A car like this motivates grace in its driver, and you suddenly find your chin is a bit higher than it usually would be.
The Ghost Series II is the Luxury saloon of the Year, and Jonathan, his time up, pinky raised, places the Rolls-Royce’s key into Sony’s palm with a, “There you are, sir.”
This is how all things should be made. Industrialism killed craftsmanship. But Rolls-Royce is still very much alive, and posting record after record in annual sales. Where to begin with this thing? The carpet is my favourite. I always have to take my shoes off in a Rolls and sign-in by sinking an open hand into it until the wool consumes it. The switches and buttons are so pleasurable in feel, the organ stops and air vents, particularly, are addictive. This is a car with switches that release opioid levels of endorphins.
You haven’t even set off yet. The ‘Magic Carpet’ ride is famous and not at all clichéd. It is bloody magic how this thing rides. And the torque is… it’s different. The figure isn’t even that impressive; this 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 is relatively unstressed making 780Nm from 1,500rpm. But where does it come from? You put your foot down and the power just appears, not as if it’s produced, fuel and air burnt, pistons pumping and cams spinning and oil sloshing. That’s all much too uncivilised. In a Rolls, the power is just there, all around you, like a butler who caters to your every need, yet you never notice him. Which room of the mansion does he sleep in? Where is this speed coming from?
Of course it’s a fast car, but you don’t rush in it. Sony emerges soothed: “You can’t get road rage in a Rolls-Royce, can you?”
“The Rolls-Royce experience is unlike any other, and that is exactly how its makers want you to feel. For a start, exactly how many other contemporary cars have a similar door-opening arrangement, the front pair conventional, the rear pair, rear-hinged for easier and more photogenic access? How thoughtful. Your only driving options are ‘D’ and ‘R’, and instead of a rev counter there’s a ‘Power Reserve’ display. The interior throughout is equally idiosyncratic, which is why the Rolls wins. It couldn’t be anything else.”
- Jonathan on the Ghost Series II
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé is hewn from a similar slab of granite/cow/sheep/walnut. It’s just even more German, and it’s our GT of the Year.
Everyone agrees this is a beautiful car, with a near-perfect rear end but some garish details on the AMG models. Ours is an S 500 all-wheel drive example with a 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 making 455bhp and 700Nm of torque. Apart from shouting of more numbers, there’s no reason to go AMG. This is never going to be a sportscar. That’s why it wins the GT award. It’ll cross a continent with more occasion than a private jet, and shrinks the desert to irrelevance. Any sort of road surface, which incidentally keeps getting worse as the miles pile on away from Dubai, is polished by the Merc’s big tyres into submission. Most of the time you can’t hear it running either, and its low-drag aerodynamic shape cheats the wind too.
The Rolls-Royce can’t hide just that one flaw: “There’s wind noise over 140kph,” says Sony. I can’t think of a better way to simply tour, and tour fast. The Merc’s front chairs massage, cool and comfort like no others and the air conditioning is scented. There’s mood lighting, night vision, a phenomenal surround-sound system that makes me hear my Bluetoothing music in a completely new way, and on the edges of the mountain the thing behaves itself through the corners as well. Still, I prefer the open road and the pleasure of such a well-built automobile basking in its superiority over everything it passes. You can pull up next to a supercar in this thing, and you won’t feel any sort of yearning. You’ll just turn the massage intensity up.
It’s a big hit throughout the day. “I hear the warning gong for overspeeding,” Imran says, “I look, 160kph… Feels like walking pace. I can’t tell how fast I’m going.”
“The Rolls-Royce is no doubt a superlative luxury automobile. But jumping out of the Ghost straight into this S-Class Coupé, I don’t feel any less special. In fact, it feels as great as the Rolls in every way, whether it be the plush interior, the superbly comfortable seats, the silky smooth ride or the overall refinement of the drivetrain, while even outshining it in the handling department.”
- Sony on the S-Class Coupé