Cresting a tree lined hill in majestically controlled opulence, I marvel at the sheer volume of technical excellence dedicating its existence to making my drive a simply fabulous experience.
The Rolls Royce Ghost is unusual in RR history as it is expected that owners will drive it, for some of the time anyway. Traditional RR theory has it that owners always travel in the back and so driver aids were kept to a minimum, but the Ghost has a plethora of modern technological wonders to make driving easier and more pleasurable.
As with many cars today it has an electric handbrake. But it performs a more sophisticated role here than on a humble peasant hatchback, it holds the car at rest until the accelerator is pressed when it is seamlessly released, leaving the switch in this mode means that the brake is automatically applied when at rest and if the driver exits for a quick ‘comfort break’ in the hedges the gearbox is automatically put into parked too. This is surprisingly useful when swapping drivers on long trips and the such like.
Gear selection is elegantly simple with Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive being the only options. It goes without saying that the system analyses your driving style and adapts to suit, almost anticipating your desire for a gear shift before you know it.
The head up display shows the current speed limit derived from the on-board camera and some very clever image recognition systems that look for road signs, this means it can pick up temporary and new speed limits which is something sat-nav based systems have no chance of dealing with. This is linked to the adaptive cruise control so you never need get caught for speeding ever again. The system also notices white lines and if it detects the driver drifting out of lane without indicating it will discretely vibrate the steering wheel.
But I found driving it a surprise for all the wrong reasons. For sure the power delivery is smooth and effortless, with a wealth of thrust available throughout the rev range, and the ride is supple yet responsive but a tad more twitchy than Roller’s of old. The cabin is well insulated from outside noise, shutting the door is like closing a granite lid on a padded tomb, but unfortunately there was a fair amount of road noise transmitted through the car itself, particularly tyre noise. This might be more noticeable because of the near total lack of other noise, yet having driven older offerings from this legendary brand where there was no noise at all at moderate speeds I do think this is genuine and a step in the wrong direction. Although it has to be said that with the Crewe built cars wind noise, scuttle shake and a tendency not to go in precisely the direction intended were always features, which have thankfully all been dispelled in the new models.
So if the new car is better insulated, more solidly built and has better suspension how come there is more road noise? Well, I think this may be due to the affliction that most modern cars suffer from; excessively low profile tyres.
The thing driving this move towards rubber bands is not solid engineering but the fickle whim of fashion. Even Range Rovers run on 40 profile tyres now, which is quite frankly ridiculous. Low profile means the tyre cant adapt to the road surface and makes for a harsh ride and a tendency to skitter on all but the smoothest of surfaces. Tyres are an important part of the suspension system and making them too stiff is like welding girders onto the springs. You’ll never see an F1 car on low profiles.
I would dearly love to drive this magnificent car on better tyres, then I am sure it would effortlessly waft in silent majesty, just as it should.