If director Baz Luhrmann offered full automotive fidelity to F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel in his 3-D version of 'The Great Gatsby,' Leo DiCaprio would drive a 1922 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.* Fitzgerald described that ride as being "bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length...and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns." So what has that symbol of Gilded Age excess become? What, if the remake took place in 2013, would Jay Gatsby drive? Why, it'd be none other than the Rolls Royce Ghost EWB, an extra-long version of Rolls-Royce's "starter" saloon, with the price tag of $350,000.
Naturally, we used the occasion to grab some Grey Poupon and the key fob of this wild machine to check in on the state of opulence, 2013. We drove the Ghost EWB out to Gatsby country – Great Neck, New York – where Fitzgerald dreamed up the famous novel from 1922 to 1924.**
The first thing that surprised us about the Ghost is that its muted exhaust note barely registers upon ignition – you wouldn't guess how fantastically forceful the car is on startup. Yet the Ghost's heart is a 6-6-liter, twin-turbocharged V12 engine that makes 563 horsepower and gets it to 60mph in under five seconds – despite the fact that it weighs nearly 6,500 pounds. That's a full Mazda Miata heavier than your current sedan. It's built like a tank – if tank interiors were outfitted with grain-matched, highly polished burr wood veneers.
As we careened through the sound-side curves of the Manhasset Bay, flanked by flowering magnolias everywhere, the Ghost's unique handling characteristics stepped to the forefront. To put it simply, the Ghost doesn't drive like any car on the road. A computer-controlled four-corner air suspension system takes load calculations every 2.5 milliseconds to ensure that the car is never upset. It's able to soak up bumps without blinking. You could careen over a pothole the size of a kiddie pool in this thing without worrying that your backseat passengers will spill a drop of their Moët & Chandon.
As to be expected, trick features abound. While the wheels rotate around them, weighted Rolls-Royce emblems stay upright, an act of magic (actually, they're mounted on spinners). Teflon-coated umbrellas hide away in each of the front doors. The "Spirit of Ecstasy" hood ornament – that silver lady, wing-like fabric billowing behind her – retracts into a trap door at a touch of the key fob.
The most shocking thing about the Ghost, though, is how quiet it is inside the cabin. You can speak in a whisper and be heard in the backseat. When its suicide doors shut, the outside world seems at once thousands of miles removed.
Seems very Gatsby-an, that distance. [$350,000, rolls-roycemotorcars.com]
* In Luhrmann's film, Gatsby drives a replica of a 1929 Duesenberg J.
** We took this photo of the 2013 Ghost in front of the house where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived, at 6 Gateway Drive in Great Neck. Fitzgerald drove a rented Rolls-Royce while he lived here.