Review: 2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge
With the Black Badge test vehicle provided to Hagerty last week, Rolls-Royce has managed to do the nearly impossible; it’s made the plain-Jane Ghost that I drove a year and a half ago seem like a cracking value. Don’t believe me? Well, that 2021 Ghost, sans the black badge, had a base price of $332,500 and an as-tested ticket of $361,125. That’s serious money, but this 2022 Black Badge eclipses it by the price of a well-equipped S-Class Benz, with a base of $393,500 and a post-options damage report of $484,950.
As a potential Ghost customer, you’re probably an exceptionally important person whose time is money, so let me end this review for you right now: Just get the regular Ghost, the Black Badge isn’t worth the money.
Thanks for reading. Wait—you’re still here? Okay, we can continue. And perhaps we should continue, because when it comes to Rolls-Royces it’s not always as simple as “save yourself $123K and buy a normal one.” Many potential Black Badge owners already own a standard Ghost. They’re looking to fill a driveway at a second home, or park a car at a cherished private airport, or maybe just have a spare car around for when the au pair needs to make a Whole Foods run. Conventional notions of value and return-on-investment don’t necessarily apply.
As a second Ghost, perhaps a supplemental Ghost, the Black Badge is a nice change of pace. To begin with, it looks different, which is nice, and the black-chrome-look Flying Lady has a certain appeal to her. Younger buyers may feel that the, ahem, BBG represents them better than a Brewster Green example bedecked with stainless steel and polished nickel. And there’s an authentic Youth Gone Wild aspect to the Black Badge, as the most of the “sporting” enhancements amount to nothing more than a chip tune that bumps power to 591 hp from 563 and torque to 664 lb-ft from 627. The suspension, too, gets an electronic adjustment, although there are also a few new parts involved.
The Black Badge’s big party trick is a set of carbon-composite-and-aluminum wheels meant to reduce weight (chuckle) and improve ride. Absent a true back-to-back drive, I can’t say that the ride is any better; it’s certainly very good, but the same is true for the standard car. Few vehicles in history could glide down the road like this aluminum-framed monster can. The transmission programming, a bete noire of the cooking-grade Ghost, does appear improved here.
That being said, the substantial price increase for the Black Badge isn’t reflected in anything actually substantial except those fancy wheels. Our slightly lazy colleagues in the auto media have reported that the BBG package costs $43,850, but that’s based on a misreading of the window sticker. Black Badge costs sixty-some grand to start, and the $43,850 is an additional charge for an extra luxury package that includes the (underwhelming) Bespoke Audio, lambswool floormats, an illuminated grille, and several other interior upgrades. It’s all very nice, particularly the complex patterned trim that extends across the dashboard onto the doors, but again it’s no sort of value.
Another option: the $12,925 Black exterior paint combined with a $1925 Mandarin Orange coachline. At the risk of upsetting a few English applecarts, I have to say that the combination of this unexceptional exterior finish and the gloss-black exterior trim significantly reduces the, ahem, uniquity of the Ghost; from some angles it appears uncomfortably similar to a “murdered-out” Chrysler 300C. While there were sound reasons for shrinking and humbling the Parthenon grille on the Ghost, the combination of those more modest dimensions and a body-color treatment really does cheapen the look of the car. One imagines some highly optimistic teenager buying a hard-worn standard Ghost off a buy-here-pay-here lot in the year 2039 and applying a DipYourCar.com kit; the result would be uncomfortably close to this half-million-dollar vehicle.
While the Ghost has traditionally been the “driver’s Rolls,” it does livery duty in many places around the world. If you’re buying a Ghost to be driven in, as opposed to drive, you’ll want to skip the picnic table package. The tables themselves are lovely, but the machinery to fold then in and out, combined with the depth of the folded table and screens, takes about four inches out of the knee room. These are not four inches that the Ghost can spare, to put it mildly. A Genesis G90 has more back-cabin room with the screens out than does this bespoke luxury car.
Nor are the rear seats all that comfortable or spacious; it takes quite a bit of fiddling to make them palatable to your barely-six-foot-two author. No wonder people are buying the Cullinan, which is so much better as a passenger ride that there’s no sense comparing them in detail. The 2021 Ghost I drove had much better chairs in back, but perusing both Monroney stickers doesn’t explain why. Ask your sales consultant, and listen carefully to the answers.
Much ado has been made in the press about the $1675 optional umbrellas, but if you spend any time on the Row in London you’ll quickly realize that a decent gentleman’s umbrella will cost you north of seven hundred dollars with just a bit of customization, so this is a fair price for two such devices, expertly hidden in the rear door openings until they are needed. This umbrella-pricing issue is actually a decent metaphor for the difficulty of reviewing something like a Rolls-Royce Ghost. Unless you spend your life traveling in Ghost-owning circles, you really have no idea what the buyers want—and if you do have that sort of life, why are you reviewing cars for a living? As with nearly every upscale consumer product, whether it’s an umbrella, a set of home speakers, or a set of shoes, the relationship between price and value at the very peak of such an item is distorted beyond most peoples’ ability to understand.
So take my gripes about the BBG’s pricing with a lick of salt, because I’ve never bought a new car that cost more than $145K, and most autowriters have never bought a new car of any sort whatsoever. My notion of middle-class respectability says that a standard Ghost with a mild soupçon of options is a very nice $370,000 car, and demonstrably ahead of a $215,000 twelve-cylinder Maybach, if only in curb appeal and stateliness of interior appointments. For $484,950, I’d be casting an envious eye at the standard Phantom, which cuts a much larger figure and requires no explanation to anyone about why you have “only” a Ghost.
Regardless, those of you who skip the Phantom will find much to like about the Black Badge, from the lovely “shooting star” headliner to the giggle-inducing way it launches from a start, even in rain or snow. It’s just that you can get all that stuff without buying Black Badge. So unless you really need the DipYourCar look for some reason—an internal rivalry among your fellow Saudi royals? an allergy to bare stainless steel?—that’s what you should do. Buy the regular Ghost. It’s a great value. Tell your poor friends, in both senses of the word.
2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge
Price: $393,500/$484,950 (base/as tested)
Highs: Very nearly as good as a regular Ghost, plus super-fancy wheels. Looks menacing, from certain angles.
Lows: Far more expensive than a regular Ghost. Looks … affordable, from certain angles.
Summary: Remember how Honda used to do those “HPD” variants of Accords, where you had to pay nine grand for a goofy body kit and wheels, but the car wasn’t any better? This is an HPD Accord for people with a Centurion Card.