Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 10, 2023
To satisfy a demand for a more youthful and sportier commission, Rolls-Royce created Black Badge, a separate trim for the Wraith, Dawn, Cullinan, and Ghost that adds a darker personality, a more engaging drive, and a slightly less traditional Rolls-Royce experience.
And it’s not just 45 kg of black paint that makes the Black Badge unique, or the black finishes on the chrome and Spirit of Ecstacy hood ornament, or the 44-layer carbon fibre 21-inch wheels. The interior receives unique elements that you can’t get in a regular Ghost, like the Technical Fibre accents that can be adorned on the steering wheel, dashboard, and center console elements - resin-coated carbon is woven with metal-coated thread in a diamond pattern to create a three-dimensional effect more distinctive than standard carbon fibre.
The 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 gets a power bump of 28 horsepower and 37 lb-ft of torque, for a total output of 591 hp and 664 lb-ft. A remapped 8-speed automatic transmission runs power to both front and rear axles, and while maximum torque comes 100 rpm later in the rev range, it’s one-tenth of a second quicker from 0-100 km/h, achieving it in 4.7 seconds. Further, the suspension gets larger air springs to greater alleviate body roll, the braking bite point has been raised, and pedal travel has been decreased to be more sensitive to input.
After a back-to-back drive of the standard Ghost and the Ghost Black Badge, we immediately noticed less body roll around the long sweeping twists and turns of the Sea to Sky Highway. The ride gains in fluency the faster you go, staying level and grounded with the help of an adaptive air suspension, all-wheel drive, and rear-wheel steering, the latter of which also drastically decreases its turning radius so it can be hustled around tight parking spaces with the agility of a BMW 3 Series. The steering is light enough to rotate this 2,490 kg land yacht with just one finger, and road undulations are muted into mild shudders that occupants will barely register. It’s like a road-legal Shinkansen.
But it’s not until you hit the Low Mode button on the gear stalk that the Black Badge truly comes to life. Think of it like a Sport Mode: gear shift speeds are up 50% and more importantly, it opens a valve in the Black Badge’s new exhaust system, adding an extra acoustic dimension to the Ghost. Instead of neutralizing noise, it amplifies it, and with every inch of throttle depressed, the V12 sings and grows in volume with a deep, mellow, and baritone roar. It will even emit faint burbles when you lift off the gas, reminding us of the BMW M760Li that uses the same engine.
At wide open throttle, the Ghost takes off gently and effortlessly but now with a heightened sense of urgency. There is an abundance of thrust no matter what gear or RPM you find yourself in, and gear transitions are equally seamless and smooth. Hustling it at higher speeds reveals a delicate combination of mechanical and electronic brilliance, losing little confidence in recreational blasts yet at the same time, muting all the nuisances of the outside world and letting the purity of the V12 engine shine through.
Black Badge doesn’t completely transform or reinvent the traditional Rolls-Royce driving experience of wafting you from A to B, but it instills an alter ego that can be summoned with the push of a button. It will never be as engaging as a BMW M5 or Mercedes-AMG E 63 on a serpentine back road but will feel equally as rewarding.
The rest is standard Ghost fare, which is to say a phenomenal masterstroke of automotive engineering. The self-closing, power-assisted front and rear doors are a party trick that never gets old, nor do the power-operated picnic tables or Starlight Headliner that fire off shooting stars in random patterns every ten seconds.
Black Badge has not only decreased the median age of a Rolls-Royce owner, but it has injected a heightened sense of dynamic acuity into the product, now accounting for 27% of all their orders. It’s no longer strictly about isolating unwanted noise and creating a bubble from the outside world, but about elevating its visual and vocal presence. The result is one of the most pampering modes of transportation on four wheels.
Model: 2023 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge
Paint Type: Black Diamond
Base Price: $460,400
Price as Tested: $508,625
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,546 / 2,148 / 1,571
Unladen weight (kg): 2,490
Engine: 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12
Horsepower: 591 hp @ 5,250 - 5,750 rpm
Torque: 664 lb-ft @ 1,700 - 4,250 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD