In 1977, I think it was, P.J. O’Rouke wrote a hilarious and controversial review of a $70,000 Aston-Martin Volante for Car & Driver. In that review O’Rourke famously wrote that he couldn’t give an accurate take on the nuances of the car’s performance threshold. O’Rourke said something to the effect of — and I’m paraphrasing here – that he drove the car “like it had a trunk full of live babies and you would, too, if you were in someone else’s $70,000 car.”
Being a young, impressionable kid, I thought that was funny.
Flash ahead 36 years and I now understand exactly what he meant.
That’s because I recently spent a week with a 2013 Rolls-Royce Ghost Extended Wheelbase, which carried a base price of $296,000 and an as-tested priced of $356,770, which is roughly double the median housing price in Cabarrus County, N.C., the place that I call home. And as you can imagine, in the little 5,000-person town where I live, the big Rolls-Royce stood out like Miley Cyrus twerking in a Baptist church on Sunday morning.
Everywhere I went in the Ghost, it drew a crowd. On the road, it was gawkers giving me a thumb’s up salute — or a few telling me in no uncertain terms that I was No. 1. And whenever and wherever I stopped, people mysteriously appeared, wanting to know how it drove, what it cost and in some cases, what it was.
And, yes, driving it around, I felt nervous and highly conspicuous. This is not a car for the shy, the faint of heart, the weak of wallet or those who don’t like to talk. Trust me on this, every time you open the door to the Ghost, you wind up talking with someone. Maybe it isn’t that way in Beverly Hills or Palm Beach or the tonier parts of Connecticut, but it is in small-town America.
Especially when you open the rear doors, which are hinged in the back not the front, just like the old Lincoln Continentals of the mid-1960s. Don’t call them “suicide doors,” though. Rolls-Royce much prefers the term “coach doors.”
Giles Taylor, the director of design for Rolls-Royce says the Ghost extended wheelbase is “Perfectly refined, whether you’re in the mood to drive or be driven.”
And that is one of the key points of this car: the 6.7 inches of extended wheelbase give it a huge and cavernous back seat, a perfect set up to be driven by a chauffeur. And while the Ghost is an excellent car to drive yourself — it shares many components with the 7-Series BMW — its highest and best use might be to shuttle wealthy passengers.
The interior amenities are, of course, wonderfully sybaritic. The wood veneer trim inside is taken from a single tree for each car, and is available in walnut, Malabar and waterfall bubinga with lemon sandalwood, to name just three of many options. Each leather interior requires nine hides and two weeks to cut, dye and assemble. There’s a huge panorama sunroof, while the inside roof is covered with a cashmere-blend lining.
What’s remarkable about all the luxury is the Ghost is supposed to be the “entry-level” Rolls-Royce, with a base price some $130,000 less than a Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Of course, options eat into that gap quickly. Our test car came with black-stained ash trim ($6,825), natural-grain leather ($4,795), rear theater configuration ($6,600), individual seat configuration ($3,700) and 20-inch chromed alloy wheels ($2,350).
But the priciest option, at a jaw-dropping $25,175 was the “Feature Selection 1” package that includes a host of features, including a garage-door opener, the electric glass sunroof, picnic tables in back, camera system and a whole bunch more.
And if you really want to go nuts, the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Program will let you custom-design your car to the point where the only two limitations are depth of your own imagination and the depth of your bank account.
Surprisingly, for something this big, the Ghost is swift and relatively nimble. Zero to 60 miles per hour takes just 4.7 seconds, better than many sports and muscle cars. The big 563-horsepower V-8 pulls and pulls, albeit in a very dignified manner.
And that’s probably the most distinctive trait about the Ghost in motion — it’s effortless and dignified, smooth as a snifter of Courvoisier. The quietness in the cabin is almost eerie and the elegance of the wood, leather and wool carpets is exquisite.
The inside of the Ghost is so nice that it’s like being inside a mansion, but one with four wheels and a muscle-car engine.
Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone not liking to drive — or be driven in — the Rolls-Royce Ghost Extended Wheelbase. In my neck of the woods, it’s a little over the top, like wearing a Savile Row suit to Home Depot.
But if you live in the wealthier parts of the country, this car will announce that you’ve arrived and in style, class and luxury.
VEHICLE TYPE: Five passenger, four-door luxury sedan, rear-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 6.6-liter V-8, 563 horsepower, 575 pound-feet of torque.
TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic.
WHEELBASE: 136.4 inches.
OVERALL LENGTH: 219.3 inches.
CURB WEIGHT: 5,556 pounds.
EPA MILEAGE RATING: 13 city, 21 highway.