Are you bad enough for Black Badge?

Are you filthy rich and villainous? Then read on. Otherwise, pfft, just go look at the ‘regular’ Ghost. You’re not quite elite enough to contemplate this lady in black.   

About that though, the all-new second generation Rolls-Royce Ghost was launched last year, and in a major departure, unlike its predecessor, was based not on the BMW 7-Series, but instead shared its platform with in-house siblings, the flagship Phantom and the Cullinan luxury SUV. Admittedly, like those other Rolls-Royce motor cars, its power unit is from BMW (which owns Rolls-Royce), though it’s no less than a V12 engine with a 6.75-litre cubic capacity. 

At the launch, Rolls claimed that the Ghost had attained some sort of transcendental state as it represented ‘post-opulent luxury’. So effortlessly extravagant then? But what if you want an in-yer-face, somewhat belligerent, outlandish yet at the same time dark, mysterious, and rather deadly personality to be projected via your automobile? Basically, what if you were a supervillain that liked a bit of lux and wanted to be exuberant and understated at the same time? Enter the new Black Badge edition of the Ghost. 

Yes, it’s a menacing makeover, but it also receives an injection of thuggery to its core too. There’s about 30bhp more than the regular car, taking power output up to nearly 600bhp along with 900Nm of torque. Don’t be so crass as to ask performance figures of this majestic machine, but if you would kindly keep it to yourselves, I can inform you’ve I’ve heard whispers of 0-62mph acceleration in 4.5 seconds and the top speed is limited to 155mph. Grease a palm or two with untraceable solid gold and that’ll surely be lifted. 

Alongside the 8-speed transmission, all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering that the Ghost comes with, the clever air suspension gets firmer damping for stay-flat, more assertive cornering, improved throttle response and a ‘Low’ button. That’s not low ratio for when you crawling up a hill or towing a container, it’s essentially a ‘sports’ mode though Rolls-Royce would never allow you to term it as such. Even suggesting ‘Swift’ mode was deemed undesirable. Nonetheless, gearshifts are 50% faster at 90% throttle and there’s a sports exhaust… okay, sorry, I meant an engine note amplification system. 

Black Badge are quite simply the criminal-spec editions of the Rolls-Royce cars. Black paint is the order of the day, though not exclusively, but it would be a shame not to get it in the signature hue which is claimed to be the car industry’s darkest black, achieved by atomising 100lbs of paint and applying it to an electrostatically charged body – that just sounds so Star Trek (Section 31 if you’re really geeky!), I love it. Then there’s two layers of clear coat followed by a hand-polishing by no less than four craftsmen (not mere polishers mind) to achieve the glossy finish. This all takes five hours, which is about the total time you’ll be able to regale your friends on how this depth of darkness has been attained. 

And of course, it doesn’t stop there, the badge and grille are blacked out, and the Flying Lady herself is now dressed in black. A specific chrome electrolyte is incorporated into the chrome-plating process and it darkens the finish with a thickness of just one hundredth the width of a human hair. And let’s not forget those spectacular 21-inch wheels with unique interlocking design. They are made of 22 layers of carbon fibre laid and folded to effectively double up to 44 layers. 

What’s it like to behold in the metal? Well under the studio-esque lights of a hanger display, it glimmers and captivates. Outside in the open… well I can’t tell you. Because in keeping with the car’s mysterious agent-of-the-night persona, the car was launched to us media, under the cover of darkness. Actually, the real reason was that the car hadn’t yet been revealed to the world, and since the paint does such a great job of absorbing light, they figured few, if any, would notice it was the new Black Badge Ghost. From the fact that no images appeared of the car on social media prior to the official reveal, despite part of the activities including a drive into the heart of London, they were proven correct. 

So, do you feel like a crime Lord behind the wheel? Allowed a couple of high-speed runs on the blank black canvas of an airfield runway, demarcated only by sparkly lights, the difference in flat-out acceleration through the two modes was evident through an increased growl of the engine, sharper more obvious gearchanges and reaching a higher top speed in the same distance – 140mph in Low versus about 125 in normal. 

Slaloming and simulated fast lane changes proved the worth of the four-wheel steering too. With such a big car, it’s usually the norm to feel the rear mass of it suddenly awakening to a direction change a few moments after the front has already embark on said tangent, and then hurrying to catch up. You usually feel the back trying to follow the front as the car heaves and pitches, but not this time. The rear wheels effectively move in tandem and the car seems to glide across as one. A wrong turn following the sat-nav (why isn’t it projected in a heads-up display?) inevitably led us down a narrowing lane, yet executing a three-point turn proved easier than envisaged thanks again to the rear wheels turning (this time in the opposite direction).

Out on the roads for such a behemoth of a machine, placing it on small by lanes didn’t prove too stressful – just follow the lady and keep the front corners tight. Having witness its performance potential, it’s cornering prowess and its stable manners, you can easily imagine racing to an illicit rendezvous and arriving unruffled and alert to dangers in the dark and the gambit at play. It’s super smooth of course, but a little edgy in ride, as befits its darker side, the slightly firmer suspension more apparent on public roads than on landing strips. Hand over the helm to the henchman though and you can revel in the sumptuous rear, sipping Saudi Champagne, surfing the socials and plotting your next conquest. With every wicked thought, a shooting star flits across the enchanting starfield headlining – yeah, no, for real. 

You could simply buy a Ghost and spec it in black. Or you could procure a Black Badge and order it in white. In both cases you’d be missing the point. Admittedly Black Badge is not a colour, but a badge of honour, or should that be ‘dishonour’. And if you’re going to wear it, dial it up all the way. It’s cultured, it’s cool, it’s charismatic, it’s more, way more than a trim spec. But it’s not for everyone. It’s a Rolls-Royce, which is to say you travel in superb and refined splendour, but while roving you dwell on devious plans for world domination. To be worthy of the Black Badge, you need to be bad, very bad, and you absolutely must wear black.  

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