“Today, we announce a product that represents a new kind of Black Badge motor car, one that seizes on the minimalist, Post Opulent design treatment that has recast the legend of Ghost but amplifies and subverts it with the application of black. Our most advanced motor car yet has been reengineered to characterise the alter ego of Rolls-Royce: assertive, dynamic and potent. This is the purest Black Badge motor car in the marque’s history. This is Ghost Black Badge.”
Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
Rolls-Royce presented the new Black Badge Ghost in great secrecy. I was chauffeured to an unknown location to test the new Ghost in almost total darkness.
The mood was set for an extraordinary event. The Black Badge Ghost, the representation of the darker side of Rolls-Royce was exhibited as a grand museum piece in a specially decorated warehouse complete with a green Agusta Helicopter and roaring neon tiger in the background.
Felix Kilbertus, Head of Exterior Design, talked us through the impressive changes to the new Ghost before we slid behind the wheel of this extremely glossy black car for a test drive in the pitch-black night across Turweston Aerodrome.
The gloss black paint weighs over 45 Kg and is atomised before being applied to the electrostatically charged white body which is then oven-dried. Next, two layers of clear coat are applied, then hand polished by four craftsmen to achieve the highest piano gloss finish. Clearly, the intention is to create a black that both absorbs and reflects black light only. Think of a black you could sink into forever. Black is the new black…
Strangely enough, it works and shows off the body to great effect, so you still appreciate the curves and contours that mark the Rolls Royce Ghost. A monolithic beast that undulates over the road with a lovely menace. Think of a glossy carbon slab on glowing wheels and you’ll be halfway there.
The famous RR Spirit of Ecstasy and front grill are black chrome, hard to find a better contradiction in terms, but it's fabulous. Glinting darkly in the night, reflecting every colour in an evil shade. A special chrome electrolyte is used to taint the stainless steel substrate with black, just one micrometre thick, a subtle corruption of the pure chrome.
This is also carried over on to the bespoke 21-inch wheels reserved exclusively for the Black Badge Ghost. Rolls-Royce seems to have gone out of its way to make things difficult. The wheel barrel is 44 layers of carbon fibre folded back on themselves and bolted to a 3D-forged aluminium rim. A stunning play on a monochrome tonal range. And of course, the Double R monogram stays upright at all times.
As you may have gathered by now, the black represents a darker side, a rejection of colour that embraces freedom and rebellion. Rolls-Royce has spent much thought and time on creating a different approach to the lack of light and how it is presented. The headlights form a three-sided rectangle that completes the extreme contrast of black and light. Black as a reflection of mood and temperament not just the absence of light, but a colour in its own right, aiming to evoke a strong emotional reaction from its audience.
I can confirm that the Ghost has a top speed of 155 mph and does 0-62 mph in 4.7 seconds in utter comfort. It accelerates in a straight line from standing start super smoothly, the ZF eight-speed gearbox is flawless, akin to a single gear. Put it in Low (sport) mode though and it will give you a serious boost. A 50% faster gear shift when you slam the accelerator down 90%. From chauffeured luxury to urgent acceleration with gear changes you feel and enjoy.
As with all luxury cars the braking point is slightly soft for my taste, obviously a conscious choice for smooth driving. They have decreased the pedal travel, but I would prefer a more robust response in such a powerful car. Though I’m sure those that chauffeur clients around would beg to differ.
After the drag race, we tested a slalom course to show off the all-wheel-drive, four-wheel steering and particularly the Planar Suspension system. This is Rolls-Royce’s pride and joy and ultimately the differentiation point from other luxury cars. The all-wheel-drive gives you great holding in the corners while the four-wheel steering adds tighter cornering at greater speeds. But it is the suspension that shines as you throw the car violently from side to side.
Driving smoothly at first before graduating to brutal last-minute swerves the Ghost holds flat and steady with no roll. The platform remains utterly level even at high speed, compensating for the turns and remaining parallel to the ground.
The Rolls Royce Ghost is fitted with a 6.75-litre V12 engine with 591 bhp. Even more impressive is that the full 900 NM of torque is available at just 1700 rpm. That’s a V12 engine for you. The two and a half-ton weight is reassuring in such a car and you get a combined 17.8 mpg. It is 5.5 metres long and 2.1 metres wide but does not feel big even on small country roads.
Driving it for a few hours is a relaxed and sumptuous experience. You don’t get much more spoilt than a Rolls-Royce interior. The 850 stars in the ceiling, the night sky as seen from Goodwood, illuminate the car in a unique, flattering and suffused glow. It’s an extra cost but should be first on your list.
Rolls have come up with their own statement carbon and metallic fibre weave for the interior known as Technical Fibre incorporating a deep diamond pattern. These touches are overlaid by a black bolivar wood veneer which is sandblasted then surfaced with six layers of hand-polished lacquer. Add to this the infinity symbo,l or Lemniscate, built up from six layers of lacquer that appears to float over the Technical Fibre on the dashboard and seats. All illuminated by 152 LEDs above and beneath the fascia. Last but not least the air vents are darkened using physical vapour deposition that will not wear or tarnish over time. This minimalism is also carried over to the new timepiece, only the tips of the hands and the three, six, nine and twelve are illuminated.
One criticism, I found the instrument panel slightly crowded and a sparser interior would have matched the minimalist black theme better. Plus the dashboard could do with more differentiation both in form and texture with greater driver focus.
Overall the interior effect is absolutely magical. Imagine if you will an ethereal translucent light bouncing from multiple surfaces absorbing colours and textures as it refracts about the cabin. Plush, contradictory and intense, the inner glow is surreal and contributes to a luxury ambience that is quite special, particularly at night.
This whole black theme came about because the CEO of Rolls-Royce and the Global Director of Communications were walking out of a hotel in the USA one evening and an all-black Rolls Royce pulled up, unusual as most were two-toned at the time. They were curious about the colour and introduced themselves to the owner who explained that he was a surgeon who loved riding a Harley Davidson. He felt that the black brought out his dark side which contrasted with the responsibility he carried in his work. Both the Harley and the all-black Rolls represented freedom to him.
This started long discussions with Rolls-Royce executives who resisted at first. Now Black Badge accounts for 30% of sales overall and has dramatically raised its appeal to younger buyers. The idea is interesting but I believe the extraordinary detail that Rolls-Royce applied to its execution is the true hero of the story, pushing the design and thematic possibilities as far as they could. The Black Badge concept is still in its infancy and the Black Badge Ghost is a brilliant new edition to the fold.
The new Rolls Royce Black Badge Ghost delivers performance, extreme luxury, utter comfort, superb stability and an ethereal interior with an unusual and beguiling concept that appeals to both head and heart.
And the cold Nyetimber bubbly in the fridge between the back seats did not go amiss whilst I was chauffeured to an uber-trendy London hotel for a late dinner.
Starting price around £260,000 though each car is a unique bespoke piece with an infinite array of choices so take that as a mere guideline.
The Rolls Royce Black Badge Ghost is ready to be commissioned now: