Black Badge Ghost review: Rolls-Royce embraces the dark side

The Black Badge series is a sportier reinvention of the stately Roller

Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost
Any colour you like, whether or not it’s black: the Black Badge Ghost comes in a range of vibrant shades
(Image credit: Holden Frith)

Where else would you take the newest, boldest, brashest Rolls-Royce except Dubai? And what then except head for a six-lane highway, leaving the glass-and-steel banks in your expensive rearview mirror, and blast into the desert where an empty runway awaits?

The Black Badge series is based on the rather un-Rolls-Royce-like idea that a car should not only waft through the world’s financial districts and float over well-tended gravel, but also tear up some tarmac now and again. Promising “pure darkness” as well as “pure power”, these cars are intended for the more raucous luxury motorist.

The latest addition to the line-up is the Black Badge Ghost, an edgier incarnation of the archetypal Rolls-Royce saloon. The visual differences are subtle but powerful. Gone is the bright chrome finish on the grille and the Spirit of Ecstasy ornament, which are now both clad in what looks like smoked bronze. The rest of the car comes in any colour you like, although most customers choose black. And when Rolls-Royce say black, they mean it: the paintwork weighs in at 45kg – a small but significant contribution to its 2.5-tonne kerb weight.

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That heft means the Black Badge Ghost needs something serious under its long bonnet. The 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12 from the standard car was “deemed sufficient” as a starting point, according to the characteristically understated press release – but then, to be on the safe side, the engineers tweaked it to develop a little more power (591bhp) and torque (664lb ft).

Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost

(Image credit: Holden Frith)

On the desert runway, that turns out to be more than ample. I step on the accelerator and the car sinks down on its haunches, its purr amplified to a deep growl as my head and back sink into the upholstery and we blast down the tarmac. For the full Black Badge experience, I try again after pressing the “low” button, which holds the automatic gearbox in lower ratios for longer and allows a little more exhaust noise into the cabin (any other carmaker would call it a sport mode, a term too uncouth for Rolls-Royce).

It feels almost improper to treat a Ghost like this. Earlier, in Dubai’s heavy but fast-moving traffic, it had been smooth, supple and stately. Undeniably big and reassuringly powerful, it nevertheless felt tamed – a surprisingly easy car to drive, even as night fell on unfamiliar roads.

Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost in Dubai

(Image credit: Holden Frith)

With one’s chauffeur at the wheel, the capacious rear seats would turn into an opulent cocoon. The car’s chassis and suspension, though stiffened for the Black Badge variant, provide no less cosseting, and the interior is similarly sumptuous. Chrome, carbon and steel contrast with the finely finished leather, available in a range of retina-searing shades.

Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost

(Image credit: Rolls-Royce Motor Cars)

Now, barrelling down the runway, I resist the urge to lift my foot off the accelerator as two neon bars loom out of the darkness, indicating when I should start braking. According to the spec sheet, we would have reached 60mph in 4.5 seconds – although by that point it was all a bit of a blur. A very smooth blur. Even at full throttle in low mode, the power arrives as a surge rather than a sudden blow, and the cabin is quiet enough that a Rolls-Royce owner might question her driver’s exuberance in little more than a whisper.

Slowing down is similarly effortless. The braking system may be sharper in the Black Badge car – and the desert airport taxiway was certainly flecked with loose stone chips – but the Ghost spooled down to an unflustered halt. It was only when I stepped out into the night air and caught the scent of hot brake pads that I realised how hard this impressive machine had been working.

Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost, from about £300,000

Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost

(Image credit: Holden Frith)

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Holden Frith is The Week’s digital director. He also makes regular appearances on “The Week Unwrapped”, speaking about subjects as diverse as vaccine development and bionic bomb-sniffing locusts. He joined The Week in 2013, spending five years editing the magazine’s website. Before that, he was deputy digital editor at The Sunday Times. He has also been’s technology editor and the launch editor of Wired magazine’s UK website. Holden has worked in journalism for nearly two decades, having started his professional career while completing an English literature degree at Cambridge University. He followed that with a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago. A keen photographer, he also writes travel features whenever he gets the chance.