VW’s former Rolls-Royce division gets Bentley-like driveline with a twist. Cliff Leppke – CleanMPG – June 16, 2021 Not our normal “Cup of tea” but a great insight into what the one-percent drives! Now where was that Grey Poupon? Thanks Cliff. -- Ed. We’ve all heard stories about the one that got away. Volkswagen’s dalliance with Rolls-Royce likely tops them all. In 1998, VW, spurred by the imperious Ferdinand Piech, acquired RR and Bentley. Someone goofed. Piech didn’t obtain all the necessary bits to permanently add Rolls to VW’s automotive empire. BMW, the suitor RR favored, ruffled feathers. In the end, VW produced the fabled English motorcar until 2003, when BMW got trademarks and other bits to spin off Rolls anew. VW, meanwhile, redefined the Bentley marque. This scribe’s introduction to RR began with a Matchbox model car, antique auto shows and photos of John Lennon’s psychedelic coach. Plus, I never forgot David Ogilvy’s masterful ads. He cranked up the brand's mystique with this line: “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise...comes from the electric clock.” The new Ghost’s “Indulge Clock” lists for $6,200–time apparently is money. Magazine ads for the Silver Shadow tried this angle: ”If you are lucky enough to own a new Rolls….it is sinful not to use it regularly.” Does the new 2021 Ghost deliver Double R’s disposition? After my weekend romance with it, I say: YES! You see, RR invited me to a Chicago-area press preview. Then, it placed one in my driveway. I used this AWD atmospheric movie palace as shameless ‘regular’ livery. Much like those theaters it has a star-studded ceiling—a galaxy of LEDs overhead and another on dashboard fascia fashioned with etched laminated glass. This latter gimmick generates its own luminous show—-152 LEDs and 90,000 laser-etched dots sort of twinkle with depth and breath. Starstruck? You can douse them; their whereabouts vanish. It’s difficult putting the Ghost’s experience into words. So, I’ll start by describing how it felt—a lot like Amy Adams character in “American Hustle.” She transforms herself from tramp to seductive British-accented Lady Edith Greensly by donning a sexy frock. That costume (best-supporting role?) is a disco-era Halston-inspired wrap with plunging neckline. It or Amy’s contours in it, deflect our attention from this con artist within a con film. Pretty Pygmalion, right? The Rolls, in contrast, is the real thing and just as transformative. I’ve never driven to my workplace in anything like it. It's a Faustian deal of sorts, Post Opulence as Rolls describes it, requires a languid lifestyle and a savvy financial planner. Handsomely wide assisted doors, for instance, majestically open or close for you. Your nearly silent partner is the 563-hp twin-turbo V-12 mill. You can stir it but it doesn’t shake. A power reserve meter indicates its TNT-like potential—it behaves like an inverted tachometer—needle drops as revs increase. Yes, those are lambswool floor mats. Take off your shoes; hurry up and wait. Flat Earth Society Commandeering the Ghost reveals everything is on the level; the thing moves as if the earth were flat, no brake dive, no power on bow lift and no obvious body roll. The entire vehicle seems elevated from unfriendly surfaces below as if you were atop a leather-clad continent—even the seat frames have dampers. Roll’s Gerry Spahn claims the Planar air suspension, forward-view “Flag Bearer” cameras plus double upper spring mounts (shock absorbers for the shock absorbers) puts Dramamine out of business. It’s a steamroller; road ripple is flattened, although potholes punch through. Perhaps the mammoth 20-inch run-flat tires get testy—who knew magic carpets encountered turbulence? The RR’s eight speed automatic offers a paradigm shift—uncanny seamlessness. The transmission aided by a cog-swapping algorithm, informed by GPS, if you don’t pick “low” on the selector’s stalk, is subtle. Another nearly silent partner is the automatic climate control. Its jukebox-like shiny metal dials are stacked. Slide the top one to manipulate upper-register temp and the bottom one the lower region. Hot heads can chill while popsicle toes cook. Air wafts like an old gravity furnace—a real draft dodger. Want a blast? Check out the vents—orbs of stainless steel. Rolls’ design incorporates circular logic. It apes the opening graphics of a 007 film with circular framing as if through a gun barrel. This motif guides your engagement with the infotainment screen, its rotary controller, digital dials and the steering wheel’s switches. The Ghost’s website is similarly affected, a small circle is your gunsight cursor. You’ll play poke-a-dot with M&M’s-shaped buttons. These black dots let you raise or lower the vehicle. One summons the self-parking feature. Some reside on the armrests, shortcuts to, say, seat massage. You don’t have to fiddle with the infotainment screen’s large-round controller backed by 18 speakers and 1300 watts of amplifiers when you want your backside rubbed. Mechanically, the Ghost shares its aluminum “Architecture of Luxury” with its even loftier Phantom or Cullinan SUV. This is noteworthy, as the previous Ghost borrowed much of BMW’s 7 Series as its hardware store. Regardless, Rolls probably noticed folks buying Audi-inspired AWD Bentleys and decided to route some of the engine’s 627 lb-ft of twist to each of the Ghost’s light-alloy wheels where the RR centers stay upright. Elisabeth Williams, Rolls’ communication manager, says the Ghost is driver focused, chauffeurs not wanted. Yet, there are power reclining and massaging rear seats. The right one lets its occupant reorient the front pew if necessary. Each front seatback has power-operated picnic tables and video screens. There’s a rotary controller in the center armrest just like the driver‘s. Yet, Williams’ claim is credible. Start the ritual by tugging on the door handle. Done correctly, the door glides, providing a large aperture. Close the front doors via buttons on the center console; rear coach doors via C-pillar buttons. You twirl a large-black steering wheel blissfully aware that this 5,628-lb Rolls lists for $440,225 as commissioned. An all-wheel steer setup helps the 129.7-inch wheelbase/218.3 inches long Ghost modulate urban and suburban environments. You guide this rig ogling the expansive bonnet, punctuated by that Spirit of Ecstasy ornament. Not into conspicuous consumption? SoE vanishes by ducking under a lid. The yacht-tail body profile is handsome. It’s about panel fitment, deep paint augmented by light and shadow. Embellishments are restrained. The stainless-steel Parthenon grille has mood lighting. And the self-rising SoE gets a ring of under glow. Yet, the carved-out-of-soap body contours pay homage to RR tradition. Surface treatment is timeless. Tail lamps, for example, seem to overlay their places. Gaps, therefore, never look like gaffes. While the Ghost’s size is extroverted, its overall presence is introverted. Almost. At work, I heard this page over the PA system: “Whose Rolls-Royce?” Busted. There’s a festival of finery inside. I thought I’d get a sliver from the open pore “Obsidian Ayous” wood trim. Leather cladding differs in quality, size and amount from less patrician rides. The expansive dashboard celebrates it. Unblemished door cards, for instance, seem swathed with one unadorned uninterrupted hide. For $2,050 Rolls will emboss these skins with the SoE. While the Rolls’ infotainment system isn’t au currant (no Android Auto), I found it easy to talk to. And it fetched locations that befuddle other navigation aids. A Lady Edith-like voice politely informed me when to move over. Of course, the capacious boot is deep and sumptuously lined. From here you can contemplate the Ghost’s cold hard cashmere: $332,500 for starters. And it doesn’t have lane-keep assist. There’s a hefty polished stainless steel gas cap, though. When you fill its tank with premium and realize you got 14 mpg just wheeling around (EPA numbers: 12 mpg city, 19 highway, 14 combined), you might think twice about the sins of using it as regular transport. Fuel costs are estimated at $10,000 over five years. Regardless, the Ghost’s provenance, final assembly in Great Britain with 60% German parts content, reminds you that Piech let this one get away.