First drive: 2012 Rolls-Royce Ghost at Dubai Autodrome
When was the last time Rolls-Royce built a sports car? If they did, our automotive knowledge does not stretch back that far, grandpa. In more recent times, they are now building a smaller Rolls-Royce called the Ghost. Of course, “smaller” is still a subjective term, considering the Ghost is bigger than even the BMW 7-Series it is based on. But does it belong on a racetrack any more than the Phantom does?
Rolls-Royce answered our question, even though we didn’t ask, by letting us have a few laps of the Dubai Autodrome racetrack with the Ghost. If you recall, the Ghost is the British company’s “entry-level” model, powered by a 563 hp 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12, with 780 Nm of torque sent to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox. That car’s done well for the company’s bottom line, as Rolls-Royce has just announced a 31% growth in sales for 2011, with the Ghost accounting for most of it.
We set out on the racetrack in an aptly-coloured white Ghost, I driving with two other passengers even as we had to share a car, the one behind giving us commentary on how it feels in the back seat. My only experience with a Ghost before was a low-speed round of Abu Dhabi in a convoy, so this was the first time I could stretch its legs.
The Ghost is ridiculously powerful, but it is also pretty heavy. We suspect the gearbox is tuned for smoother take-off instead of neck-snapping acceleration too. This means there is no sense of urgency when the car takes off. It does, however, build up speed quickly and linearly, so on the main straight at the track, we were hitting almost 200 kph before having to brake.
The brakes do their job well, but the pedal feel is mushy, obviously made for effortless daily use on the road. It’s the same with the rest of the car. The steering is expectedly numb and lifeless, even lazy, but it gets the job done as long as it turns the car.
Around corners, there is a squeal of tyres and tons of body roll, even though we weren’t driving at the extreme limit. Our rear passenger kept complaining about sliding all over the place back there. Still, with good grip from the fat tyres, it cornered better than anyone could hope for, and will likely give pretentious Lexus LS460 owners a run for their money on the mountain twisties. Now imagine that battle.
There was an obstacle-avoidance setup and a coned slalom course as well as part of the track exercise, and the Ghost managed those rather smoothly, without any untoward tail-swinging antics or even excessive understeer. Our seat-belted rear passenger still felt sick though.
So the cushy leather-lined barge is a decent dynamic handler after all, while retaining its trademark luxury and flying-lady hood ornament. That’s all the Ghost needs to prove, really.