The stunning Rolls-Royce Ghost
Size matters. Well, it does in certain markets, for certain commodities. And here in the UAE, size is evidently high on the agenda when it comes to choosing a new car. I can't think of anywhere else in the world
where you'll see just so many Toyota Land Cruisers, Hummers, GMCs, BMW X6s or Nissan Armadas. These cars are four-wheeled nuclear deterrents: everyone else has a big car, therefore I need to protect myself by driving something even bigger. Where will it all end?
The problem with these gargantuan automobiles is that many of them are nowhere near as capacious inside as their external dimensions would suggest. If I am going to drive a big car, I want it to feel, as well as look, big. And yet, because I actually like driving, I don't want it to feel big from behind the wheel. I want maximum interior space yet I want to experience a car shrinking around me when I put my foot down. And Rolls-Royce reckons its new Ghost, the EWB (extended wheelbase), meets this very specific criteria.
It's a Rolls-Royce for drivers, the company says. Yet it offers all the luxury trappings that might make those drivers prefer a stint in the back. The best of both worlds or a confused mess? My mission is to try it out for myself, to take this humongous machine and wring its neck after, of course, ensconcing myself in its opulent rear quarters for a while.
The Ghost has been around for a couple of years now, offering the gravitas of the inimitable Phantom but in a smaller, more focused, driver-orientated package. It's the baby Rolls-Royce. But it's still absolutely enormous compared to any "normal" automobile and yet, despite the fact that the Ghost was big enough to sate the desires of most of the world's plutocrats, emerging markets such as China and India started to pressure Rolls-Royce into offering a longer variant. And, with size being all-important in the UAE's car culture, this is an important market for the company, too.
Let's start with a few figures. When I was growing up and getting interested in cars, the likes of Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin didn't disclose the power outputs of their models. Apparently they were "sufficient". Now, though, it's all a game of one-upmanship and Rolls-Royce is rather proud to say that the Ghost is powered by a 6.6L, twin-turbo V12 that generates 563hp. That's impressive enough but here's the figure that really leaves your chin on the floor: 780Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm. If you've no idea what that means, we'll pick up on it later.
Maximum speed is electronically limited to 249kph and 100kph from rest comes up in five seconds flat. The ZF automatic gearbox has eight speeds. The computer that controls the air suspension takes readings from various sensors around the car and makes calculations for the damping settings every 2.5 milliseconds. It takes 60 incredibly skilled people to piece together the Ghost EWB, who perform 2,000 individual operations over a period of 20 days. The interior boasts three square metres of wood veneer in 18 parts, all from the same tree, and takes 16 days to complete. Impressed yet?
I could go on. I could fill this entire page with fascinating facts about the attention to detail in this car's construction because it's extremely rare to see something - anything - so exquisitely pieced together. What parent company BMW has done is taken a name and a mascot, created an all-new factory and produced an all-new car that seamlessly blends cutting-edge technology with olde worlde craftsmanship.
The EWB will set you back roughly Dh180,000 more than the regular Ghost, so where is your money going? Firstly, the wheelbase has been stretched by 170mm. That might not sound like much but altering a car's physical dimensions like that can often ruin the flow and proportions of a car. Not so here, because care and attention to detail is absolutely everywhere and the balance of the Ghost's lines has remained unsullied, mainly down to the fact that the rear doors are just 35mm longer than those up front.