Rolls-Royce Ghost review: On a spiritual journey in the lap of luxury
Revelling in the unrivalled comfort, quality and performance of this spookily-named saloon on a ghost hunt in southern Scotland
Scotland has no shortage of ghost stories.
Any country with so much bloody history and rich folklore is bound to have its fair share of spooky sightings.
While crumbling castles and ancient alleyways claim the lion’s share of reported sightings there are plenty of roads with their own supposedly supernatural stories.
So, with the keys to Rolls-Royce’s latest spookily named offering in our hands, it seemed only fitting to take our Ghost in search of spooks on Scotland’s “most haunted road”.
According to those who record such things, the A75 running between Annan and Carrutherston in Dumfries and Galloway has more reports of ghosts, bogles and other spooky goings-on than any other route in the country. It also happens to pass through the beautiful rolling countryside around the Solway Firth - a fitting place, then, to test the Ghost’s performance.
Our route to the south-west took in the mist-shrouded and suitably satanic Devil’s Beef Tub where the Ghost’s rear-wheel steering made light work of the tight twisting road that winds down the side of the famous gorge towards Moffat.
That all-wheel-steering is central to Rolls-Royce’s ambition for the Ghost to be a car to drive as well as be driven in. Despite its size - all 5.5 metres of it - the Ghost is remarkably easy and enjoyable to drive and doesn’t feel any more unwieldy than a large-ish SUV. The steering is weighted “just so”, so you don’t feel like you’re wrestling more than two tonnes of metal but it’s not so light that you lose all sensation. It’s by no means a sporty car but it feels surprisingly neat and responsive even on the smaller winding roads our route took us along.
Past the Beef Tub and through Moffat and Dumfries, where the gleaming white paintwork and proud Spirit of Ecstasy turned more than a few heads, we headed south and east towards the infamous Kinmount Straight where drivers claim to have encountered everything from a ghostly furniture van to medieval peasants and even a menagerie of spectral animals.
Despite keeping our eyes peeled for phantom poultry and otherworldly hitchikers, the scariest thing we encountered was the condition of the roads and the only evidence of witchcraft was the way the Ghost’s suspension dismissed potholes, patches and broken surfaces.
The Ghost is equipped with air suspension that uses data from a front-facing camera to prime the adaptive dampers for changes in surface. This is backed up by a mechanical mass damper that smooths out any particularly big changes in attitude, and the way the suspension handles bad surfaces is almost supernatural. Nothing covers ground in the imperious way a Rolls does, shrugging off the kind of problems that would unsettle most other cars.
That isolation from the problems of the world is only enhanced by the Ghost’s coccoon-like interior. Reportedly, prototypes of the car were so well insulated that passengers felt ill due to the lack of sensation, so a little “ambience” was engineered back in. Regardless, press the button to close the power-operated doors and you enter a hushed world where double glazing and 100kg of sound deadening bring unrivalled serenity and even the air vents are lined with felt to reduce any disturbance to your calmness.
Everything about the Ghost’s exquisite interior feels designed to soothe you. That’s whether you’re at the wheel or stretching out in the massage seats with a glass of Champagne from the built-in chiller, admiring the shooting stars darting across the Starlight headliner. Most surfaces are wrapped in the finest leather and elsewhere our car featured a beautiful open-grain wood finish. Of course, you can specify your own Ghost with virtually any combination of materials as part of Roll’s dedication to personalisation. Anything not finished in wood or leather is chromed and even the switchgear is engineered with a beautifully damped operation, so everything moves softly but precisely.
In a state of near-transcendental calm, we pressed on towards Annan. Alas, we didn’t find any spooks or spectres but we did discover the spirit-rich environment of Scotland’s south-west. From the tiny farmyard operation of the Oro Gin distillery at Dalton to Solway Spirits and the imposing and impressive backdrop of the Annandale Distillery, the region is bursting with purveyors of craft gin and whiksy. A crueller person might suggest such spirits are the root of many of the A75’s reported spooks.
But drifting home along the original and now reclassified A75 with the boot suitably stocked and the Ghost’s adaptive laser headlights cutting through the gloom it’s easy to see how the remote route, undulating between steep embankments and through stands of gnarled trees, could stir up the imagination. Indeed the near-silence with which the Ghost makes progress added to the eerie feeling, barely a whisper coming from the mighty 6.75-litre V12.
That 563bhp twin-turbo engine is one of the Ghost’s masterpieces. In normal operation it is almost imperceptible as it easily propels this rolling cathedral to luxury. Even in its “sportier” Low mode it never does anything so uncouth as roar but, with a heavy right foot, you can stir it into a purposeful woofle. Like a butler clearing his throat to let you know the horizon will be joining you shortly. And I do mean very shortly. Despite weighing 2.5 tonnes, the Ghost can hit 60mph in just 4.6 seconds.
That’s not really what the Ghost is about, though. While it’s entertaining to launch the contents of a gentlemen’s club forwards faster than most hot hatches, there’s more pleasure to be had from wafting along effortlessly, revelling in the car’s unrivalled comfort and refinement and enjoying your surroundings - haunted or otherwise.
Price: From around £250,000; Engine: 6.75-litre, V12, twin-turbo, petrol; Power: 563bhp; Torque: 627lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-60mph: 4.6 seconds; Economy: 18-18.6mpg; CO2 emissions: 347-358g/km