Rolls-Royce hopes to have created a car that causes looks of respect rather than envy with its newly updated Ghost – a vehicle it bills as the “ultimate entrepreneurial tool”.
The Series II has officially hit the streets with a launch in the Shard to tie in with London’s reputation as global business centre and the Ghost as the car for the people who work there.
“What the Ghost says is that I’m successful, I’m doing good things, creating jobs, making money,” said Richard Carter, the company’s director of global communications.
“It says I am successful... celebrate what I do. After all, we live in a free market society, and a Rolls-Royce really represents the pinnacle of success of people who are achievers in that free market society.”
The car – which costs in the region of £200,000-plus depending on the level of bespoke touches buyers want – is an evolution of the original Ghost which was launched in 2009. The Series I was key in turning Rolls-Royce from the 1,000-car-a-year business it was when BMW re-established it in 2003 to the 4,000 cars the company expects to sell this year.
“We have done exactly what our customers asked for, which is a subtle refresh of a car that did not really need it,” said Mr Carter. “Remember that our customers who might just have paid a fairly large amount of money for a Rolls-Royce do not want to great changes taking place at the mid-life of the car.”
The result is minor tweaking to the Series II’s appearance: every panel on the front has been changed (though it’s hard to pinpoint the differences except it appears wider), the headlights are brighter LED units, the Spirit of Ecstasy is angled a few degrees forward.
Inside the opportunities to personalise the car have been increased, with new leather options and wood veneers – each more unique than a human fingerprint, according to the company – and 82pc of the current orders are bespoke in some way, a level Rolls-Royce expects to rise.
Underneath, the engine is the same V12 6.6-litre lump and capable of hitting a limited 155mph, with Rolls-Royce’s satellite aided transmission that uses GPS to work out where the car is and where the road goes to help the automatic gearbox pick the suitable gear. This means there’s no fiddling around with paddles or buttons – the car does it better than the driver probably could.
It all adds up to create the famed Rolls-Royce magic carpet ride, despite The Telegraph accidentally managing to take the Ghost over some spectacular potholes, which became annoyances rather than causes of concern they might be in other marques.
Despite the obvious expense of the Ghost, it never caused the sort of road resentment that some other cars might. All but the most anti-car pedestrians at least glanced, and the vast gave an approvingly look. Other motorists were happy to let it out into traffic, or hang back to let pass – something essential in a car that’s getting on for 18ft long and more than 6ft wide.
These dimensions might not be such an issue on the wide open freeways of the US or newly built mega highways of China, Roll-Royce’s two single biggest markets which regularly swap places for the top spot, with the Middle East chasing not too far behind.
The Ghost II is certainly not a car you’d want to drive every day – it’s too big – but if you’re being driven then it’s the car to have.
But as Rolls-Royce points out, for many of their customers it’s their second or third, or even fifth or sixth car.
So is it the car for successful entrepreneurs? Well, judging from the reactions of those the Telegraph asked, Rolls-Royce has hit its target perfectly.