Tradition rolls on: big, quick and rich

·5-min read

Did you know the optimal temperature for serving vintage French champagne is 11C? Or that the recommended temperature for non-vintage bubbles is a chillier 6C.

I know this because the lovely people at Rolls Royce told me so. They found out from a master sommelier.

No doubt it pays to know these things when you're selling cars with an asking price nudging a million dollars, and with an unsurpassed reputation for luxury.

But the champagne?

Well, the latest Rolls Royce model to hit Australian shores, the recently-released Ghost Extended, offers the option of a sneaky little champagne chest, tucked between the rear seats.

One temperature setting is for the good stuff, the other for the less expensive drop (presumably used when an unloved aunt is perched in the back).

It comes, naturally enough, with four hand-blown crystal goblets and mother-of-pearl caviar spoons. Oh, and four cotton Rolls Royce napkins.

Which is all fine for the typical Rolls owner, sitting in the rear and letting someone named Geeves do the driving. But this car breaks that mould.

Rolls Royce says the Ghost is the kind of car its owners (Rolls Royce calls them "clients") will prefer to drive.

Rolls Royce is, by any measure, the benchmark for luxury and indulgence.

This second-generation Ghost supplants the most successful model in the marque's 116-year history, the original Ghost launched in 2009. Released in September 2020, when Britain was in the depths of COVID-19, the new model has nonetheless been embraced by an eager market.

To say they've thought of everything is an understatement.

From the way the doors open (they are powered by electric motors so "egress or ingress" is effortless) to the RR-embossed umbrellas that slot neatly into a recess in the doors, nothing is left to chance.

The signature 'spirit of ecstacy' brand ornament sitting atop that famous grille automatically retracts if the car senses a souvenir-hunter.

There's hidden LED downlights to ensure the car's pantheon grille is always illuminated.

And like the clever little RR badges in the centre of the wheels, which are self-levelling to ensure the logo always stands upright when the car's at rest.

The Ghost is, in effect, the 'baby' of the Rolls fleet, surpassed by the flagship Phantom, the newly-released SUV Cullinan, and two-door models called the Wraith (coupe) and the Dawn (convertible).

While technically you can buy a Ghost for $628,000, plus on road costs, you'll rarely find one with a price tag below seven figures. Such are the endless options - all of them hand-made, most of them bespoke.

The most substantial add-on is this so-called Ghost Extended - which adds 220mm to the vehicle's length, and 170mm to its rear leg room.

So, what's it like to drive? Well, it's nice.

What you don't expect, perhaps, is the fact that this massive machine (it's 5546mm long, 2148mm wide and weighs almost three tonnes) is capable of reaching the speed limit in a brisk 4.8 seconds. That happens courtesy of a 6.75-litre, twin-turbocharged V12 engine delivering 420 kilowatts and 850Nm, accessed from an impressive 1750rpm.

The cabin will be filled with tunes from a 18-speaker, 1300W per channel audio system. Or using the integrated wi-fi.

The Cockpit is opulent but functional and surprisingly uncluttered, boasting the finest of leather and hand-polished timbers.

The technology is astonishing.

As well as all-wheel-drive, the Ghost is all-wheel-steer to make it as easy as possible to manoeuvre. Fortunately the big machine parks itself when asked.

Consider the 'flagbearer system' that allows the Ghost to adjust itself, on the run, to optimise comfort and safety. Using two roof-mounted cameras to scan the road ahead, it identifies irregularities in the road's surface, such as bumps or pot-holes, adjusting the air suspension accordingly.

Along similar lines, the car uses satellite mapping to scan the road ahead, ensuring that if you approach a particularly tight curve at speed, the car automatically downshifts in preparation.

The laser headlights have more than 600m of range, complemented by a day and night wildlife and pedestrian warning.

Less practical, but typical of the detail, is the 'starlight headlining', which comprises up to 1300 hand-drilled recesses in the pure suede leather roof lining, each with a fibre optic LED to mimic the carpet of stars above.

Or, if you'd prefer, choose a panoramic sunroof so you can view the actual stars.

Rolls Royce produces a relatively modest 5500 cars each year, made more impressive by the fact that each vehicle takes one month to build, using 44 pairs of hands.

Of those, the Cullinan SUV will account for roughly 50 per cent of sales this year, with the Ghost accounting for 25 per cent as the "entry-level" model in the range.

The two vehicles share the same aluminium space frame and the same engine and transmission, although the Cullinan is priced at $705,000 and the Ghost is $35,000 cheaper.

Our test vehicle, as one of the first of its type in Australia, included sufficient optional extras to push its base price to $880,000, plus onroads.

Hey, it's only money. And think of how beautifully chilled your champagne will be.

ROLLS ROYCE GHOST EXTENDED

* HOW BIG? Massive by any scale other than Rolls-Royce (it's one of their smaller vehicles). Room for four adults in pure opulence, plus 500 litres of Louis Vuitton bags in the boot.

* HOW FAST? Courtesy of its twin-turbocharged, V12 engine, it will proceed to the speed limit in 4.8 seconds.

* HOW THIRSTY? Its thirst is considerable - expect 15.7L/100km - but at least it will run on 91RON fuel (it prefers 95, though).

* HOW MUCH? If you have to ask, you can't afford it. Prices start from a tick over $650,000 but most buyers sign up for at least $200k of options.

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