The Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II is the most refined automobile I've ever driven.
In the days I spent behind the wheel of the $400,000 luxury icon, the Rolls remained poised and unflinching in virtually every driving condition. With one exception.
The day after I took delivery of our claret-red Ghost Series II test car, my friends and I met up in Hoboken, New Jersey (just across the Hudson River from Manhattan).
Our destination? A great Thai restaurant 50 miles away in Princeton, New Jersey.
A pleasant Saturday afternoon drive in one of the greatest cars money can buy followed by a feast of pad Thai, chicken rendang, tum yum soup, and roti canai. What could possibly go wrong?
The weather experts that fateful Saturday reported that snow was likely, but not until after 5 p.m. Way after I'd be off the road.
And even then, it would be light, maybe an inch or two.
But that's not what happened. The snow didn't come at 5 — it started at 1! And when it did come, it wasn't an inch or two.
It was half a foot!
So my deeply flawed but perfectly reasonable dependence on meteorologists turned a pleasant weekend drive to get lunch into something way more interesting.
As the three us set off from the garage in Hoboken, the snow was beginning to pick up. But the roads were mostly clear and what snow there was on the ground, the 563-horsepower, twin-turbocharged Ghost managed to negotiate effortlessly.
As we headed down the Jersey Turnpike, roads conditions becomes worse as the snow fell faster than the fleets of plows could handle. Still, on the turnpike, the Ghost's cabin sustained an otherworldly impression of quiet and calm as we glided through the building slush at a gingerly 35 mph.
But then the roads got worse.
As more snow built up on the highway, the Rolls lost some of its stately stability. Lane changes became much more exciting, as the rear end of the car would momentarily wiggle before the traction control took over.
Some of this can be blamed on the tires.
Since the Ghost had just been delivered to New York from Texas, the car was still equipped with performance-oriented summer tires that would have been perfect for twisty roads on a warm spring afternoon, but were far from ideal for a winter storm.
Even as my heart rate rose, the Ghost remained regal and luxurious. Especially for my passengers. One preoccupied himself with the many features of Rolls-Royce's iDrive-based infotainment system. The other reclined his seat back and received a relaxing massage from the heated leather seats.
But as we left the highway, the roads got worse.
Fortunately, after a protracted journey, we reached our Thai feast. Although it was a more eventful drive than any of us could have anticipated, the Rolls-Royce proved that it was a fantastic vehicle. But it's by no means a snowmobile.
Really, no massively powerful, rear-wheel-drive sedan is the best choice when it comes to tackling a snowstorm, regardless of how advanced its traction control or whether it's equipped with winter tires.
Which is why Rolls-Royce is building an SUV — known within the company as the "Cullinan"— that can tackle these conditions with more surefooted grace. Although Rolls prefers to avoid calling it an SUV, favoring "high-bodied car" with four-wheel-drive instead.
So rejoice, Rolls-Royce owners who are also outdoor adventurers. Soon there will be a Rolls just for you.
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