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Ghost Town

A journey to Budapest takes in the new Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost.

The new Black Badge Ghost (c) Lisa Young

A final, sharp left turn took us onto a narrow, cobbled street, surreally flanked by giant Doberman guard-dog installations.

We were in Budapest’s District 21, Csepel Island, the biggest island on the Danube in Hungary, and the former site of Manfréd Weiss Steel and Metal Works. For 100 years it was one of the largest steel plants in Europe. At its peak, around 40,000 people worked there producing aircraft, trucks, automotive engines and cars.

Today, the area houses an escape-room business, rowing centre, and art studios, including the workspace of Gábor Miklós Szőke, arguably the most renowned Hungarian artist who creates supersized installations, sculptures, and urban projects. The huge Doberman installations we passed on arrival are aptly named Dante’s Guardians and inspired by Szőke’s own Doberman dog, Dante.

Inside Szőke’s vast studio was another of his installations: a massive prowling tiger. Adjacent (not by Szőke) was a sophisticated, timeless, four-wheeled work of art... the new Black Badge Ghost, created by the skilled craftspeople at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

The new Black Badge Ghost (c) Lisa Young

We were introduced to the Ghost by Frank Tiemann, head of communications for Rolls-Royce Eastern Europe, who said: “You may have gathered that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars had a very successful 2021, as well as significant first-quarter figures for 2022. Rest assured; we are not chasing volume: our business is all about individualisation and personalisation and Black Badge is a superb example. Rolls-Royce is a customer-driven company built on our historic strength and ability to react and respond to our customer requests. The proof is here in front of us, in the form of the spectacular Black Badge Ghost.”

To celebrate, we were served glittering, multi-coloured, alcohol-free cocktails; non-alcoholic because we were about to get behind the wheel of the Ghost and, for the first time on mainland Europe, unleash its power at the Hungaroring F1 racetrack on the outskirts of Budapest.

Approximately 10 years ago, Rolls-Royce realised that some of its customers did not want to be connected to traditional codes of luxury. These were people who challenged boundaries, perceptions, and conventions, and who wanted something different.

The new Black Badge Ghost (c) Lisa Young

In 2016, Rolls-Royce engineers and designers started creating the Black Badge series. First came the Black Badge Wraith, followed by Dawn, Cullinan, and the latest, Ghost. “Some ask what’s the difference between the previous generation Ghost and the new Ghost? It is easier to say what is the same; umbrellas, a little bit of badging, the Spirit of Ecstasy... that’s about it. Everything else is new,” Tiemann said.

“There’s a brand-new aluminium architectural chassis, new engine, and body panels. We have new technology, all-wheel drive, and rear steer as well. All the technology was demanded by our customers. We spent a lot of time talking to them, asking what they would like in their next Ghost. We are a customer-focused company and we make sure we create something our customers really want; and that it is a success from the second the car hits the road.”

The detail around the front of the car is beautiful. To enhance the ‘noir’ effect, the darkened accents on the front of the Pantheon grill give the car a darker presence, yet maintaining the beautiful, polished chrome grill illuminated from within; there is a nice balance between presence in the daytime and presence at night.

The new Black Badge Ghost (c) Lisa Young

The car’s highlights include a 6.75-litre V12 engine that delivers increased power (600PS) and torque (900NM) and its chassis has been redesigned for more urgent performance. Technical carbon veneer and Turchese leather has been used on the curated collection. The bespoke 21-inch wheels are completely unique to Black Badge; they have a beautiful carbon surround with an alloy centre.

Perhaps one of the hardest choices to make when purchasing a Ghost is deciding which of the 44,000 ready-to-wear colours to select. To complicate matters, one may create one’s own bespoke hue. However, research shows most Ghost clients select the signature black.

I didn’t feel the uneven surface of the cobbled back streets as I drove away from Szőke’s studio; the cars suspension ironed out any rough surfaces, creating a perfectly smooth ride. Budapest’s roads were jammed. Outside, the streets were loud; inside the Ghost it was silent. Friendly locals leaned out of their car windows to admire the car. Dodging trams and rush-hour traffic, we finally reached Hungaroring.

We drove through the pit garage and onto the circuit where we unleashed some of the 600PS in the agile, precise, and self-assured Ghost. We couldn’t resist accelerating into a full-throttle run and, although these intricately crafted cars prioritise luxury over speed, we reached 60mph in an exhilarating 4.5 seconds.

Henry Royce and Charles Rolls produced their first two-cylinder, 10 horsepower Royce 10 in 1904 for a then-substantial £395. If their ghosts were watching us, they would have been proud of this Ghost.