You might think a Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge is dark as the ocean floor, its black paint so deep that you see fish beneath the surface of its fenders, volcanic vents behind the coachline, Atlantis in the decklid. But it doesn’t have to be. If all black isn’t your thing, you can order a Black Badge in green, the bright poisonous pop of a rainforest tree frog or the verdancy of a topiary garden, or any hue between or surrounding on an infinite color wheel, including the Burnout Grey of the model we sampled. Slap on the Black Badge and let other Ghost owners know you’ve got a dark edge—and that you’ve outspent them. Rolls-Royce is all about satisfying its customers’ desires, and it says that more than a quarter of them desire to own a version of a rare, expensive car that’s even rarer and more expensive. Also, they like blacked-out trim.
It’s not giving in to marketing to say that driving a Rolls-Royce is unlike driving any other automobile. Like its namesake, the Ghost hovers, absolutely wafts down the street, more silent than an electric car, 12 cylinders of combustion barely whispering their presence. It is a car for people who don’t want to be bothered by, or bother with, the outside world. Yet this creates a conundrum for some would-be buyers. One doesn’t drive a Rolls-Royce to be ignored; can’t this thing rumble just a bit—emanate a little less dusty-haunted-mansion and a little more sexy-hunting-vampire? The standard Ghost intimidates by disdaining to acknowledge you. The Ghost Black Badge exudes an active menace. Of course, menace doesn’t come cheap, and the Black Badge package adds $43,850 to the $398,850 starting price of the 2022 Ghost. The car we drove would put a $492,250 dent in your account balance. But we’re talking about a vehicle that offers a $17,000 umbrella option—money as we know it is meaningless.
For the meaningless $44K, Rolls-Royce adds menace to the standard Ghost with darkened chrome trim and unexpected carbon fiber. Blackout and composite may seem like old news to anyone in the tuner or custom scene, but on a Roller with its history of silver ladies, polished trim, and more leather and wood than an English-manor library, such modern materials represent a big change in aesthetic. Smoked brightwork, the result of a chemical process done during the chroming, includes a dark mirror gloss on the grille, emblems, and retractable Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, and Rolls says the finish will not chip or peel. The carbon wheels, composite barrels around a forged aluminum hub, save some pounds but are about as helpful in weight loss as turning down a third piece of pie on Thanksgiving—the car weighs a hefty 5500 pounds. They look good though, accented with a color-keyed pinstripe and always-upright center caps, and make a counterpoint to the Ghost’s prewar-era profile.
Inside, Black Badge cars offer more carbon fiber, here a custom weave of aluminum thread and carbon strand. Interior shiny metals are smoked just like the exterior chrome, although there seems to be some randomness to which pieces go dark and which—like the sill plates in our sample car—remain bright. Like the paint, interior color choices are limited only by imagination. We opened the reflective black doors of one car to find a pumpkin-orange interior, something we should have expected based on the orange coachline down the side and the matching leather-wrapped key. If a Halloween-themed Ghost is too on the nose for you, pick something else—we couldn’t get through all the options in the configurator. Who knew cows came in so many colors? Everything inside the Ghost feels nice: This is what you pay for, a lambswool carpet wasted on those wearing shoes and leather trim even where you barely see it, like on the inside of the B-pillars, a lavish resting place for seatbelt anchors. There is some plastic in the cabin—the spindly turn-signal stalk is a disappointing standout—but most surfaces are decadently soft, smooth, and glittering.
Rolls-Royce has moved away from the idea that all its buyers are chauffeured, and the performance aspects of the Black Badge are aimed at increasing driver enjoyment. While the mechanics of the turbocharged 6.7-liter V-12 and all-wheel-drive chassis remain unchanged, the engine tune now offers a 28-hp boost to 591 and a 37-lb-ft increase to 664. It also returns an estimated 14 mpg combined, and that’s the last we’ll say about that. We’ve already established that this isn’t a car to make people like you. Beneath the polished and painted body, the air suspension is stiffer, and while a Sport mode would be uncouth, a Low mode on the gear stalk speeds and tightens up shifts, increases the steering effort from one finger to two, opens baffles in the exhaust, and adjusts the air springs and active anti-roll bars to sacrifice just a smidge of the Ghost’s untroubled float for just a smidge more upright handling in curves. It is black (badge) magic for a car so large and loaded to be even half this maneuverable, although, for a Ghost, it’s a rough and rumbly ride.
While outrageous forward thrust and weighty stability make the Ghost simultaneously thrilling and relaxing on a highway—this is truly a car for a long journey—around town it offers some challenges that hint back to its past as a car to be driven in rather than to drive. Visibility is terrible, all A-pillars and too-wide mirrors in front, nothing but leather-wrapped B-pillars and starry headliner to the rear. The brakes and steering both can be described as soft, pleasant for passengers but requiring more attention from drivers. Parking is saved from nightmare territory by truly excellent cameras, warning not just of curbed carbon-fiber wheels but also of obstacles that might impede the elegant exit of passengers via the rear-hinged doors. It is an amusing car to pilot, but still feels best from the back seat.
It’s hard to summon sympathy for car shoppers with half-million-dollar budgets, but imagine for a moment that you’ve made a name for yourself as a rebel, a gangster, proudly one step off from the mainstream, and now here you are, with more money than you can lose on NFTs, trying to hold onto edginess amid the dulling effects of wealth. What a trial it must be to maintain even the slightest hint of counterculture street cred when you’re being massaged under starlight in a car with a little silver lady on the hood. But if the lady were dressed in black? That’s kinda punk rock, right? The 2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge aims to satisfy the segment of the customer base who wants to be pampered but is willing to pay more for just a hint of reassurance that they’re still hardcore.
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