First drive review: 2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge gives the finest an edge

There’s no shame in demanding the finest. That’s the appeal of Rolls-Royce: the finest ride, the finest materials, the finest craftsmanship, all built by hand. Sometimes, however, the finest isn’t enough. Some personalities require a little attitude even when buying the finest. That’s where Rolls-Royce Black Badge comes into play.

The Black Badge treatment darkens the trim inside and out, while also adding power and firming up the plush ride. Rolls extends the Black Badge treatment that it applies to the Cullinan SUV (and previously added to the Ghost and now-defunct Dawn and Wraith) to the Ghost sedan for 2022, and it gives the car a little more edge.

Rolls-Royce invited Motor Authority to San Diego to experience that edge. While the Black Badge updates change the driving experience little, they can make all the difference for a titan of industry who wants to portray a certain image.

The Black Badge changes only tweak the Ghost experience instead of transforming it. From a performance standpoint, they start with the 6.8-liter twin-turbo V-12 engine. No parts were modified in the making of this engine. Instead, a different ECU tune ramps up the output from 563 to 591 hp and 627 to 664 lb-ft of torque.

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

The engine still acts like a lion in winter. It lopes along with smooth confidence, moving the Ghost as quickly as the driver asks, but always delivering the power as a calm swell instead of an adrenaline shot. Standard second gear starts contribute to that smoothness, but the Black Badge has a Low mode activated on the gearshift stalk that starts the car in first gear and lets the lion growl just loud enough to intimidate. Activate Low mode, stomp the throttle, and the 5,600-lb Ghost Black Badge glides from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, thanks to the extra power and 50% quicker gearshifts as long as the throttle is pressed at least 90% of the way to the floor.

The transmission knows where the car is going, too, and that also helps smooth out the power delivery. Roll’s Flagbearer system links the 8-speed automatic transmission to navigation data via satellite and uses that data to help it pick the right gear for the road ahead, downshifting into corners or when heading toward a hill. It’s all quite effortless and feels only slightly stronger than the already substantial grunt that comes with a twin-turbo V-12.

Electronics also change how the Ghost’s complex suspension acts. The Ghost has air springs and adaptive dampers, which usually do a fine job of isolating passengers from road imperfections in other high-end vehicles like Range Rovers and Mercedes. Rolls goes a couple steps beyond. The air springs and adaptive dampers do most of the work, then a second set of top-mounted front dampers come along to clean up any unpleasant shocks that might sneak through. That’s all standard Ghost equipment, but the Black Badge gets higher-capacity air springs and revamped computer tuning to make it slightly firmer. Rolls also tunes the steering to add more weight for better on-center stability.

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

At the pavement, the Ghost Black Badge features carbon-fiber wheels (with aluminum rims) that cut unsprung weight much in the same way throwing deck chairs off the Titanic saved weight to help it stay afloat. Made of 22 layers of carbon fiber laid out in three axes, they’re more about bragging rights than performance, but lighter wheels always contribute to a better ride, and that’s the Ghost’s stock and trade.

Altogether, these updates change the driving experience little. The Ghost still has a yacht-like feel through the large-diameter steering wheel. More than any other car, the long front end feels like it arrives at corners ahead of the driver, and you have to row on the tiller to guide the big beast through turns. However, it doesn’t wallow on the highway like previous Ghosts and the suspension tuning provides a slightly better sense of control. Most importantly for those who want the finest and those who will be chauffeured, the glass smooth ride remains undisturbed. It’s all quite pleasant on our drive to a winery on the border wall that elicits thoughts of the gulf between the haves and have-nots. 

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

An interior to behold

Inside, the Ghost Black Badge darkens some of the bright trim and uses dashboard trim made of carbon and aluminum fibers woven into a check pattern to create a sporty yet unique look. The dash also features the Black Badge lemniscate logo, an infinity symbol with a line under it, which originated with Sir Malcolm Campbell’s record-breaking Rolls-Royce-powered Blue Bird K3 hydroplane from the 1930s.

Otherwise, the cabin provides the same type of luxury and theater as the standard Ghost. The Starlight Headliner awes with thousands of pinhole lights that can even simulate shooting stars. Another 850 stars lit by 152 LEDs can appear on the passenger side of the dash.

Every seating position gets supreme comfort with heating and cooling, massage, and numerous power adjustments. The armrests are heated, too, and the available plush lamb’s wool carpets make you want to take off your shoes (passengers only, please). The soft-close doors latch automatically, and the rear seat passengers can open and close their doors with the push of a button behind their ears.

Rolls works hard to isolate the occupants from uncouth road noise. Sound deadener sandwiched between double-skinned doors and floors block noise, as do seat frames damped to match interior frequencies, ports under the parcel shelf that counteract highway thrum, and even sound-deadened tires.

Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge

It’s all built to an impossibly high standard with tight tolerances, top-notch materials, and controls that move with weighty precision, though the steering wheel stalks feel a little light.

Buyers can go a step further with an additional Black Badge package for $43,850 that’s mostly devoted to interior details. It starts with an illuminated grille, but also includes lamb’s wool floormats, a 1,300-watt audio system with 14 speakers, rear seat entertainment, tailored contrast seat piping, RR monograms on all headrests and embossed into the doors, extended use of the carbon and aluminum fiber trim, additional stitching on the instrument panel, and the ability to specify the color of all interior leathers.

On the outside, the Ghost Black Badge sports dark chrome on the grille, Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, and window trim that provides much of the understated menace to attract edgier buyers. Any of Rolls’ 44,000 colors are offered, but many buyers choose what Rolls calls the industry’s darkest black. Rolls says it applies 100 lb of paint to the body in white, followed by two layers of clear coat. It’s all then hand-polished to what the company calls a piano finish. The process takes three to five hours. While many other brands have black editions, no other automaker puts that much care into its paint and interior and exterior trim.

The 2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge starts at a jaw-dropping $398,850 including destination and gas-guzzler fees compared to about $330,000 for a standard Ghost. Add the Black Badge package and the full Black Badge treatment runs more than $100,000, and that’s before any of the options that its very individualist buyers will almost certainly want. While the BMW M5’s worth of Black Badge changes don’t make a fine automobile significantly better, they do provide the edge that one percenters will want to stand out among the world’s most-successful buyers.

Rolls-Royce paid for lodging for Motor Authority to bring you this firsthand report.

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