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Driven: Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge – The $400K Squeaky Luxury Sedan

In the mid-2000s, Rolls-Royce decided to expand the lineup by launching an entry-level sedan. Well, it may be entry-level for the brand based in Goodwood, but to the rest of us, the Ghost was and still is eye-watering expensive.
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The first generation entered production towards the end of 2009, with some nuts and bolts shared with its Dawn and Wraith brethren, as well as the F01 BMW 7 Series. Its successor arrived in 2020, with evolutionary styling, new technology gear, and better everything. It also has a new platform, which doesn’t have anything to do with BMW anymore, as it is a modified version of the one used on the bigger Phantom and on the Cullinan, Rolls-Royce’s first-ever SUV.Engine and Transmission
At first glance, you cannot go wrong with the new Ghost, assuming that you can afford to pay several hundred thousand dollars for one. It has head-turning looks inside and out, an imposing grille, rear suicide doors, and is bathed in the finest materials used in the automotive industry. Under that long hood that ends with the famous Spirit of Ecstasy emblem right above the grille lies a V12 engine. That’s right, a V12 in a car that is only a bit bigger than the latest BMW 7 Series.

Assisted by two turbochargers, it boasts 6.75 liters in displacement and is hooked up to a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission. Everything is transferred to the standard all-wheel drive, and by everything, I mean the 571 ps (563 hp / 420 kW) and 850 Nm (627 lb-ft) of torque in the ‘normal’ Ghost. The Black Badge model, on the other hand, which features blacked out grille, emblems, and interior brightwork, as well as carbon fiber wheels that measure 21 inches in diameter, and several other goodies, is a bit more powerful. Here, the V12 develops 600 ps (592 hp / 441 kW) and 900 Nm (664 lb-ft). The extra oomph has shaved one tenth of a second from the 0-100 kph (0-62 mph), which now takes 4.7 seconds. Top speed is still limited at 250 kph (155 mph).

I’ve always been a big fan of sedans in all sizes. I’m a sucker for old Bimmers, Audis, and Mercs, and not so much of a fan of their new designs, and big tablets – ahem – infotainment systems and digital gauges inside the latest ones. Even in today’s crossover-infested market, I’d still rather have a sedan than pretty much anything else when it comes to the daily driving part. Thus, the new Rolls-Royce Ghost has inevitably become my favorite in the sedan world. And I’ll explain why – on paper.

First of all, it is related to the bigger Phantom, yet that one is basically a luxury limo meant to be used with a chauffeur. It’s simply too big to maneuver around some of Europe’s tiny roads, and squeezing it into a tight parking spot is a headache. In theory at least, since Bentley retired the Mulsanne, the Phantom has no direct rival – unless you consider a rebadged Mercedes-Benz S-Class, with a long wheelbase, as a challenger for whatever reason. Second, since the Phantom is the best of the best when it comes to luxury sedans, as far as I am concerned anyway. And I don’t want to be chauffeured around when that rich uncle that I am not aware of dies and leaves me a big pile of cash, so the Ghost seems like the next solid choice - and the only one.The Driving Part
As I already told you, on paper, the Rolls-Royce Ghost is the perfect sedan. And with this thought on my mind, I just jumped behind the wheel of one earlier this week, in the Black Badge configuration, a car worth around €420,000 (~$405,000) – unofficially - as the person who handed me the keys said. There it was, all shiny and with a tank full of gas, ready to be driven. My dream sedan.

After a quick visual inspection, during which the Gunmetal and Black dual-tone finish called my name, and the Turquoise pinstripe asked me to touch it, I opened that big door on the driver’s side, jumped in, adjusted the seat and steering wheel like you would on most premium cars, buckled up, pressed the brake pedal, and pushed the start button, which is located on the left side of the steering wheel. The V12 came to life, but make no mistake, this is a Rolls-Royce, so you don’t get to hear it as much as you’d want to. I put it in drive, and away I was, looking at that long hood through the expensive windscreen.

The first thing that hit me was the driver’s seat: it wasn’t as comfortable as I expected it. Then I remembered I was sitting in the Black Badge, a slightly sportier take on the normal Ghost. But it didn’t have enough lateral support. The steering is so light that you could turn the wheel with your pinky. The throttle is light, and the car takes a bit to start catching speed once you push it down. And then the earth-shattering amount of torque hits you right in the head, and the thrust pins you down into your seat. Make no mistake, it’s no Ferrari F8 disguised as a big luxury sedan, and that’s the beauty of it, as the entire burst of acceleration is unexpected.

Tipping the scales at almost 2.5 tons (~5,500 lbs), the Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge is almost as heavy as a Ford F-150, and you can tell, especially when you want to stop it after a short burst of acceleration. You can feel the entire mass moving from the back all the way to the front, and only then it starts slowing down. That can be tricky to get used to, as you will be tempted to step on the gas, and in the back of your mind, you will know that you need a lot of road to stop it. That doesn’t mean that the brakes are bad – not at all. It means that you will always have to be aware of what lies in front of you.Crickets, Crickets Everywhere!
Rolls-Royce is owned by the BMW Group, and BMW knows how to make proper driver’s cars. Therefore, the Ghost’s engine is mounted slightly behind the front axle. This enables it to tackle corners like a fat athlete, and while it can deal with them like a big champ, it won’t encourage you to tackle a twisty road. And it shouldn’t – after all, it’s a Rolls. And with this thought on my mind, I approached the first corner. The HVAC was gently blowing cold air at me, the seat ventilation was on minimum and the music was turned off. And all of a sudden, I could hear plastics, squeaky plastics.

But where on earth would you find plastics in something that’s bathed in leather? Why, beneath all that leather, of course, more precisely, on the door cards. That became very annoying, as this is a $400K car, and one with a little over 13,000 km (8,000+ miles) under its belt. And you shouldn’t hear weird noises. Thinking I sat in a new Mercedes, I started pushing everything in reach, and it was all quiet. Save for that annoying door card on the driver’s side – and the one on the passenger’s side for that matter. At the back, it was all quiet, save for when you wanted to close down the compartment that hides a refrigerator – which sounded cheap.

Anyone who has stepped foot inside the new Ghost will tell you that you’re not cocooned from the outside environment like you would be in its bigger sibling, the Phantom. The soundproofing is good, but it’s definitely not worthy of the Rolls-Royce name. At highway speeds, you can hear the wind trying to make its way around those big side mirrors, and over the roof. Around town, you will be aware of the traffic going by. And to make matters worse, the suspension is not that comfortable. Guess we could blame it on the big 21-inch wheels, which don’t look that big on the car overall, and maybe on the fact that the engineers tried to find the sweet spot between allowing it to tackle corners and making it go over speed bumps without giving you too much of a back massage.BMW DNA
Curious about the infotainment system? Well, let’s just say that if you ever sat in a BMW, it will be a very familiar place. From the menus and submenus, which were changed here, to the rotary dial used to access it. Everything is very intuitive, from closing the front and rear doors by pushing a button, and adjusting the climate control, to reading the dials, playing around with the exterior cameras, engaging cruise control, changing the radio station, and adjusting the volume. And speaking of the latter, let’s just say that the Ghost Black Badge is a disco on wheels. And it has the lights to go with it (starlight headliner). Oh, and if you have to ask about the interior space, don’t, because Shaq could fit in there.

Overall, driving a Rolls-Royce is an experience that few will ever get to accomplish, and maybe if they have that kind of cash lying around, they should aim for the more expensive Phantom instead of the Ghost. Or, why not, check out the Bentley Flying Spur and Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. I’d also recommend driving a nicely-specced normal Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8, as they do cost way less than the Ghost, and, who knows, maybe you might like them more.

That said, what luxury sedan should I get when I finally receive that inheritance (fingers crossed)? Because, other than that fabulous engine and the quick-shifting gearbox, especially in the ‘Low’ mode, the Ghost has just lost its appeal to me.

 
 
 
 
 

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