Let’s not beat around the bush – for a while back the Rolls Royce had an image problem. There was the halcyon age of the 20s and 30s, where any self respecting, jazz-flapping, Debrett’s habitué wouldn’t been seen dead going through a hedge backwards in anything else. What you might refer to as its green and pleasant salad days as a true fatality receptacle for your common-or-garden wayward gallivanter.
Then a dignified middle age in the 40s and 50s where the individual coach-built bodies were phased out and replaced with (gasp) steel. Most importantly when the marque was taken up by the British Royal family as its whip of choice – truly social cache Ground Zero in class-obsessed Coronation-era Britain.
So it seems only natural that by the time the 60s rolled round an appetite for The Silver Lady would have trickled down to the new generation of Post-War Spivs, Chancers and Damn Longhairs that represented the new way of doing business. But the working class aspiration of rock stars and record peddling barrow boys began to take the sheen off things, so it was by the 80s Rolls had dug in as the ride par excellence of dubious Middle Eastern men with luxurious moustaches or fat supermarket owners from the provinces. Cars for men whose crowning glory was a portrait of themselves hung prominently in their shag-pile and ashtray “I don’t know much about your la-di-bloody-da interior design” offices.
When it comes to the target market of this car – the generation for whom The Spirit of Ecstasy means something altogether more democratic and transgressive – this is the abiding image of The Roller. Large, cumbersome, out of time but, most of all, naff.
Sure, there was the rumble of a return to greatness in the form of the utterly insane Thunderbirds-aesthetic Phantom but with the Ghost it’s as though the big boys at Goodwood have finally realised that a little youth and femininity might light the road back to Arcadia.
As a result, what you have here is a masterclass in restraint by a design team for who’s predecessors, in recent years at least, the guiding principle has been ‘More is More.’ Accordingly we arrive at a new opulent subtlety where compositional harmony is much more important than a cacophony of ostentatious flourishes. But there are, of course, limits to how much someone should be expected to restrain oneself.
So it’s gratifying to see that Rolls have thrown caution to the wind and placed a garden shed-sized twin turbo, direct-injection V-12 powerhouse into the mix making this the fastest Rolls Royce ever.
So fast, in fact, that it can make the 60mph mark in 4.7 seconds and get to 100mph a smidge slower than an Audi R8. You read that right – welcome to the time-travelling, silicon age, philanthropist club.
Interestingly, all this power comes in a rather unfamiliar package. Where normally, you’d expect a sporty race through the automatic gears jerkily looking for the magic ratio, here we have a dignified usage of the bottom-end torque for a silkier, maritime ride. And this is helped by the practically sentient computer controlling the air sprung suspension – a system so clever that it senses the shift of weight when you lean across to help yourself to another glass of organically brewed privilege or a macrobiotic blini covered in caviar and the essence of made-it.
And your contemplations will be given greater depth by the fibre-optically lit night sky roof lining, a galaxy stretching before you and an invitation to the firmament.
An invitation that you may or may not accept owing to your prior commitments with Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and everyone beautiful and interesting ever. Nor shall your reverie be disturbed by the moans of those still making their way up the ladder, soundproof glass does for that nonsense. But all things must come to an end and so it is with a heavy heart you’ll electrically open your reverse facing door, take your loafer-clad feet from the 2 inch deep lambswool carpet and deposit yourself under the chrome-handled chauffeur’s umbrella that he’s removed from its holster in the driver’s door.
Time waits for no man and money never sleeps, that rave-era spirit of ecstasy is a memory but the new age is dawning. We are all ‘woke’ but some are a ‘bit woker’ than others and it’s time to start taking care of yourself. Afterall, you deserve it.