A Goodwood Rolls-Royce Visit
by Paul Blank
From Winged Messenger, Oct-Dec 2014

A COUPLE OF YEARS ago my wife Natalie and I had the good fortune to have a private tour of the Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood, followed by a day driving the just-released Ghost. Rolls-Royce's big Phantom has been a great success, establishing the newest BMW-led iteration of the company at the very top of the marketplace. Launched back in 2003, various versions have been added. The big question had been, as the Phantom range was a success, what to do next? The answer is the very carefully considered Ghost. It's a smaller car, but nobody could call it small. More akin to a Silver Shadow or Silver Spirit in size and nature… Launched in 2010, none of the significant features of the Phantom are lost, except for most of its vast size. The Ghost still has a V12 engine, the rear-hinged back doors and many of the features that admirers of the Phantom appreciate. It would be easy for BMW to rebody a 7-series as a Rolls-Royce, however discerning customers wouldn't be fooled. The new Ghost does share some components with the 7-series, however they're modified to suit the Rolls-Royce. Before driving the new Ghost, I was fortunate to be given a tour of the Goodwood factory, which gave an excellent insight into not only how the cars are made, but how they differ.Marco Jahn, Rolls-Royce's Corporate Communications Officer guided us through all the areas of the factory, which had been rearranged inside to accept the new model in addition to the Phantoms.

Body shells (in steel— that's one of the major differences) are shipped from BMW's Dingolfing plant in Germany (where Goggomobils were once made!) and painted in a high-tech painting facility at Goodwood. Assembly of components such as doors and their innards are done on site alongside where the painted bodies emerge onto the production line. Major mechanicals- engine, transmission, axles, suspension, etc are all shipped from BMW ready to be fitted up. Other systems such as the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning and computers are also pre-made and shipped to Goodwood, which is effectively an assembly plant. The first section is automated, after that it's a push or pull line as needs be. A car's build time is about six weeks. Impressive polished wood work and upholstery work is carried out at Goodwood. Modern processes are utilised to create traditional parts to a higher than ever standard of finish. The leather, for example, is done in an impressive process. Specially selected hides are laid out on a suction table keeping them flat. A large TV screen sits above and shows individual shapes to be cut out of a hide. An operator clicks on one shape and allows him to move a laser marker of that shape to wherever on the hide it fits best. This is repeated for all the shapes needed — and when the hide is full of laser lines, it moves through to be precisely laser cut. Minimal waste, maximum efficiency. Rolls-Royce offers an almost limitless range of options in finish and colour- and combinations, so the sections of the factory that deal with Bespoke and 'normal' options are kept on the ball. There are 44,000 paint colours available for example… When touring the factory I saw their first ever factory-applied matt finish paintwork on a car, a just completed matt silver Phantom Coupe.

The build process is much the same for the Ghost as the Phantom, however the Phantom has many more cars fitted with Bespoke options- a polished wood binocular cabinet, a fridge in the boot, leather floor coverings or any other special requirement. About 80-90 percent of Phantoms are ordered with Bespoke requests. In time Rolls-Royce expected Ghost buyers to start having more Bespoke requests. At the time, keeping up with demand on the Ghost was an important objective, as the model had proven to be a hit immediately. Not that Rolls-Royce will be rushed. There's an uncanny feeling of serenity throughout the factory. There's nobody rushing around and it's remarkably quiet. Craftsmen almost casually, but clearly very caringly, go about the business of building the finest motorcars they can… The Ghost will help more than double production figures for the company. Marco Jahn said the company didn't anticipate that the Ghost would affect Phantom sales, "To date 85 percent of Ghost buyers are new to the brand. They find it a more approachable, driveable and dynamic car than the big Phantom." He is proud that "To date the Ghost has been successful in all markets. The USA accounts for 33% of our sales, but countries like China and Russia are becoming more important." Given that "the average new Rolls-Royce buyer already has between 6 and 7 cars", the company can expect buyers to be pretty demanding. And that's a good reason why the Ghost couldn't be too down-market. After completing the tour of the factory we wereguided to the new Ghost awaiting our attention. After a briefing on its operation off we went into the beautiful West Sussex countryside for the next seven hours.. We'd had the luxury of being chauffer driven to Goodwood that morning by new Phantom, which made a good point for comparison with the new 'small' model. I'd driven all versions of the Phantom before too. The most immediate impression was that the Ghost has none of the vast bulk of the Phantom. While the Ghost isn't small by anyone's standards, the size is much more easily managed. For driving on country laneways, parking in town and general manoeuvrability, the Ghost is a much easier car to use. It's supremely smooth and quiet- but you expect that. What you don't expect is the huge performance.

Surely the Ghost weighs as much as The Queen Mary, but its twin-turbo V12 engine propels it in almost silence to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds. Whilst the heavier Phantom makes do with 338kW (453bhp) the new higher tech engine in the Ghost provides 420kW (563 bhp). The stupendous 780Nm of torque helps too… Remember back not that many years and the most frenetic of German supercars, the original Porsche 930 Turbo had a slower acceleration figure. Remarkable. The ease of performance at any speed is completely impressive. So someone trading up from a Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG or a Bentley Flying Spur won't be disappointed. The steering feels light, unnervingly so to begin with, but you get used to it after a few hours behind the wheel. Even taking into account the fact that a Rolls should have the most delicate steering inputs to achieve the required wafting driving experience- and this has been the case for decades- the steering felt a little disconnected for a high performance car. The Ghost sits very nicely on the road, with brilliant isolation from irregularities on the road surface. The vast tyres offer plenty of grip in tighter cornering or wafting around fast bends. The seats offer a rare level of comfort- but it is a Rolls-Royce. Passengers in the back are offered space and comfort outshone by very few cars. Although the Ghost is 'the little Rolls-Royce' it still offers huge rear space. The seat is set back from the door aperture- unlike most cars where the wheelarch intrudes and passengers' shoulders are against the door itself. The rear hinged doors make access a doddle and a button on the rear pillar lets the door shut electrically negating the need to reach forward to pull it shut manually. Beautiful.

The rear seat passengers have a controller in the fold-down armrest and folding tray tables set into the front seatbacks also feature large screens- about the size on a laptop. The back is certainly a place in which anyone would feel pretty special. Up front, it's at least as good. There are the same beautiful finishes and colours and details throughout. The readout below the instruments showing the date, mileage and other details are lit in a stylish font. The double width screen in the centre of the dashboard is remarkable too. The wide screen not only shows the navigation map and the many programmes for controls, but has a remarkable new system for parking. In addition to the view from the rear parking camera, there's a helicopter view of the surroundings- displayed simultaneously on either side of the screen. Using cameras and a clever computer programme, it shows live what's around the car's sides and rear, plus shows the car's trajectory based on steering angle. Amazing The interior of the Ghost is an inspiring place to be. Even aside from the technology and features, the shapes, textures and colours work beautifully making a very special environment. Even at night it all works uncompromisingly well. If there's anything I'd criticise it's the huge door mirrors, the size of which apparently complies with EU regulations, but block far too much outward view. Aside from that, the Ghost is most certainly a beautiful car to drive, for its comfort, for the attention to detail in its design and fit-out - and for the driving characteristics of the machine itself. It was very amusing to have some kids on bicycles tip the peaks of their caps, bow and call out "Guv'nor" as we cruised past… Only in England. As the spiritual successor to revered classic Silver Shadow and the Silver Spirit, there can be little doubt that the Ghost will be a success short term and a collectors piece in years to come. Desirable? Absolutely!