Editors note: It’s the holidays and we’re doing something a little different this week. We’re going to be reviewing a few of the most interesting cars we’ve driven this year within the BMW family that aren’t MINIs. And what better place to start than the top of the food chain.
Much like the current F56 MINI JCW hatch is harkens back to the best of Mini, the the 2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge is the ultimate expression of a modern Rolls Royce. Stylized to appeal to an audience that’s more Off-White than Yves Saint Laurent, the Black Badge is a modern approach to ultra luxury. But what makes it different beyond the black trim? We took a turn behind the wheel (and lounging in the backseat) in Palm Springs to get answers.
If JCW is for MINI owners that love to drive, the Black Badge is a Rolls for owners who like to be in command. Designed with a touch more power, a retuned suspension and even a sportier sounding exhaust, the Ghost Black Badge has just enough driver engagement to make things interesting. But let’s not confuse interesting with involving. This isn’t a car for those looking to feel the tarmac under the tires or understand where adhesion limits are. This is the Rolls you grab from the garage when you don’t mind hearing an exhaust note.
In a word the Black Badge is about the experience. From the moment you enter the cabin to the moment you hit start, you’re met with tactile delight. Inside the material quality is as high as I’ve ever seen in a car. Everything that is shiny is either metal or crystal. Everything that appears to be leather is hands-down the best quality hide I’ve ever felt in a car. And every physical control as the perfect weight and reaction. In a world of plastic is design to look like metal and foam masquerades as leather, The Ghost Black Badge drips with authentic materials.
However, from a technology perspective the Rolls Royce Ghost (in Black Badge form or not) is woefully behind the times. It’s all last generation stuff that has been probably out of production in BMWs for for several years now. Not that it’s bad mind you. In someways, I almost prefer the tactile buttons and the simpler version of iDrive offered here. But if you’re looking for the latest ADAS system or massive screens you’re in the wrong car.
As an owner you spec everything. Want a special commissioned black umbrellas in the rear door? It’s as easy as writing a $1,675 check. Purple extended piping? No worries as long as $2,225 isn’t a problem. And what about that Burnout Grey color you’ve been lusting after? It’s as easy as coughing up an extra $15,900.
All well and good but what’s it like to drive you ask? The Black Badge denotes performance purely in Rolls-Royce terms. This is a car that is about experience, delivering you to your destination in the upmost luxury, comfort and safety. It’s not so much a car as it is an experience.
Buying a $492,000 Rolls-Royce Ghost is also a very different process than walking into a BMW dealer to look at an X5. You craft this car in collaboration with Rolls Royce to your exacting specification. And you likely know the process well because, according to Rolls Royce’s own customer data, it’s likely your third or fourth Rolls Royce. It’s also at least your 10th car across all of your various houses. In those terms this is just another link in the chain of luxurious experiences an owner has in their lives.
One thing that makes this latest generation of Ghost quite a bit different from the previous is that it uses a platform bespoke to Rolls Royce and not a BMW 7 Series cast-off. This has allowed Rolls Royce engineers and designers to craft an experience that feels more isolated and incredibly comfortable. Of course the irony is that we drove the brand new electric BMW i7 back to back with this Ghost and found the i7 to be even more comfortable and quiet. But that’s an unfair comparison given the nature of electric propulsion and the fact that there’s a 6.75 twin-turbo V12 under the hood here. Side note, electrification would suit this brand incredibly well.
After a quick drive around Palm Springs we came away not only completely relaxed but also a bit reprogramed. The very question of this car living up to that price tag felt irrelevant. In the terms you and I equate to cars, it of course it can’t possibly be worth $492k. But for its owner, the calculus is entirely different.
Does it deliver on the same level as the experiences its owners surround themselves in? Absolutely. Can it wash away the outside world and create an alternatively reality for its drivers and passengers? Effortlessly. Are we already looking on eBay for ragged used ones? Absolutely.