2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost - Click above for high-res image gallery

Rich people are different from the rest of us. Their wants and needs involve parameters and details completely foreign to the proletariat. While we use our vehicles for transportation, utility and sport, the rich view their automobiles as a necessary accoutrement to their elevated lifestyles.

For the ultra-wealthy, an appropriate equivalent might be an original Remington bronze or Picasso painting. And just as they need art in their mansions, they need beautiful transportation. The 2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost lives up to those lofty requirements by simultaneously being a rolling work of art and a status symbol beyond reproach.

Like access to the Queen, our time with the Ghost was strictly limited, so comprehensive driving impressions will have to wait. But what we did get was a rare glimpse into what the world's richest inhabitants will enjoy when the Ghost goes on sale this year. And as you'd expect, life is good on this side of the financial Bell Curve.

Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

In the world of automobiles, there are better vehicles than the 2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost. Some may feature more complex and innovative engineering. Others may provide more performance. There are certainly more expensive and exclusive cars.

But none of these facts matter. To those attracted to the newest, smaller Roller, what matters more is how the Ghost goes about its business of enhancing a well-off individual's life.

Certainly, the engineering is solid. It's what you'd expect of Rolls-Royce's caretakers at BMW. Approximately 20-percent of what's used in the Ghost is related to the current and previous generation BMW 7 Series. In other words, Rolls-Royce started with premium stock and went no where but up.

Certainly, the 2010 Ghost has more street presence than BMW's flagship. The differences are so great that most would never know the two were related, even with the knowledge that the hallowed British marque is under German control.

The Ghost's lines are artfully drawn, not a bit fussy or over done. They are simple and elegant, and impart a sense of solidity. Important details such as the coach doors (otherwise referred to as "suicide" doors by the unwashed masses) allowed designers to make a single element of the front and rear door handles. The design simply looks right. Tiny details reinforce the aura, including the "RR" centers that spin freely within the wheels so the logo remains upright at all times.

While there's not much to set the Rolls apart at the rear – those chromed exhaust tips are a $3,200 option – up front the car's heritage is unmistakable. Set off by the optional $5,000 Silver Satin Bonnet finish, the smaller-than-on-the-Phantom recessed grille looks appropriately updated and none-too-large given its surroundings. The strong horizontal shape of the Xenon headlamps (with integrated running LEDs) accentuates the fenders and provides another familial styling cue. A single line of turn signal LEDs rest directly below the main lamps, and standard foglights would apparently be gauche.

And, of course, one cannot overlook the Spirit of Ecstasy. She's been the brand's mascot since the very beginning, and looks remarkable for being 99 years old. She first adorned a Rolls-Royce in 1911, and has been used in various poses ever since. To protect against theft and in the event of a collision with a pedestrian, she quickly retracts into the faux radiator shell. Find her image in the gallery and look at how lovingly she was sculpted. If you look close enough, you can see how her young eyes look eagerly ahead. While setting a good example for all, her eager attitude is warranted given the performance available from the Ghost.

Based on the twin-turbo V12 from the fourth-generation E66 7-Series, the Ghost's engine has been stroked from 6.0 to 6.6 liters and produces 563 horsepower at 5,250 rpm with 575 pound-feet of torque at just 1,500 rpm. The gearbox is based on a unit spreading through BMW's ranks, the excellent ZF eight-speed automatic.

The suspension is unique to the Ghost, and uses a double-wishbone arrangement up front with a multi-link setup out back. Air springs work in concert with variable dampers and plenty of electronic algorithms to provide uncanny handling for a car that weighs nearly three tons (5445-pounds without occupants). The example we drove was shod with optional 20-inch wheels and tires (another $5,000 option). The doughnuts measured P255/45R20 in front and P285/40R20 in the rear, so there's no need to wonder whether the Ghost possesses the physical means necessary to exercise great mechanical grip. The brakes were equally large, with the front discs measuring over 16 inches.

While substantially engineered, most Ghost owners think as much about horsepower as they do about the enriched soil used in their rose gardens. What they care about is the aforementioned exterior style and how the interior speaks to their inner Richie Rich.

Unlike the exterior, which seems to be a more cohesive design statement, the interior is a mash-up of old-world charm and modern-day technologies. Matched wood veneers (all pieces from the same tree) and beautiful hides (some 10 pampered bovines give their all for each Ghost) coexist with an 10.2-inch LCD screen and a version of BMW's iDrive. It feels a bit like having a microwave oven in the kitchen of a historic British castle.

Most of it works just fine, but some of the fussy design details seem intent on pandering to perceived luxury, not luxury itself. The chromed buttons on the steering wheel, for instance, are so shiny that it's nearly impossible to identify their function.

For those familiar with BMW's biggest sedan, the amount of shared components inside is obvious. The operation of the entertainment and NAV systems is identical, and controls set into the rear armrest are nearly very close to the 7 Series. It's likely most owners won't notice.

One of the pieces we thought wonderfully elegant was the power-closing rear doors activated by an interior switch. The wide openings (we're told they come out to 83-degrees, but we didn't bring a protractor) make elegant and demure entries and exits from the rear seats a breeze. Flash-prone pop stars might not appreciate it, but society ladies will.

Representatives of Rolls-Royce say that the Ghost is designed to be driven by its owner. (Sorry, Jeeves.) Provided the owner isn't a rabid fan of the Audi R8 or Ferrari California, he'll think the Ghost is something pretty special when it comes to chassis dynamics. The acceleration will certainly get your attention, as the engine's ability to hustle the massive slab of sedan to 60 mph in around four seconds is enough to make you reach for a pricy aged scotch (but not while driving, of course).

Our driving experience in the Ghost was limited to about an hour on the surface streets in and around Philadelphia, PA. In these confined environs, the Ghost gathered speed so quickly it felt like we were being whacked forward by a massive velvet sledge hammer.

The adjustable suspension did a commendable job of managing the huge throttle and brake inputs, but while the body movements were well controlled, the ride was more Lexus/Mercedes-Benz than BMW. The adjective "wafting" is not quite accurate – it's actually more of a semi-waft.

As you'd expect, the Ghost was supple and road noise was commendably subdued. However, the ride was not substantially more comfortable than the 760iL we had a chance to drive later the same day. As with so many other qualities, this isn't likely to matter.

The reality is that with the narrowing of the mean as it relates to overall vehicle quality and performance, a Rolls-Royce isn't that much better than other ultra-premium luxury sedans in the dynamic and comfort departments.

But this Ghost – priced at $297,325 – is not about miniscule differences in handling, power or features. This car is all about presence and statement-making. And it does these things remarkably well in the rarified air most of us will never breathe.

Photos by Rex Roy / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

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