One of the neat things about Rolls-Royce is the extraordinary lengths the company will go to for maximum comfort. It’s like how supercar builders will look for every little advantage to make their cars a tenth of a second faster. On the 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost, the company is employing something called the Planar Suspension System, a nebulous designation for the collection of systems and parts employed. Some are straight forward, such as the four-wheel independent air suspension, and the way the GPS and forward cameras inform what level of firmness should be employed on the road. But one part left us perplexed: the upper control arm damper. We spoke to Jon Simms, lead engineer for the Ghost, for more information, and now we have a better grasp on what it is and what it does.
As for what it is, it’s the roughly horseshoe-shaped object highlighted in purple in the above photo. The yellow parts are bumpstops, and it’s mounted on the same joint as the upper control arm. And it turns out it’s a pretty simple piece of equipment. It works very much like the harmonic balancer on the end of an engine. It’s a weight with a rubber-y flexible hinge, and going over smaller bumps, it absorbs some of the extra vibration and movement from the suspension. Those bumpstops in yellow give the damper some extra purchase on the control arm, and they absorb impacts from larger bumps that may move the control arm suddenly so that the arm and damper don’t bang into each other.
This may seem like a pretty minor thing, but remember, Rolls-Royce and its buyers are out for maximum comfort, so there’s reason to invest in ironing out every possible ride quality issue, no matter the size. And even if it’s a minor improvement, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Simms told us that existing Ghost customers they talked to during development had one key request about the driving experience: “don’t break it.” So making sure that the new car was basically like the last one, but a bit better, would seem to be what customers would want.
The Ghost is the first Rolls-Royce to adopt this full suite of Planar Suspension System parts, though other Rolls-Royce models have had pieces of the system. And considering the fact the Ghost shares its platform with the Phantom and Cullinan, now, we wouldn’t be surprised if later versions of those models pick-up parts like this damper.