“A Rolls-Royce isn’t really a car,” says a company executive at the launch of the 2015 Ghost Series II sedan in Dallas, “You don’t need it.”
Indeed, the Ghost Series II brings up the bottom of the range with a starting price of $286,750—a level far beyond anything you might call utility. Instead a Rolls-Royce is seen as the ultimate reward for the successful entrepreneur, admission to an elite club whose members include sultans, sheiks, magnates and at least one flamboyant Chinese billionaire. Another Rolls-Royce executive likens it to investing in artwork.
Comparing an automobile—even an extremely nice one—to a Rembrandt or a Warhol is a bit of a stretch, but not as much as you might think. Rolls-Royce aims to sell a scant 4,000 vehicles this year, each the result of at least 450 hours of work by a team of 60 craftsmen at the company’s Goodwood, England workshop. Additionally, there’s virtually no such thing as a “stock” Rolls, with the vast majority of buyers customizing their vehicles with everything from bespoke paint colours to hidden humidors to diamonds embedded in the headliner. While Goodwood won’t make any changes that compromise the car’s safety, no other request is too far-fetched. They are in the business of making their customers’ dreams—gaudy, candy-coloured and diamond-encrusted—come to life.
…there’s virtually no such thing as a “stock” Rolls.
This kind of permissiveness is at odds with the stiff and proper Englishness on which the brand made its name, but it has come to define what Rolls-Royce means to a new generation of the world’s most elite buyers. These customers, led by the US and China, have made their fortunes by going against convention and are used to getting what they want and Rolls-Royce is happy to oblige.
The Ghost Series II may be the bottom of the Rolls-Royce range, but that seems almost irrelevant in terms of the experience it offers. It’s still a Rolls-Royce, and as such, it’s worlds beyond just about anything else on the road. The interior is swathed in sumptuous wood and buttery leather (the latter sourced only from bulls raised in mountaintop pastures, far from mosquitoes and barbed wire, which can mar their hides).
Chrome accents are plentiful, and plastic virtually nonexistent (you can find it, but you have to really look). The carpets are of the softest lambswool, and the 18-speaker sound system turns the cabin into a moveable symphony hall. Under the hood thrums a 6.6-litre V12 good for 563 hp and 575 lb-ft. of torque. Save for the tsunami-like wave of acceleration that pushes the car forward when you depress the accelerator, you’d scarcely know that beastly engine was there, so blissfully absent are road noise and vibration. A satellite-aided transmission scans the road ahead for curves and downshifts in anticipation, making for a seamless delivery of power.
It also has an advanced infotainment system, heated, cooled, massaging seats, and a bevvy of other impressive onboard accoutrements, but listing them here seems beside the point. It would be akin to talking about the HVAC system at Falling Water or the paper stock of a Picasso sketch. What it does is entirely secondary to what it is, a statement, an indulgence, a reward, and yes, perhaps a work of art, too. It just might be the world’s most practical car you’ll actually want.