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30 Minutes With: The 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost radiator and Spirit of Ecstasy

Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical. Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days. Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Day in Half Moon Bay, California.

Needless to say, these are quick drives and brief impressions that we hope to be able to flesh out with a full review of the vehicle at some point in the near future.

Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at our host hotel, the Aristocrat, down Highway 1 to Highway 84, onto Stage Road (named for the former stagecoach stop still---but barely---standing on the corner), past the historic (since 1889), socially-aware and only-in-Northern-California-funky San Gregorio General Store, through some marvelous twists and turns that lead back to Highway 1 and ultimately back to the hotel.

At the hotel, support teams from Page One Automotive and DriveShop sanitize the vehicles as they return while journalists choose their next vehicle from a total of 27 cars, trucks and SUVs provided by their manufacturers. This goes on for eight hours on day one, minus a 90-minute lunch break, and for three hours on day two. For me, that was enough time to drive 11 vehicles that I hadn't driven yet.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost front 3/4 view

My third drive of day one was in the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Not gonna lie. When I pulled back into the Aristocrat parking lot after drive number two and saw that the Ghost was sitting there waiting, I pretty much ran to it.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost rear 3/4 view

Rolls-Royces are rare and beautiful things, even to jaded automotive journalists. In 24 years of writing about cars, I've driven exactly three of them before the Ghost---a Corniche in 2000, a Phantom in 2005 and the 2020 Wraith Black Badge last summer. I'm lucky. There are people who've done this for a living a lot longer than I have who've never had the opportunity.

The 2021 Ghost is all-new, and it will be the platform for the Wraith coupe and Dawn convertible in the near future (they're based on the previous-generation Ghost this year). So my eagerness to drive it was not just "Oh, boy! Another Rolls!", but an opportunity to compare the old and new platforms, having driven the Wraith only a year ago.

The 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost is powered by a 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine. 563 horsepower and 627 pounds per foot of torque with an eight-speed automatic gearbox featuring satellite-aided transmission (it pinpoints where you are and adjusts for conditions ahead you may not yet be aware of). Rolls-Royce says the new Ghost will hit 60 miles per hour from a standing start in 4.6 seconds, but that's not really the point. No, the Rolls-Royce Ghost---all Rolls-Royces, for that matter---are about effortless power when you need it.

That's underscored by the fact that to the left of the speedometer is not a tachometer, but a "power reserve meter", showing how much power remains while you're driving. Cruising Highway 1 at 50 miles per hour, it was showing well above 90% remaining.

The new Ghost's ability to, as Rolls-Royce likes to say, "waft" along the highway in a preternatural smoothness, is enhanced by a standard adaptive suspension system. It uses a camera to scan the road ahead and prepare in advance for how to absorb everything from pavement ripples to potholes. And it handles better than it has any right to on the short, curvy stretch of Stage Road leading back to Highway 1.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost boot open

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost boot

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost rear seats

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost front seats

A few traditional Rolls-Royce hallmarks remain---the finest woods and leathers, virgin lambs-wool carpets, real metal organ-stop pulls to open and close the vents, but Rolls says the 2021 Ghost marks the beginning of "post-opulence".

The journalist who'd driven it before me had left the radio on SiriusXM's Outlaw Country, so they may have overshot their target.

But seriously, folks, the difference between "opulence" and "post-opulence" in Rolls-Royce-speak is not to be confused with an austerity program. No corners are cut, no niceties left out. It's more a generational thing---an understanding that "luxury" means something different in the 2020s than it did in the 2010s and before. The----um----in every other review I say "window sticker", but that somehow just seems beneath a Rolls----anyway, the document with the pricing (better?) is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself what comes standard on a car with a base price of (deep breath) $332,500, and for what you would pay extra beyond that. When it's all added up, including $2,750 destination and handling charges and a $2,600 gas guzzler fee (the EPA fuel economy estimate is 12 miles per gallon city/19 highway), the as-tested price of the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost is $440,225. That's the second-highest price for a car I've reviewed in just under a quarter-century---just below the $461,250 last summer's Wraith commanded.

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost front view

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost side view

2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost rear view

As with all the "30 Minutes With..." pieces, I can't give you a full evaluation of the car. These are impressions, and we hope to get anywhere from a few days to a week in the same model, if not the same exact car, in the weeks and months ahead.

With Rolls-Royce, that may or may not happen. It was five years between my first Rolls-Royce press loan and my second and 15 between my second and my third. But I have some thoughts.

One, this isn't a car you buy when you make your first million. You're not going to spend 44% of your net worth on a car. I LOVE the Ghost, and conservatively, I think I'd need to see ten million in net worth and close to a tsunami of income before I could begin to justify a car with this price tag.

Two, that's not to say it's not worth $440,000 and change. Never having had that much money to spend on anything, I can't say whether it is or not. I'd be guessing. But I can say this: Cars shouldn't cost $15,000. It's nice that there are some (not many) that do, but those (and frankly, pretty much anything under $50,000) are built to a price, not a standard. Blame the movies, blame class envy, blame that damn Grey Poupon ad from 40 years ago, but Rolls-Royces have never been about excess (well, maybe Liberace's, but...). They've been handbuilt automobiles using the finest materials and built to exacting standards. There is nothing in a Rolls-Royce that anyone in the company blows off with "nobody will notice". Those things cost money.

"Post-opulence" gives Rolls-Royce an excuse to re-focus the public on the real strengths of their automobiles. And the 2021 Ghost is the most promising possible start.

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