when he can blindly spell the playlist he’s searching for?
Echoing the crème de la crème accoutrements of the mobile chalet is the fluidity of its performance. If not for a sweep of its gauge needles, I may not have been convinced that pressing the start button did anything at all. Under the Ghost’s long bonnet hides the same, massive, twin-turbocharged 6.6-liter V12 of its predecessor: a ferocious culmination of 563 horsepower and 575 pound- feet of torque that, amazingly, barely emits a purr on idle.
My extended jaunt at its helm involved a trek through New England to Woods Hole, MA, and a ferry ride to the Vineyard—ample time to shake the car loose from its debonair demeanor. But I wasn’t exactly successful. Through Manhattan, the Ghost navigated gridlock with the presence and muscle of an Escalade, while growling about as much as a Tesla Model S. Finally hitting the straight ribbon of 95, I forcefully stomped its billet pedal to the wool, expecting my head to slam into the RR-embroidered headrest. Not so. Granted, the engine can be pushed to obnoxious levels from a launch, but accelerate hard at highway speeds, and one all but disappears.
The car’s eight-speed GPS-guided transmission—which holds or shifts according to the stretch of upcoming road—delivers a drive dynamic that’s almost eerily intuitive. Keeping in constant communication with the heavens, the system takes navigation a step further and tailors the gearbox for the road just ahead.
Ghost’s constant command of attention is flattering at first, still the graceful disappearing act is something you may in fact find yourself pulling quite often. Whereas a Ferrari will get you a thumbs-up (or often, another single-fingered salute), my journey garnered too many stolen glances and blind-spot lurkers to count. You can’t be mad at the gawkers though. Even with Rolls-Royce’s new target demographic, history dictates that sightings will be rare at best—a fact its builders and drivers alike are quite content with. For the rest, taking in all its opulence is only part of the viewing experience.