Rolls-Royce Road Trip: 1000 Miles In A Billionaire’s $500,000 Daily Driver
Living in Los Angeles can really mess with your perception of wealth. Spend any amount of time around Beverly Hills, and you’ll see every Rolls-Royce imaginable parked outside of expensive restaurants and five-star hotels alike. Having only lived in LA for a few months, this phenomenon is still quite striking. However, after watching these six-figure ultra-luxury vehicles exclusively crawling around the city, I couldn’t help but feel they were being misused in a way.
Suppose you distill a Rolls-Royce to its essence. In that case, you get a tremendously comfortable vehicle with world-class suspension and enough noise isolation to make even police sirens sound no louder than a notification on your phone. While these attributes make a Rolls-Royce ideal for navigating urban environments in your personal detached bubble, they should also make it the ideal machine for a road trip.
To put this question to the test, I reached out to the folks at Rolls-Royce with a simple idea: a round trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Considering that the average lease deal for one of these cars gives its drivers less than 3,000 miles to drive per year, I wasn’t very hopeful I’d get a positive response. However, to my surprise, Rolls-Royce agreed and scheduled me into one of its latest creations, the Ghost Black Badge.
Now, this wasn’t my first encounter with the Ghost Black Badge. I attended its launch event in San Diego late last year, where I managed to score a couple of hours behind the wheel. With this road trip idea brewing, that first drive made it clear that the Ghost Black Badge was the right car for the job.
The 2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge serves as the continuation of the brand’s Black Badge line, which began with the Wraith back in 2016. In short, the package gets you a darker aesthetic, a sportier drive, and the clever use of carbon fiber throughout.
It all starts with the chrome. Unlike a standard Ghost, the Black Badge’s chrome trim has been darkened. Instead of painting these shiny bits, the British carmaker tweaked its chrome plating process, delivering this car’s ominous dark finish. The main benefit of this new process is that there’s no paint to chip away through time, a must since this Ghost has black chrome seemingly on every surface.
The most significant changes are found in the engineering department. For starters, the 6.8-liter twin-turbocharged V12 powering this super sedan now develops 591 horsepower and 664 pound-feet, marking a 28 hp and 37 lb-ft increase over the standard Ghost. To make the most out of this added muscle, Rolls-Royce gives its Black Badge models “Low” mode. Essentially, this is the brand’s equivalent of a sport mode, giving you faster shifts by up to 50 percent with the throttle pressed past 90 percent, sharper throttle response, and stiffer suspension calibration.
The result of the Black Badge’s sporty pursuits is a 5,500-lb sedan that can reach 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds before continuing to its electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. To keep this speed in check, the Black Badge carries over the standard Ghost’s enormous brakes while adopting larger air springs that can stiffen enough to help mitigate body roll.
With all its significant options, such as the Black Badge Package for $43,850, Burnout Grey exterior paint for $15,900, and immersive seating for $10,775, my testers $393,500 MSRP quickly shot up to an as-tested price of $492,250.
Setting off from my home in Pasadena, I had three routes to choose from, two of which took me through the middle of nowhere, CA. After about 10 seconds of internal discussion, I picked the US-101 North as my way up, taking in plenty of mountain passes and ocean views along the way, the perfect place to test the Black Badge’s split personality. However, the pretty route comes with considerable penalties. For starters, this way added an extra 54 miles and over an hour of driving, totaling just over seven hours before reaching my hotel in downtown San Francisco.
The way back would be much simpler. Forgoing all prettiness, I chose I-5 South as my way home. While its views would be bland, an empty open highway seemed like the ideal place to let the Ghost Black Badge stretch its legs and embrace its sportier persona.
In total, the chosen route would take roughly 12 hours and 35 minutes with a total distance of 818 miles. However, with countless stops for food, photos, and filming, I managed to rack up a total of 1031.4 miles over three days. While it’s safe to say I was the only person putting that many miles on a Rolls-Royce over those three days, it became clear that most owners are missing out by not doing so.
With Los Angeles’ snow-capped mountains in the rear-view mirror, I began my seven-hour drive north with the Ghost and its enormous trunk filled to the brim with luggage, cameras, tripods, and enough snacks to feed a village. Since Rolls-Royce was kind enough to drop off my tester with a full tank of gas, there was nothing to do except hitting the road.
Immediately once I hit the highway, I was glad I had chosen a Rolls-Royce for this trip. Living in LA, it’s easy to get used to just how bad the roads are. You learn to dodge the biggest potholes while accepting that a bumpy ride is inevitable. Thankfully, the Ghost was not concerned with even significant imperfections. Initially, I was worried the Black Badge’s larger air springs would stiffen up the suspension too much, taking away from the comfortable driving experience. However, I was quickly proven wrong as the Black Badge glides over the road like you’d expect a $500,000 sedan would.
With 10-way adjustable heated and cooled seats upfront, it’s almost impossible not to feel comfortable in the Ghost’s massive front chairs. If that’s not fancy enough, my tester also had the massage feature, which features three intensity levels for a dozen or so configurations. Additionally, there are tons of leather-wrapped surfaces to rest your arms, elbows, and knees as you find your ideal position.
The long open highways didn’t last very long as we crossed into San Luis Obispo and the Black Badge encountered some curvy mountain roads. With “Low” mode engaged, I began to pick up the pace. While my wife and her opened water bottle certainly didn’t appreciate quickened shifts, I did. With its “sport mode” engaged, the Black Badge gains a surprising amount of urgency. Slam your foot down, and the Ghost picks up speed so quickly that the rear-end squats considerably, pointing the Spirit of Ecstasy to the sky. Additionally, while the larger air springs desperately try and keep body roll in check, there’s no stopping the lateral movement of a 5,500-lb sedan without spoiling the ride, so I’m glad Rolls-Royce didn’t. It leans considerably, but it’s not stiff by any means.
After about 20 minutes of hustling the Ghost around, we settled into the extended highway portion of the drive as we crossed what seemed like hundreds of small farms. At this point, I decided to engage the Ghost’s adaptive cruise control feature, set at the closest following distance possible. As traffic began to pick up throughout the day, this system’s tuning began to shine, speeding up with restrained throttle application while lightly tapping the brakes to slow down, preserving the car’s comfortable driving experience.
While Rolls-Royce’s interpretation of BMW’s iDrive system is excellent, I stuck with the available wireless Apple CarPlay option. The 12.3-in screen was a highlight, delivering punchy colors via a very high-definition touchscreen display. While I liked interacting with it via touch, the rotary dial in the center console is better suited for navigating multiple menus.
Speaking of menus, we stopped for lunch in the most California place possible, In-N-Out. As I chowed down on my double-double, I noticed it was about to rain, a perfect time to bust out my tester’s $1,675 set of color-matched umbrellas. Unfortunately, the sky decided to hold back its tears, and we decided to do our first fuel stop instead.
Since the Ghost requires premium fuel, I topped it off with 15.3 gallons at $5.29 each for a total of $81.45. Up until this point, we had been averaging around 15 mpg, thanks in large part to my earlier stint through the mountains. However, ease up on the throttle, and 20 mpg is more than achievable.
As San Francisco sat just an hour away, I noticed numbness in my lower back, likely from sitting so long. While not even some of the most comfortable seats I’ve experienced could save me from wear and tear, the Black Badge had an ace up its sleeve. Within its massage menu, there’s a feature called “Activation Massage,” which, as its name suggests, applies pressure to activate your various body parts. With it set to its most aggressive setting, the Ghost did an excellent job of revitalizing my back. After about 10 minutes of the system being engaged, I felt utterly refreshed for the final charge into the city.
After seven hours on the road, I ran straight into a significant problem. While my hotel had assured me of secured valet parking, I noticed that, like most hotels, they leave their most expensive cars upfront. Since I was responsible for my near $500,000 tester, I decided not to risk leaving it outside overnight. Instead, I called a friend who lived nearby and parked the car in a secure garage. The McLaren MP4-12C and Porsche 911 GT3 Touring flanking the Ghost reassured me of the garage’s safety.
Rising just before the sun, I ran over to the garage and fired up the Ghost to snap some photos of it. Naturally, the Golden Gate Bridge was the top location on my list. A bit basic? Sure, but a classic, nonetheless. While this was the shortest driving day of the three, it was the first time I finally got a good look at the car and its grey, purple, and black aesthetic.
On paper, my tester’s Burnout Grey exterior finish for $15,900 wouldn’t have been my first pick. While it’s an elegant finish, it’s a bit flat, lacking in depth and sparkle, especially for the money. However, for us picky folks, Rolls-Royce offers over 44,000 “stock” color options, although they’ll paint your car in whatever color you can think of.
After snapping a couple of photos, my tune on the color changed dramatically. While the car may look showroom fresh, I purposely didn’t wash it after my first seven hours on the road, leaving my new collection of bugs all over the car’s front end to showcase the drive. To my frustration, the exterior finish does a tremendous job of hiding dirt and road grime, retaining its classy look despite being properly filthy.
One thing that’s hard to display through photos is just how giant the Ghost truly is. At 218.3 in long and 84.6 in wide, this luxury sedan has a larger footprint than a Chevy Tahoe with a sizable turning radius to match, even with all-wheel steering. Despite its size, everything on the Ghost is proportional, from the Pantheon grille up front to the 21-inch wheels, massive windows, and enormous trunk. All its styling elements tie in nicely, resulting in an instantly recognizable shape that looks equal parts classy and expensive.
While those 21-inch wheels may seem par for the course, they’re unique. That’s because Rolls-Royce opted to give the Black Badge carbon fiber barrels. Essentially, they took 22 carbon fiber layers and folded them to create 44 total layers. The lightweight wheels make sense on a supercar as they reduce unsprung mass. However, in a 5,500-lb sedan, they don’t do much for the driving experience. Regardless, they demonstrate attention to detail and great use of composite materials.
My tester’s exterior had just one major flaw, and that was the set of red brake calipers. The color clashed considerably with the flat gray finish and the black and purple interior with no other red elements anywhere on the car. They would’ve completed the car nicely if they featured purple paint to match.
With photos completed, it was time for more fuel. I scored a slightly cheaper gas station this time, taking just $61.12 to fill this big body sedan up from about a half tank left. From there, I went to check out SF’s Millennium Tower, a 58-story skyscraper that’s slowly sinking due to shady construction, before eventually sticking the Ghost back into the garage for the night, this time next to a Model S Plaid and a Mini Cooper JCW GP.
As the sun rose on the third day, my San Francisco trip was coming to an end. While I loved the city, I was more excited for the six-hour drive home. At this point, I was utterly enamored by the car, actively looking for get-rich-quick schemes to be able to buy one. While I had driven it through the mountains, a big city, and the coast, I hadn’t had a chance to open it up and see how it performs at higher speeds. With Apple Maps set to the middle of nowhere, CA, we set off towards Los Angeles.
As soon as we hit I-5 South, it was a ghost town with only a few big trucks hugging the slow lane. I re-engaged “Low” mode and decided to put my foot down. While the Black Badge and its 591 hp V12 have tremendous power, its delivery is smooth, progressive, and seemingly never-ending. Despite this big number on the dash, the car’s excellent sound isolation and suspension mean you don’t feel the speed. My wife didn’t even notice we crossed triple digits when usually she’d holler if I went past 65 mph.
After my wife caught on to my pace, I mellowed out and started poking around the interior. My tester featured a combination of black leather with purple accents throughout, a nice compliment to the flat exterior gray finish. However, the star of the show is Rolls-Royce’s bespoke carbon fiber pattern featured on the dashboard, center console, door panels, and rear tray tables. Instead of adopting a typical carbon fiber weave, the British carmaker utilizes a diamond pattern with metallic fibers. The result is an interior that looks less race-ready and more sparkly and expensive.
Everything you interact with inside this car features leather, carbon fiber, or metal. I couldn’t find a single cheap-feeling surface in this interior. Despite its close ties to BMW, Rolls-Royce does a great job of making even basic switches and buttons feel as expensive as they should.
As the thirsty Ghost began asking for more go-juice, I encountered one of the negative aspects of driving such an expensive car. After stopping in a small gas station in the middle of nowhere, I was approached by several sketchy characters, asking about the car, and consequently, for money. To get out of there quickly, I filled up $72.12 worth of 91 octane fuel and kept it moving. Up until this point, I had never felt unsafe behind the wheel of this $500,000 sedan. But in a split second, it became clear that driving such a recognizable sign of wealth has its drawbacks.
Thankfully, as we rejoined the highway, we had an uneventful final drive to Los Angeles, pulling into my neighborhood just as the sun was setting. Despite yet another long day of driving, I still felt refreshed, as if I could’ve carried on for another six hours.
After three days, here are the stats:
- Total Distance: 1031.4 Miles
- Average Speed: 62.50 MPH
- Fuel Consumption 13.6 MPG
- Fuel Stops: 3
- Total Fuel Cost (est): $215
After more than 1,000 miles behind the wheel of the 2022 Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge, it’s clear that this car excels at walking a fine line between a genuinely sporty sedan and a traditional luxury land yacht. With its ominous aesthetic, sporty drive, and well-appointed tech-filled interior, this Ghost is more Millennial than Boomer.
As a 26-year-old born in an area where the average household income hovers around the poverty line, I’m by no means this car’s target audience. Yet somehow, its appeal is hard to resist. Whether it be the allure of driving an instantly recognizable icon or a true appreciation for this car’s tremendous engineering achievements, the Ghost Black Badge tugs at my heartstrings in the same way an exotic poster car does.
Oddly enough, the stats show that I’m not alone. The average age for Rolls-Royce customers has been plummeting as of late, from the mid-50s to the low 40s. With the addition of the Black Badge and more young millionaires than ever before, I wouldn’t be surprised if that average age dipped into the 30s relatively soon.
Regardless of how old you are or which of Rolls-Royce’s 44,000 “ready to wear” colors you choose, if your pockets are deep enough to afford one of these machines, don’t be afraid to put some serious miles on it. The Black Badge is nearly faultless as a road trip machine, delivering a driving experience only a $500,000 super sedan can.
This article appeared in our May 2022 issue.