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HomeLifestyleRolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge Review: A Rolls With Attitude

Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge Review: A Rolls With Attitude

The needle sweeps quickly past the 100mph marker. Each automated gear change briefly cuts the ignition before engaging the next cog with a noticeable and deliberate shove in the back. “Shift shock,” the car’s chaperone calls it.

Three-figure speed quickly ascertained, 120 then 130 arrive in quick succession as a vast 900 Newton Meters of torque is forced into the asphalt. With my right foot still buried into the carpet, runway lights streaking through my peripheral vision turn from green to red, a “brake!” instruction comes from the passenger seat. I switch to the left pedal, braking firmly to haul 5,600lbs back to walking pace, before turning round, coming to a stop, and gratuitously blipping the accelerator.

A lowering of the double-glazed window lets in an uncharacteristic burble and even a volley of overrun from the all-new exhaust system. Whatever it is we’re doing on a rural Oxfordshire runway, with a wet October night of secretive road testing ahead of us, this feels distinctly un-Rolls-Royce.

But that is precisely the point of the latest, second-generation Ghost. A car that arrived in 2020 and asked its customers to park their opulence at the roadside. This was the dawn of ‘post-opulance’ design, Rolls-Royce, famed for its chrome-clad Pantheon grilles, up-lit Spirit of Ecstacy and unapologetic luxury, told us.

The new Black Badge Ghost takes the brand in another new direction. Or rather, it legitimises a direction Rolls customers, younger and trendier than ever, have taken their vehicles on for several years already. This is Rolls-Royce with attitude; Rolls-Royce with a new manifesto to share with a customer base it knows is changing. 

It is also a client base that is younger than ever, with the average Rolls buyer now aged around 42. The company says: “In the 2020s, these women and men engage with luxury products on their own terms. They reject suits for streetwear, use blockchain not banks and influence the analogue world through their digital endeavours.”

The company has reacted by offering more colour options (44,000, plus the option to go bespoke) and technical surface treatments, catering for those who want carbon as well as those who still expect wood and leather. And it appears to have judged the shift in customer expectation well; Black Badge vehicles now represent 27 percent of sales worldwide.

After the top-speed run and demonstration of the muscular new exhaust note, I’m asked by the car’s handler to drive along the runway again, but this time weave between its central dashed line, first at 40mph then at 70mph. The result is a demonstration of how the Black Badge Ghost adjusts its ride based on the driver’s enthusiasm.

Gentle lane changes are completed with the usual magic-carpet ride with which Rolls owners are familiar, while more assertive inputs see the suspension firm up, making good use of the Black Badge’s larger air springs to better combat body roll. Heaven forbid you call it a ‘sport mode’, but the idea here is obvious; the Ghost Black badge may lack selectable driving modes, but they are there, ready to be deployed automatically when called upon.

Thrashing a Rolls-Royce down a closed runway might not be even close to what any owner ever does with theirs, but it serves as a neat demonstration of exactly how the Ghost Black Badge differs dynamically from its chrome-clad sibling.

Aesthetically they also stand apart. As with the Dawn, Wraith and Cullinan members of the Black Badge family, the Ghost has its exterior chrome turned glossy black and is decorated in and out with the lemniscate graphic that represents Black Badge and also appeared on the Blue Bird K3 water speed-record boat of Sir Malcolm Campbell.

That black grille, by the way, isn’t just painted. Of course it isn’t. I’ll let Rolls-Royce explain this one. “Instead of simply painting these components, a specific chrome electrolyte is introduced to the traditional chrome plating process that is co-deposited on the stainless-steel substrate, darkening the finish. Its final thickness is just one micrometre – around one hundredth of the width of a human hair.”

Also unique to the Black Badge is a set of 21-inch wheels with carbon detailing. Under the vast hood sits the familiar 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V12, modestly tuned to produce an extra 29PS (taking the total to a nice, round 600PS), while torque is up 50Nm to an equally robust 900Nm. Despite there being no sport mode, the ‘Low’ button, as found on all Black Badge models, reduces gear shift time by 50 percent when the accelerator is depressed by 90 percent or more, along with an ignition cut between changes and the ‘shift-shock’ mentioned earlier.

Leaving the runway behind, I follow a route already plumbed into the Ghost’s navigation system, meandering through the Cotswolds. Low mode disabled, the car returns to delivering the quiet, smooth and effortless ride for which Rolls-Royce has been the benchmark since BMW’s takeover in 1998.

While the larger Phantom is a car to be driven in, a typical Ghost owner is likely to split their time evenly between the front and rear seats. Sat up front, driving oneself in a Ghost feels perfectly normal; sure, it’s a large car, but not so overwhelming that driving along country roads is too much of a challenge. As with all current Rolls-Royces, the sense of calm one feels in the Ghost encourages the driver to make progress as smoothly as possible. It’s reassuring to know the Black Badge is geared for a more dynamic ride if you want it, adding a new facet to its character, but for the most part you’ll be gliding along in comfort and near-silence. Albeit with a darker, stealthier demeanour than in a regular Ghost.

This being a Rolls-Royce launch event, experiencing the car from the back seats is as important as the driving itself. With that, we arrive at our destination and are met by a driver who will chauffeur us into London for the evening. In true Rolls-Royce fashion, we are invited to remove a bottle of something French and sparkling from the fridge, recline the seats and enjoy the Ghost from the passenger’s perspective.

Despite this being the smaller and, dare I say, more affordable Rolls in today’s lineup, the Ghost still feels like a thoroughly luxurious place to be. There’s ample legroom, deep carpets, comfortable seats and a sense the car is protecting you from the hustle and bustle of the night outside. It is here when the novelties of Rolls-Royce ownership come into focus. The silky-smooth ride quality, the quietness, the RR-branded glassware and the shooting star headlining catching your eye as LEDs streak across the artificial constellation above your head. It’s an environment that couldn’t be confused with any other on the road today, and one I have no doubt owners feel is worth every penny, from whichever seat they choose.

Being a Black Badge, the interior of this car is as stealthy as it gets. The dashboard and other elements features a carbon-like pattern the company calls Technical Fibre, incorporating multiple wood layers, black bolivar veneer and leaves woven from resin-coated carbon and contrasting metal-coated thread. Details that would be chrome in a regular Ghost, like the air vents, are darkened using ‘physical vapor deposition’, which Rolls says is one of the few methods of coloring metal that ensures it doesn’t discolor or tarnish over time. As ever, it’s the attention to detail that makes such a car stand out.

We arrive in London under cover of darkness – it’s still two weeks before the Black Badge is due to be announced – and head for a late-night dinner. Looking back on my time with the Ghost Black Badge, it is the breadth of character that impresses most of all. The regular Ghost was already a known entity; a Rolls that is a more manageable size (and price) than a Phantom, but which impresses in much the same way.

The Ghost Black Badge then adds dynamic performance into the mix, and while the technical changes are small – the extra 29PS surely goes unnoticed – there are enough of them to give extra depth to the car’s character. There’s an attitude here, a sense that when the Ghost is done with being a luxury limousine for the day, it can exchange a knowing glance with its driver, engage Low mode, and serve up some fun.

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