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"The Ghost who walks"

After a long wait, the grandfather of luxury automobiles delivers its swank new baby.

Bibek Bhattacharya        Print Edition: February 7, 2010

When I meet Dan Balmer, Product Manager of the Ghost, the first thing that strikes me is his impressive height. And there's a reason for this. Earlier that day, I'd been watching the very popular YouTube clip of Balmer taking the company's newest addition to the stable, the Ghost, for a test drive around London. As the car purred and revved its way about the roads, Balmer kept up a steady commentary while being very comfortably ensconced in its plush seats. The fact that someone of his frame could be so comfortably seated made me wonder about the size of the car.

"Oh, you saw that, did you? Ever since that clip went online, a lot of people have been asking me the same question," he says with a smile. And then I see the car itself. Considerably smaller and more compact than Rolls-Royce's mainstay, the Phantom, it's still an imposing looking machine. I ask Balmer about that. "Well, the rationale was always very clear to us," he says. "A Phantom owner would almost always be driven by a chauffeur. The Ghost focusses much more on the driver as we envision a Ghost owner driving the car himself, and taking immense pleasure in the drive."

That's not hard to imagine, once you step inside the car. The first thing that impresses you is the deceptive simplicity of the interiors. The blackrimmed steering wheel bears a very close similarity to the one found in the Phantom. Behind it lies a faintly glowing instrument panel. The control centre is hidden from view by a veneered panel until needed.

The neatly fashioned controls sit discreetly, while the more important functions are rendered prominent by accents of chrome. The various functions are operated by a central rotary controller, allowing you to access features like satellite navigation or night vision. You could even choose to make use of quick access buttons on the front centre control.

The driver's seat is slightly upraised, called the "Authority Position". It clearly privileges the person driving the car and gives a better overview of the road and the surroundings. The exterior of the car oozes a sleek muscularity, which places it firmly in the RR tradition.

All the classic RR design cues are there—the elevated prow, the long bonnet, the brief front overhang and, of course, the RR angel. But the Ghost also has a more informal look, especially in the "Yacht Line" styling of its flowing lines and contours. But what, in Balmer's view, sets the Ghost apart? "It's the technology, without any doubt," he says. "Our idea was to see how we can incorporate cutting edge tech in the car and then make it work for the driver."

He goes on to explain how the car integrates various smart tech like the Anti-Roll Control, the Dynamic Brake Control and an impressive traction control through the Integrated Chassis Management Systems. The car itself floats on a bed of air, facilitated by a double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension working in tandem with an air suspension system so refined that it compensates for relative weight even when a passenger moves from one side of the car to the other.

It's no wonder the car is so accomplished. "We've been working on this since at least as far back as 2006, when we announced that we're working on a new model at the Paris Motor Show." Since then, not much was seen of the new prototype, until the sketches were released in 2008.

From then on, the Ghost—at the time called the 200EX—went on a world tour before being finally revealed in September last year. Does the Ghost point the way forward for the company? Balmer agrees. "The Phantom will always be our flagship car. However, the Ghost will help pave the way for more tech intensive designs in the future."

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