When I last sat in the back of a Rolls-Royce with my wife, she had only been my wife for around 15 minutes, there was confetti in her veil, inane grins on our faces, and we were so busy making eyes at each other that I completely failed to notice the vehicle's interior trim, performance figures and ride comfort levels.
I suppose I could have sat down that evening and made a few notes about the car, but to be perfectly honest, the two of us had other things on our mind. After all, if you can't turn a lady's head with a Rolls-Royce and a band of gold, what hope is there?
So, when recently offered the use of a Rolls-Royce Ghost Extended Wheelbase for the day, and a chauffeur to drive us to dinner one evening, I happily informed my wife that we would be ‘dining out this weekend and I'll take care of the transport'. And what glorious transport it is; just a few months ago I drove the standard wheelbase Ghost, but bear in mind that in Rolls-Royce terms, ‘standard wheelbase' means almost 3,300mm. The extended wheelbase benefits from an additional 170mm, stretching the Ghost to an imposing 5,570mm long in total. That additional sheet metal, flawlessly tanned leather, finely fitted carpet and hand-polished wood has all been added behind the driver's seat and since the standard Ghost wasn't exactly cramped in the rear, it's now positively voluminous.
A bride could comfortably take her seat in the back of this car, with room alongside for her husband, an enormous bouquet, a dress the size of a small island and its train. All six carriages.
Of course a car of such significant dimensions and filled with such fine materials does tend to amass quite a bit of, well, mass, and in the case of the extended Ghost, the kerbside weight is an imposing 5,335 of your English pounds (that's 2,420 German kilogrammes). Which probably explains why it's fitted with an engine blessed with more pulling power than a dozen George Clooneys.
The BMW-built V12, 6.6-litre twin-turbo-charged unit produces 563 horsepower and a whopping 786Nm of torque at just 1,500rpm. That immense torque, channelled through an eight-speed ZF gearbox, is responsible for levels of acceleration which might, under certain circumstances, tempt a gentleman to engage in somewhat raffish behaviour. Not that I tried of course, but I am led to believe the Ghost will accelerate from 0 to 100kph in just five seconds; impressive figures for any car, but remarkable when you consider the Rolls-Royce's weight.
Accelerating two-and-a-half tonnes of opulence to decadent speeds and having enormous fun whilst doing so is a bit like running the British Empire. Sooner or later, you just know it's going to have to stop. In fact the brakes themselves, 410/402mm ventilated discs front/rear are extremely effective, but when you first take your foot off the throttle, due to its mass and subsequent momentum, the car simply doesn't slow down. I'm told aircraft carrier Captains face the same problem, but I suspect in rather less comfortable cabins.
Speaking of which, naturally there's a lot of cabin to enjoy in the Ghost, and not surprisingly, a lot of it is natural. There are materials such as mahogany, walnut, leather and wool wherever you look, with charming chrome controls to operate devices such as the air conditioning vents and the windows. In order to maintain appearances, you might occasionally wish to hide from view the very modern and simply enormous infotainment/i-drive/navigation screen. If so, simply pull on a chrome control and it's serenely covered with a walnut panel (or mahogany or rosewood or beech or...), the grain of which, naturally, matches the adjacent dashboard.
Behind the driver — a long way behind the driver — you'll find two very contented passengers. Oh, there's easily room for three, but that would mean moving the sumptuous leather armrest out of the way, which in turn means losing access to one's rear-seat position controls and more importantly, one's beverage holder. The rear seat curves slightly, allowing passengers to face one another more comfortably, and is fitted with a massage function. Mmmmmm.
It was upon this wonderful seat that my wife and I found ourselves once again snuggled up in a Rolls-Royce, en route to the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Carole was dressed to the nines, wearing the ‘special occasion necklace' I bought her when she gave birth to our first daughter, Yasmin, 16 years earlier. Just a few hours before we went to dinner, Yasmin had delighted us both by earning nine excellent IGCSE results, and I have to tell you that being a chauffeur-driven passenger in a Rolls-Royce on a day like that, means you're having a very good day!
Naturally a car like the Ghost does tend to attract the attention of passing motorists, some of whom will pull alongside, checking to see if there's a fabulously wealthy famous person inside. In my case though, it seems there wasn't.
Should the occupants require privacy under such circumstances, there are remotely operated curtains on all the rear windows, but what's the point of showing off for the day if you can't be seen doing it? A standard equipment panoramic sunroof ensures you don't miss waving to onlookers on nearby bridges.
I also noticed that at hotels, doormen stand just a little more upright when a Rolls-Royce approaches, the already charming staff somehow find a touch more charm to share, and many hotel guests can be heard to whisper, "what on earth is a bloke like that doing with a beautiful wife and a lovely car?". I'll bet George Clooney doesn't have that problem...
The following day, I spent several hours behind the wheel of the Ghost, and that was when I noticed that backing off the throttle doesn't seem to slow the car any bit. If you first learn this when approaching an exit ramp at speed, you next learn to thank its designers for a job well done with the handling. There is some body roll as you turn in, but double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear linkages, air-suspension system and electronic variable damping ensure the Ghost deals admirably with corners at speeds which, frankly speaking, you shouldn't be driving at in a Rolls-Royce anyway. Perhaps that makes me a bit of a cad? Then there's my favourite part of the car. No, not the boot — I was initially disappointed to learn it's only large enough to accommodate a single golf club, until I learned the club in question was St Andrews. Nor is it the enormous coach-style rear doors, hinged at the back to allow a lady to enter and exit the vehicle in a far more seemly manner than would be possible with conventional doors.
You'd be wrong if you thought it was the Head-Up display, a thoroughly modern addition to an otherwise traditional motor car, which discreetly projects into the driver's field of view on the road ahead, the speed at which he is driving.
In fact, I had thought this was my favourite gadget on the Ghost, but then I exceeded the speed limit. Only a little mind you, but at that moment, a warning note rang out from behind the dashboard. It wasn't harsh, in fact it was rather subtle, but Rolls-Royce has managed to create a warning tone that has precisely the same effect as a disapproving look from Nanny. And no matter how strong the urge to drive faster, one simply doesn't disobey Nanny. It's very British, and very effective!
Back at more reasonable speeds, and with Nanny's full approval, I set about ferrying daughter Yasmin out in style to celebrate her exam results, along with sister Jemma and friends. I mean, if you're going to go to the movies as a treat, why not in a Rolls-Royce? And the verdict from my esteemed guests? They liked the 600W sound system, the on-board screens for the DVD and TV and the ability to plug in their MP3 players. Plus of course, the massage seats.
So there you have it. After a few hours of being chauffeur driven, enjoying fine dining and attracting lots of attention driving a car that takes dozens of people 20 days to build, I came to the not unremarkable conclusion that I rather like the Rolls-Royce Ghost Extended Wheelbase. And since it's larger than the standard Ghost, but not as large as the Phantom, I believe it makes it a fine choice in the ‘mid-sized luxury hand-built vehicle costing more than a million dirhams' market. OK, so I admit that it's a fairly small market…
By the way, I'm sorry I can't tell you more about our evening at the Ritz Carlton, but I do have an excuse — I forgot to make notes later. After all, if you can't turn a lady's head with a Rolls-Royce and a gold necklace, what hope is there?