The Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II is old-school and over-the-top, but it's the finest car I've ever driven

When imperious Rolls-Royce introduced an “entry level” model five years ago, the automotive aristocracy simply didn’t know what to expect. Some feared that BMW — Rolls-Royce’s parent company — had simply gone off its rocker.

But fortunately for fans and customers of the brand, that car turned out to be the well received Ghost — a car that became a sales leader for the company. Last year, Rolls-Royce decided to make the Ghost even better by releasing an updated version, dubbed the “Series II.”

I recently spent a weekend with a claret red example. Would it be as good as its reputation suggests?

Even by Rolls-Royce standards, the Ghost has a lot to live up to. Its namesake is the most famous car in company history -- the Silver Ghost. Seen here transporting Prince Charles and ...

.... here with Col. T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) at the helm. Could the Ghost II deliver the experience its lineage promised?

I settled into the soft leather-lined cabin of the Ghost and immediately knew I was driving something special -- even as a snowstorm took aim at the Northeast.

I've driven some incredible cars of late. Like a very luxurious Bentley ...

... and a very powerful Audi.

But the Ghost Series II was nothing like those other cars.

'Entry level' is actually misleading.

It's not as large as its Phantom big brother, but the Ghost I drove still cost almost $400,000.

Inside, the Ghost is quiet. Quiet like a monastery.

When the huge V12 engine erupts, you hear little more than a whisper.

A Mardi Gras parade could march by, but the Ghost's suspension and sound-isolation technology would block out the noise.

The Rolls glides effortlessly over bumps and dips in the road. The feeling is almost ethereal.

The Ghost is completely different from even its closest competitor, the Bentley Flying Spur.

With 616 horsepower, the Bentley is a serious athlete with a 200 mph top speed -- ready to draw on an abundance of power.

The Ghost, on the other hand, is an old-school gent: a thoroughly capable sportsman, but reserved.

There's a BMW 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V12 engine under the hood, producing a supercar-esque 563 horsepower. A dash from 0-60 mph takes 4.8 seconds -- that's Porsche 911 territory. Top speed is capped at 155 mph.

The Ghost even uses satellites to adjust the transmission according to changes in geography. Shifts are the smoothest I've ever encountered -- it's like they're powered by double cream.

Enter through the 'suicide' doors and you'll quickly realise that the Ghost's cabin is remarkable.

The front seat is modern and yet pure Rolls. The thin steering wheel, column shifter, and a dash covered by a plank of Paldao wood harvested from the rain forests of southeast Asia are all throwbacks.

But underneath the classic veneer are state-of-the-art driving tools. The steering wheel is light yet precise. The Ghost also has stability control and adaptive cruise control, plus ...

.... night vision! The infrared camera is perfect if you need to dodge the neighbours' escaped prized stallion.

As with all Rolls-Royces, the Ghost comes with a BMW iDrive-based infotainment system.

In the back, passengers get a pair of $6,000 picnic tables, as well as a $7,000 rear theatre.

And then there are the glorious seats: heated, reclining, and with a massage function. They're insanely comfortable, with leatherwork that takes craftsmen two weeks to hand-stitch. The hides of nine cows go into every car.

Rear passengers get their own iDrive controller and command console.

For those who need more rear legroom than the Ghost can offer ...

... Rolls-Royce will gladly sell you an extended wheelbase version.

Carefully crafted details can be found throughout the car. The retractable 'Spirit of Ecstasy' hood ornament comes with its own spotlight ...

... and the 'Spirit of Ecstasy' emblem is embossed into the window sill.

There's an ornate Ghost clock ...

... and polished stainless-steel tread plates. The attention to detail is astonishing!

But there's more! The Roll-Royce emblem in the middle of the wheel floats, remaining stationary no matter how fast the car is going.

Off course, the Ghost comes with the now famous Teflon-coated Rolls-Royce umbrellas. Neat fact: the car will actually dry the umbrella by piping in warm air from the engine.

The Ghost was not without its quirks. Instead of a traditional tachometer, there was a 'Power Reserve' meter. I found myself revving the engine just to make sure it was running!

Also, the snowstorm caused some issues. I'll have more to say about this at a later date.

So back to the original question. Does the Ghost Series II live up to its legendary name? Absolutely! The Ghost is a miracle of refinement and elegance. It is the finest motor car I've ever encountered.

Here's an example of automotive excellence from Audi...

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