2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost
The root of all power
Robust references to the past dissolve when you press the Ghost's start button and summon all the horsepower to attention. This Rolls-Royce can fly with abandon, betraying some of the international roots that transfused life back into the brand in the past decade.
There are BMW systems at work under the coachwork, but it surfaces in the Ghost's performance through a heavy layer of Rolls-Royce-engineered refinement. Electrical bits and entertainment pieces are shared with cars like the BMW 7-Series, and the Ghost's powertrain, suspension and drive systems deliver the strength and quietness of a much smaller, lighter sedan.
The twin-turbocharged V-12 engine fitted to the Ghost barely whispers while I press past the 80-mph mark on the 405. With 563 horsepower available at the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Ghost is virtually silent at speed, even as those speeds gather quickly. The Ghost promises 60-mph acceleration times of about 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph--one of which wouldn't be possible for me, what with the still shocking traffic on the highway after dark. The tremendous strength became evident as I pressed the Ghost into the passing lanes dozens of times, whiffling by peasants and barely pushing its "reserve power" below the 70-percent mark. And through a few detours up into the hills of Orange County, the Ghost's light steering became an unlikely ally. It masks much of the Ghost's substantial mass with clean, clear responses to inputs--as neatly as all that horsepower does.
All the while, the Ghost dealt with the road itself in an imperious way. There's really no question on the winner in this power play: with multi-link suspension at all four corners and a variable-position air suspension sandwiched in for good measure, the Ghost rides just as serenely, with only rare hints of tire patter to break the mantra of some soothing Sade smokily insinuating itself around the cabin.
Before things grew too hypnotic, I stopped before the long, dark stretch of highway outside Camp Pendleton and dialed up some Glenn Beck and a red-eye Starbucks. Drastic times call for drastic measures. In case I'd failed in my wake-up mission, the Ghost had my back: in the modern mode, it's fitted with a safety tour de force of airbags, traction and stability controls, even a grouping of cameras that channel a near-360 image of the Ghost's surroundings for dent-free parking maneuvers. Night vision, a lane-departure warning system, active high-beam headlamps and cruise control are integrated as well.