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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - In the glitzy world of elite motoring, there is only one thing better than a Rolls-Royce, and that is a new Rolls-Royce.
The 2021 Ghost — unveiled in the Middle East earlier this year and now on sale if you can afford a starting price tag of 1.4 million Emirati dirhams ($380,000) and a few months’ wait — is what some laughably call an “entry level” Roller, though most drivers, myself included, would probably regard it as the summation of a motoring lifetime.
To launch any new car, let alone a Rolls-Royce, in the middle of a pandemic and global economic recession requires some marketing nerve, and those smart people in Goodwood UK (where each Rolls-Royce is hand-made) have grabbed the spirit of the times with leaner, more minimalist lines and a presence that does not scream “opulent ostentation” in your face, but whispers “luxury” seductively in your ear.
The one I drove was in gold body paint, which is hardly a sign of murmured post-opulence. But this is Rolls-Royce after all — if you cannot enjoy those “wows” of admiration when you pull into the forecourt of a five-star hotel, what are you doing driving a Roller?
Though still made in the UK, Rolls has been owned by BMW of Germany for the past two decades, and the two motoring philosophies have come together to perfection in the new Ghost. It looks like a classic Rolls-Royce and has all the style and grace of its British heritage; but the technology and engineering inside owes a lot to Munich.
Torsten Muller-Otvos, the global CEO of Rolls-Royce, calls it the “most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce yet,” and it is hard to disagree. The amount of automation and customizable kit inside the car is staggering, though just to pick out one thing: Who ever thought of gyroscopic sensors in the power-assisted doors to detect if the car is standing on a hill?
Behind the wheel, you are the master of the road from the moment the Spirit of Ecstasy rises gracefully from the bonnet. A 6.7-litre V-12 engine will shift the car’s 2.7 tons from zero to 100 kph in 4.9 seconds.
While you can see the acceleration on the windscreen display, and in the way you are leaving other cars standing, you will not notice it inside your luxury cocoon of hand-stitched leather and aluminum. How can something so powerful be so unnervingly quiet?
The fabled Rolls-Royce “magic carpet ride” — where you can barely feel a speed bump thanks to the advanced suspension and steering system — is enhanced by deep-pile English wool carpeting throughout. It is all about attention to detail, or as Rolls says, “small things make perfection, but perfection is not a small thing.”
Talking of small things, my 12-year-old daughter Amira — quite a connoisseur of luxury cars despite her tender years — was once again wowed by the ceiling star display which allows you to sit back in luxury in the rear seats and enjoy a spectacular night-time sky view.
To drive or be driven? Such are the tough choices Rolls-Royce owners face. The new Ghost is a joy to drive, though the back seating compartment is so utterly luxurious that it would almost be worth hiring a chauffeur for a few hours just to enjoy the in-car audio system alone. Amira loved it.
Despite all that high-tech and opulence, my single favorite feature on the Ghost was another simple bit of illumination. The iconic Rolls-Royce grill on the Ghost has been back lit, which has an incredible impact on the look of the car from the front, as well as on the admirers on the road. Now they can see you coming at the valet-parking stations and in the rear-view mirrors, and they had better treat you with groveling respect. Because you are driving a Roller.
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