I was behind the wheel of the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost for about fifteen minutes before I found myself on the phone with Jalopnik alum Alanis King. It was with an immense sense of shame that I had to ask, “How do you get that flying lady hood ornament to pop out on the Ghost?”
“You mean the Spirit of Ecstasy?”
“Sure,” I said. “I’ve pushed every button in here, and I can’t figure out how to make it pop back up. I don’t even know what most of these buttons do.”
Alanis laughed. “There’s a feature for it in the infotainment system. I don’t remember exactly where, but if you play around, you should find it.”
Find it I did, tucked away somewhere in an obscure settings section. That exchange would define my entire, brief experience with the Rolls-Royce Ghost.
Full disclosure: Rolls-Royce brought the Ghost to the Texas Auto Writers Association’s Spring Roundup.
“This is not a driver’s car,” a Rolls-Royce rep warned us with a laugh before the Spring Roundup got underway. “You’re probably going to like it best from the backseat.”
And that makes it a difficult vehicle to review, which is why I’m structuring this one a little differently than normal. Because the Ghost isn’t a car. Not really. It’s a statement piece. It’s a flex. It’s not a luxury car you buy because you want to drive a luxury car—it’s a luxury car you buy because you want someone else to chauffeur you around while you sip expensive rye from your cut-crystal glasses and Rolls-Royce branded decanter in the back seat. You buy it because you want to flex. Because you want people to know you own a Rolls-Royce. Because you care less about performance and more about the impression you’ll make on the people around you.
Which is fine. I will never begrudge someone who wants to spend a car ride with their toes nestled into cushy carpet. But it makes the Ghost a little difficult to review in the traditional sense.
- Starts at: $314,400
- Extended wheelbase: around $350,000
- 6.7-liter twin-turbocharged V12 engine
- 563 horsepower
- 627 lb-ft torque
- 8-speed automatic transmission
- All-wheel drive
- Fuel economy: 14 combined / 12 city / 19 highway
Every single element of the Rolls-Royce Ghost is an exercise in opacity. As my husband told me when I tried to convey what the RR experience was like, this is a car that requires an hour-long intro class just to tell you how to consider using it.
Jill Robbins of Ripped Jeans & Bifocals and I did not have that luxury. As you can imagine, the Ghost was a strong favorite at the TAWA Spring Roundup, so the two of us stole away during lunch for our shot behind the wheel. That meant no one was around to tell us how to, y’know... start it.
Yes. Even the starting procedure is opaque. There was no key, so we knew we were looking for a start button. But we didn’t see one. There are a lot of buttons on the dash and center console, but none of our increasingly frantic pushing was having any impact. Eventually, Jill looked to the left of the steering wheel and found the start button in a place that no other automaker has placed a start button.
And that was just the beginning. This is not a car with labels. This is a car that requires you to know where everything is located. So, hunting down climate controls, figuring out with the eternal row of numbered buttons did, finding the volume knob, or figuring out how to close the doors was a chore. There is, apparently, a button you can push that will close the doors for you. I used the curiously-placed indent just under the door’s windows to manhandle them closed like some sort of Neanderthal. I wanted to dig my toes into the lambswool rugs, but I couldn’t tell what was worse: touching this expensive fabric with my smelly feet or touching it with my nasty Vans that have seen the worst side of race events. I wanted to get a closer look at the glasses that come in the rear console, but I couldn’t trust that my grubby hands wouldn’t cause the glass to immediately shatter simply due to my plebeian presence.
I’m going to be honest: the Ghost was not a particularly enjoyable drive. I’ve looked at other reviews that praise its fabulous handing and the high levels of power on tap. I won’t say I necessarily disagree, but I want to counter it by saying that there are a lot of other things that make the drive of the Ghost a fairly mediocre experience, starting with its size.
The Ghost is long, wide, and heavy. It’s a limo without actually being a limo. It has massive blind spots and a mile-long hood that you need a telescope to peer over. Sure, there’s power—but you have to stand on the throttle, pray for patience, and send out a cry for help to whatever gods will listen before you feel any movement. The engine is quiet and smooth, but that is in part because the braking is so soft that you can’t help but ease into every slowdown. The Ghost will handle sharp turns and bumpy roads thanks to its adaptive suspension, but it’s hard to get comfortable behind the wheel.
If I ever woke up one morning to find I was body-swapped with an orca, I imagine it would be very reminiscent of driving the Ghost: simultaneously deft and unwieldy, large enough that you have no idea what’s going on with your rear end but adept enough at its job that you’d probably mostly get used to it after a while.
Driving the Ghost was a strange experience because I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t really like it. That said, I’m the kind of person who would not complain about going on a date to a “nice restaurant” that turns out to be an Olive Garden. I’m not the target audience, not even for an entry-level Rolls-Royce. This is a car for people who have a lot of money and want to flaunt it with a very opulent marque that immediately conveys an image of lavishness the moment you see it but who don’t necessarily care about the application of performance specs.
Which is fine. I just don’t think I’m rich enough to understand the appeal.