It was a result as unexpected as the San Francisco 49ers beating the Green Bay Packers. At Lambeau Field. In the snow. The redesigned and reengineered Rolls-Royce Ghost left the likes of the McLaren GT, Aston Martin’s Vantage Roadster and even the Ferrari Roma in its rearview as it went on to share the title of Robb Report’s 2021 Car of the Year (COTY) with the Lamborghini Huracán Evo RWD Spyder. The Ghost was so impressive that it necessitated contest results be spilt into two categories, Sports Car and Luxury Car, for the first time.
The Ghost returned for the 19th edition of COTY, but in the decidedly edgier guise of the 2022 Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost, starting at $395,000. The Black Badge trim option, offered on various models in the line, was the brainchild of Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the luxury marque’s CEO. “When I joined Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, I was confronted by a significantly older profile for our clients,” says Müller-Ötvös. “We needed to change from what I would call a chauffeur brand into a driver’s brand, and we started to introduce very driving-focused cars, be it Wraith, be it Dawn. Then Black Badge made such a difference in terms of age profile.”
The trim package not only blacks out stylistic elements like the Pantheon Grille and Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, but boosts the engine performance and exhaust note. The moodier and more potent treatment now comprises 27 percent of all Rolls-Royce orders in general and has helped lower the average customer age to 43, and a year younger than that for those purchasing a new Ghost.
Rolls-Royce will most likely continue to work its way down the millennial ladder of buyers as it looks to reduce emissions and eliminate the production of internal-combustion engines altogether by 2030. Referencing the automaker’s full lineup, Müller-Ötvös says “the Black Badge Ghost is the perfect fit now to the range of combustion engines. Having said that, we clearly have in mind that all of our electric models in the future will carry a Black Badge [option].
For now, the Black Badge Ghost’s enhanced performance was evident on select sections of the more than 2-mile circuit at the private Concours Club in Opa-locka, Fla., the testing ground for the East Coast segment of COTY. The 591 hp sedan’s 6.75-liter twin-turbo V-12, with 664 ft lbs of torque, has an additional 28 hp and 37 ft lbs of torque compared to the standard version.
Paired with the satellite-assisted eight-speed transmission, the power-train configuration allows the 5,490-pound four-door to barrel from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. It’s not that anyone will notice the 0.3 seconds shaved off from the base model’s time for the same span, but what will impress is Low mode, which releases full torque at just 1,700 rpm; shift responses are also 100 percent faster at 90 percent of full throttle.
The cumulative effect is a comparatively heavy car that “is sneaky quick,” according to COTY judge David Robinson Jr. Whether jumping off the line from a standing start or tracking through apexes on a tight sequence of turns, the Ghost wouldn’t easily give up to sportier entries. In fact, judge Ray Gutowski found it “hard to separate the ‘wow factor’ of the interior versus the incredible performance from what we know is a tank.”
The Ghost’s cabin, insulated by more than 220 pounds of soundproofing material, is certainly otherworldly. Along with posh standards such as lambswool rugs and the celestial headliner—with simulated shooting stars—comprising as many as 1,600 individually set fiber-optic lights, there’s also Black Badge–specific detailing. These include various treatments of the Lemniscate (or infinity symbol), including its illuminated presentation in the passenger-side fascia’s six-layer, 850-light starburst display. It’s easy to understand why judge Don Barry refers to the interior as “unmatched,” and Matteo Atti’s overall impression is that this is a “car made of dreams.”
Not everyone at COTY shared that same vision though. “It’s not my bag,” was the enigmatically straightforward feedback offered by Scott Sullivan, while Justin Baldwin described the model as “almost too much fantasy.” The number of critics, while dwarfed by the general consensus, was enough to exorcise the Ghost from the top spot it held at COTY since last year. But the winged Spirit of Ecstasy didn’t fall far, managing to still land squarely on Robb Report’s podium.