(CNN)Rolls-Royce unveiled its all new Ghost Tuesday, and it looks strikingly different from any Rolls-Royce that has ever come before. The Ghost is the ultra-luxury automaker’s slightly smaller and somewhat less expensive sedan, and the new version is far more understated than its predecessor.
In preparing to develop the new Ghost, Rolls-Royce learned that customers who would typically buy this model no longer wanted an eye-catching emblem of affluence.
The new Rolls-Royce Ghost has a simpler look that seems inspired by Scandinavian design”We found that these clients are showing a marked tendency towards luxury objects that celebrate reduction and restraint — that don’t shout, but rather, whisper,” Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös said in a letter to customers and the media.
Rolls-Royce designers termed this new thinking “post opulence.” That might seem like a problem for Rolls-Royce. Its cars are, after all, very opulent, showy displays of wealth.At over 17-feet long and costing more than $300,000, the Ghost is still enormous and costly by any ordinary standard. But it blends in better on the road than Rolls-Royce’s tall and showy Phantom sedan.Read MoreWith the new Ghost, designers and engineers gave the car a cleaner exterior appearance and a simpler interior with fewer distractions such as embroidery, quilted stitching or logos. Outside and inside, the Ghost displays a sort of simplicity usually associated with Scandinavian design and companies like Sweden’s Volvo.Mountain climbing in a Rolls-Royce SUVThere’s still a bit of flash, though. The grille is gently lit at night. Inside, a section of the dashboard in front of the passenger glows with “stars,” spots of light that surround the glowing word Ghost. When the effect is turned off, the panel looks simply black. The effect mimics Rolls-Royce’s famous “starlight” headliner that also glitters with scattered specks of light.Outside, the body is welded together so that, except where there are doors or other openings, it appears to be made of a single piece of metal. Inside, extra large sheets of leather (carefully inspected for imperfections) are used to minimize stitching.
Sound of silence
Designers and engineers wanted the new Ghost to be a relaxing and quiet space. But Rolls-Royce engineers realized they’d initially made the car too quiet inside. Occupants found the near total silence disorienting, according to the British automaker, because the lack of sound didn’t match up with the car’s movement.Sound engineers had put 220 pounds of sound insulating material into the car, including inside window glass and in the tires. They’d also looked at things like the windshield wipers and air vents to eliminate even tiny noises that might not be consciously perceptible.
The Ghost’s interior has fewer stitchlines and less embroidary.The result was a strange and unnatural near-total silence. This also made other noises — someone else’s breathing or pants shifting against leather seats — stand out even more. What was needed was a relaxing background sound. So the acoustic engineers worked on “harmonizing” various sounds in the car so they would combine into a continuous soft whisper. The seat frames, for example, naturally resonated along with the body of the car so dampers were added to adjust the level of that sound without entirely eliminating it. Also, a vent was added to the trunk, allowing some of the thrumming bass note created there to escape while, again, not getting rid of it entirely.
Behind the thin steering wheel
The Ghost is a car owners reported they liked to drive themselves rather than being driven, according to Rolls-Royce. While Rolls-Royce cars don’t aspire to offer excitement — there’s never a Sport Mode button, for example — they can still be very pleasant to drive, providing a sense of ease and control. Rolls-Royce steering wheels, for example, have narrow rims that don’t invite a tight grip but rather a gentle fingertip touch.With its new super fast SUV, Bentley completes a major makeoverThe Ghost is supposed to provide the best of that sort of experience, according to the automaker. The turbocharged V12 engine is housed behind the front wheels, which helps give the car perfect 50/50 weight balance over the front and back wheels, according to the company. The Ghost also has all-wheel-drive, as well as four-wheel steering. (When the front wheels turn the back wheels also turn slightly.)While Rolls-Royce is a subsidiary of Germany’s BMW, the latest generation of Rolls-Royce models, including this one, are built on a fundamental engineering design that is unique to the brand. Versions of the Ghost’s aluminum framework are shared by the new Phantom and the Cullinan SUV.
The Ghost has more tapered taillights than past models. In the Ghost, cameras watch the road ahead looking for surface changes and imperfections so the suspension can be prepared to react to them. The car’s automatic transmission uses GPS and map data to preselect appropriate gears for upcoming hills and curves.The Ghost also has doors that can power open and closed at the press of a button from inside or outside the car. Previously, the doors could only be closed this way, which was at least helpful since Rolls-Royce’s trademark rear-hinged back doors, while elegant, can be awkward to close from inside. Even if the doors are closed manually, the operation is still gently power assisted.
Of course, the Ghost also has other features that are commonplace on modern luxury cars, such as radar-based cruise control and camera views that allow the driver to see the car as if from above.Prices for the new Ghost are expected to be similar to the current model, which starts at around $300,000 and will typically climb to about $400,000 with options. The first new Ghosts will start reaching customers around the end of this year and early next year.