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State of Ecstasy

Longing to render people speechless and servile? Try tooling down the Pacific Coast Highway in a spanking-new Rolls-Royce Ghost




THE WOMAN WITH THE DOG is staring at me, and maybe so is the dog, although he keeps glancing sideways at the car and growling. I’ve pulled off California’s Route 154 just above Santa Barbara and stepped out of my 2012 Rolls-Royce Ghost to snap a few shots of the legendary winemaking valley of Santa Ynez. Through some bay laurels, the early afternoon light is gleaming off the Ghost’s sleek body, at the nose of which “The Spirit of Ecstasy,” a.k.a. the hood ornament, is perched as if to dive into the car’s imposing grille. The dog, it seems, is a little intimidated. Maybe the woman is too. And I think that’s very much the point.

Here, at a scrub-lined photo stop containing two dusty hatchbacks with surfboards sticking out the back, the Ghost is so utterly, ludicrously luxurious— stately silver carriage, self-righting Rolls-Royce logo wheel caps, lambswool floor mats, full-size umbrellas that spring from the front doors at the push of a button—that it’s impossible even to stand next to it without feeling as if a diadem has miraculously popped out of my forehead. Everyone I meet treats both me and the car with the kind of veneration normally reserved for the queen of England. They look away nervously. They stand up straighter. They use words like “shall” and “may,” and I find myself responding in kind. Looking straight ahead, I can almost feel the force of the woman with the dog trying to figure out how I amassed enough of a fortune to buy a $300,000 car. I wonder how long it will take her to decide that I am a Hilton.

Nosing back onto the freeway, I punch the gas. Though the Ghost’s many amenities give it a weight of nearly 3 tons, the engine provides more horsepower than a Ferrari California, which makes it capable of speeds of up to 155 mph (unsurprisingly, jet engines are a primary specialty of the Rolls-Royce company these days). And like a royal who learned to walk with a book on her head, the Ghost carves the precipitous hairpin turns of the San Marcos Pass as gracefully as a much smaller vehicle, with nary a cashmere headliner thread out of place.

I shoot out of the mountains and through Santa Barbara, a ritzy Spanish-inflected beach town where scalloped clay roofs throw shadows over stone sidewalks, on my way to the Pacific Coast Highway. Here, the car draws fewer stares, at least until I pull into the drive-thru at In-N-Out for a burger to calm my nerves. As I approach the payment window, three employees crowd into the little glass box to gawk, and finally one speaks.

“Will you be eating this … in the car?” she asks with a horrified look.

Yes, but, worried myself about making a poor impression on the Ghost, I open the sunroof to expunge the smell of “animal-style” fries (cheese, fried onions, Thousand Island dressing and so forth) on my way down U.S. 1 through Malibu, with the glittering Pacific like a sheet of blue satin on my right.

In West Hollywood, I cruise up La Cienega to The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel—a postmodern tapas restaurant of critical note, even in a town saturated with the same. The red stairs to the entrance are dotted with movie producers and starlets and the sundry rich. And yet, when I pull up, the entire coterie pauses to stare at the Rolls. Four valets run to the car. “May we,” “May I,” they say, tripping over one another to open doors and offer elbows.

After the hubbub of dinner—tiny morsels of foie gras wrapped in cotton candy and served on sticks, Philly cheesesteak zeppelins filled with Kobe beef—I board the Ghost for one last trip, this time to someplace a little quieter: Terranea, a private estate-style hotel on the ocean. When I arrive, I can see through the lobby doors exactly the outdoor fireplace I’d like to sit in front of with a glass of syrah. But first, I must contend with the valet, who is already standing restive by the driver’s-side door. “Good evening, miss. Shall I just keep this out front where everyone can see it?” he asks.

“I think that’s for the best.”

To get this kind of respect in New York City, senior editor JACQUELINE DETWILER might actually have to buy a diadem.

The bells and whistles

Starting Price: $290,000

Engine: A 6.6-liter V-12 provides 563 hp and 575 lb-ft of torque to propel the enormous Ghost with ease.

Performance: The combination of big car and big acceleration (zero to 62 in 5.1 seconds) yields gas-guzzler fuel economy —13 mpg in the city, 20 on the highway—but you didn’t expect this kind of luxury to come cheap, did you?

Perks: A 16-speaker sound system, umbrellas in the doors and an extended wheelbase that delivers an extra 6.7 inches of legroom. Plus, the voice-activated Bluetooth-compatible computer also provides infrared night vision, helpful in avoiding animals.

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