- Max Speed
Another Black Badge Roller. Guessing these are selling like hot cakes?
Correct – Black Badge now accounts for more than 27 per cent of all Rolls Royce sales. In layman terms Black Badge is a trim level that adds more luxury, more power, improved handling and a darkened aesthetic. In Rolls terms it’s “a permanent bespoke treatment to its motor cars... These products, which were launched in 2016, are darker in aesthetic, more urgent in personality and dramatic in material treatment".
Wraith and last-gen Ghost were the first models to get Black Badge variants in 2016, followed by Dawn in 2017 and Cullinan in 2019. This is the new Black Badge Ghost and it’s all about appealing to a new type of customer, a younger multi-millionaire, or as Rolls describes them: “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. In doing so, they have created new codes of luxury that resonate with their sensibilities: darker in aesthetic, assertive in character and bold in design.” Rolls Royce press releases really are the gifts that keep giving, aren’t they?
Many things. Let’s start with the design and materials because that’s where Rolls really puts the emphasis. Don’t like too much choice? Look away now, because customers can pick from 44,000 ‘ready to wear’ colours, or if you absolutely must match your car to your Chihuahua’s eye colour then by all means go bespoke. However, most do what it says on the tin and go for Black – 45kg of black paint, finished with two layers of clear and a five-hour hand polish. Don’t get that down the local wash ‘n wax.
The Spirit of Ecstasy and Pantheon Grille are present and correct, but get a darker chrome plating, while the 21-inch wheels are BB Ghost-specific and made up from a carbon-fibre ‘barrel’ with a forged aluminium hub bonded to the rim with “aerospace-grade titanium fasteners”. On the inside there’s a new carbon weave with metallic fibres picking out the diamond pattern, an aluminium Black Badge infinity symbol between the back seats and a blacked-out clock with only the tips of the hands and the quarter-hour markers brightened in chrome.
Needless to say, this is all very nice, but we spent most of our time staring child-like at the illuminated fascia on the passenger side of the dash, with more than 850 lights, and the starlight headlining, complete with the occasional shooting star.
Under the skin?
More upgrades. “The capacity of the Rolls Royce twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre V12 engine was deemed sufficient" (possibly my favourite line in any press pack ever) but the power output wasn’t. So a bump of 29bhp to 592bhp and an extra 37lb ft of torque for a total of 664lb ft. “More voluminous air springs help to reduce body roll under more assertive cornering", while the braking bite point has been raised slightly and pedal travel decreased – although the braking system remains the same as the standard Ghost, albeit with the new option of bold colours for the brake callipers.
Where it gets mildly more exciting is when you hit the ‘Low’ button on the gear-selector stalk. This amplifies the engine through an entirely new exhaust system, although if you’re expecting this to uncork a crackling Italian V12 soundtrack… sorry, the difference is subtle. It also unlocks the full 664lb ft of torque from 1,600rpm, increases gearshifts speeds from the eight-speed ZF auto by 50 per cent, and sharpens up the throttle mapping. Again, restrained tweaks, nothing raucous.
Does it make a difference?
If you want a rip-snorting super-saloon, you need to look elsewhere. But clearly that’s not the point here, Rolls Royce has built its reputation around producing the world’s most comfortable and luxurious cars, it’s not about to throw that in the bin. This is a gentle massage to the Ghost’s character, rather than a full organ transplant.
Having said that, we had the chance to do a couple of interesting exercises. Firstly, burying the throttle in a straight line down a runway… and it picked up its skirt nicely, hitting a highly undignified but totally unruffled 135mph by the time we had to squeeze the brakes. Secondly, a slalom course where it actually resisted body roll better the faster you went – the air suspension recognising that you were keen on some more “assertive” cornering and reacting according. A special mention must go to the Ghost’s four-wheel steering system too, which not only makes a car this enormous actually manoeuvrable around town, but gives the sensation, during high speed lane changes, that the car is simply moving sideways rather than turning at all. A much gentler experience for the oligarch in the back. Speaking of which…
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What’s it like in the back?
Good, I think? You see, while being chauffeured for the final section of the test ‘drive’ I discovered a bottle of Nyetimber in the rear fridge and got tucked into that… all in the name of thorough product testing you understand. So I can’t remember much other than it being an extraordinarily pleasant way to travel. If you absolutely must have the most opulent of the opulent, there’s always the Phantom, but the Ghost does the same things just as well, and the Black Badge is the one to go for – a bit of marketing genius from Rolls that gently erodes the old-man image of old and points the Spirt of Ecstasy in a more future-proofed direction. Now, bring on Spectre.