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Published 06 September 2012 05:05, Updated 25 February 2013 17:02
At a certain point in the wealth curve, luxury can become an imperative and the drive to create it in your own name, to make it yours, an obsession.
Once you have ticked off the mansions, the yachts and the aircraft, you also face the quandary of what luxury car to drive. It needs to be a sensuous and sensual experience in a place where dreams are nurtured, riches made and deals done; an oasis in a sea of turbulence. It should stimulate a sense of satisfaction so profound you can’t even recall where mundane lives.
There are cars that provide some terrific comforts – Bentleys, BMW’s 7 series, Audi’s A8s, the Mercedes-Benz S class – but really they just offer a taste of what lies in the realm of the super luxury vehicles favoured by the ultra-rich, the Maybachs (a name that has now been dumped), Bugatti Veyrons and, of course, Rolls-Royces.
In these vehicles lives the sublime motoring experience. These cars impose themselves on you. They demand respect and create a sense of awe.
The Maybachs and Bugattis attract gangsta rappers, drug dealers and corrupt dictators but a Rolls-Royce fills the elegant space at the top of the tree.
There is nothing like a Rolls-Royce. It embodies the higher aesthetic, the standard against which all others are judged and it does it with quiet dignity. It fulfils the dreams of opulence, turning the experience of just entering the cabin into a fairytale.
The latest in the esteemed line is the Ghost Extended Wheelbase, which has been given an extra 170mm and it’s all available in the back.
The rear coach doors open wide so you can actually walk comfortably into the car and the huge leather seats cosset you in comfort.
With the extra length in the cabin, your feet are still some distance from the back of the front seats even with the seats at the full extent of their recline.
Built on the BMW 7 series base, it has benefited from the German marque’s input in a number of other significant ways. One of which is the 6.6 litre twin-turbo charged V12 that produces 420kW (523hp) and 780Nm of torque at just 1500rpm.
Translated, that means it gets very fast, very quickly with an astonishing lack of fuss and very little noise. In fact, it gets to 100km/h in 5 seconds flat even though it weighs nearly three tonnes.
All that awesome power is fed through an eight-speed transmission that is so smooth, you’d think there were no gears at all.
Another is the ride quality, which is a hallmark of Rolls-Royce and keeping everything serene in the Ghost is a four-cornered air suspension system that takes individual load calculations every 2.5 milliseconds. It can almost compensate for the movement of the champagne from the refrigerated bar between the rear seats to your stomach.
Driving the Ghost is an absolute delight. Even though it is a big car at 5.6 metres long and nearly 2 metres wide, you never have the sense that it’s an unwieldy behemoth. It glides through traffic and there’s outstanding power underfoot when you need it.
For the driver, the dash instrumentation is classically simple and clear, though the large BMW-sourced screen in the centre console is a welcome nod to the present. The high fun factor in sitting behind the wheel and the outstanding luxury in the back make this a car you both want to drive and be driven in.
And keeping the wide world at bay is the double glazing, which means the only thing you hear in the rear is the soft hissing of the release from the air-conditioning vents.
Each car is created to suit the individual customer and the choices of fitout are limitless. The bespoke process takes some time, so it’s worth detailing some of the effort that is put into each car to show what it takes to achieve this standard. Each Ghost is pieced together by 60 craftsmen and technicians over 20 days in Goodwood, England. Painting takes seven days and is finished with five hours of hand polishing.
The Ghost Extended Wheelbase contains at least three square metres of veneer, consisting of 18 wood parts, each of 11 layers, and takes 16 days to complete. Better still, the customer gets to choose colours, textures, veneers, embroidery, leathers, carpets, in fact everything about the car. You can even gild the Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet ornament and give her diamond eyes but you can’t remove her.
The Ghost EW costs $645,000 plus on-roads and any extras you want to add.
As a driver’s car, it is astonishing. As a place to do business, it almost guarantees results. As a way to get around, it has no peer.
It is, simply, a Rolls-Royce.
For more: Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG; Maserati GranCabrio Sport; Mercedes E350 CDI; Audi R8 Spyder; Range Rover Evoque; Jaguar XF 2.2D; Audi A6 3.0 TDI and A6 2.0 TFSI; Mercedes-Benz CLS 63AMG; Peugeot 508; Nissan 270Z; Volvo V60 T6 AWD R-Design; Alfa Romeo 159; BMW 535d; Lexus IS350F; Volvo S60; Range Rover Autobiography; Lexus IS F; Audi A8L; Can Am Spyder; Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Mito; Jaguar XJ; Peugeot RCZ; Audi A7; Nissan GT-R