Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
JUN 26th 2017
The Goodwood Test: Rolls‑Royce Wraith Black Badge
The modern Wraith, a four-seat fastback coupe and the “baby” of the range, dates back an ancient two years, although the car with which it shares its name dates back to 1938; good examples of this rare pre-War car (less than 500 were built) have been shown at top-flight concours in recent years.
Of more interest, is the Black Badge nomenclature, for here lies much of the future of Rolls-Royce. The Black Badge specification adds a more aggressive styling to the Wraith and Ghost, with a black Spirit of Ecstasy, black paintwork and smoked chrome detailing: a “darker aesthetic”, as Rolls-Royce puts it. It comes with performance upgrades too, not that you’d necessarily need it.
The result is a series that appeals to the younger buyer, and is helping to push the average age of a Rolls-Royce customer globally south of 40; an astonishing feat for the Goodwood-based company. To see the Black Badge series in the glowering flesh, visit their stand at the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard this weekend, or watch this car zoom up the hill from its base in the Michelin Supercar Paddock.
Yes, there are torque and handling upgrades, but really the Wraith Black Badge is all about the design. Externally, this coupe has the most powerful presence of any road car we’ve seen this year. That Spirit of Ecstasy is transformed into a darkened chrome anti-hero, sweeping towards the horizon like an evil portent. The air inlets, boot lid, and twin tailpipes are all finished in the same high-gloss, smoked metal, while the Rolls-Royce badge is black and the paintwork is an even deeper shade of black. The carbon-fibre composite 21in wheel rims take their cue from Sixties Italian supercars and are designed especially for Black Badge.
Inside, the dark, aggressive styling continues. I’ve been in two Black Badge car lately; one had piercing Cobalt Blue (take from Donald Campbell’s Bluebird) and black hides, while our test car this week was a mixture of cream (Seashell), maroon (Consort Red) and black (er, black) leathers. The instrument dial tips are painted orange, and the roof lining is pierced with hundred of tiny LED lights which you can have configured in any constellation you fancy. The veneer, in keeping with the youthful, urban take on the car, is a striking Technical Fibre.
As ever with a Rolls-Royce, performance is nothing short of sublime. The 6.6-litre V12 engine gets 624bhp and even more torque, uprated to a thundering 642lb ft which is really what gives this fastback its unrivalled quality: the nose of this 2.4-tonne coupe lifts when you push the throttle, and the delivery of power is creamy, silent, unceasing and unnerving. Despite upgrades to the air suspension and sharper steering and braking responses, this is still a “magic carpet” ride; the tautened responses are merely to add more sharply defined parameters to the handling and movement; they’re not overtly aggressive or sporting. The result is that the Wraith retains its famous waftability which is simply unparalleled, despite daunting performance figures like 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds and an Urban fuel consumption of 12.7mpg.
When asked to name their dream garages, few journalists these days put a Rolls-Royce in there. Perhaps it seems too obvious, or too much of an old-man’s car, too big, too heavy, too stuffy. Maybe not enough of them have driven a Black Badge series Ghost or Wraith. Or even a “bog-standard” Dawn. For a Dawn or Wraith would easily be first on my list. These models are just divine, and the Black Badge edition creates a tier of exclusivity and difference above the norm. The styling might be too bold or brash for many, but that starlit canopy above your head is something to marvel at at night - a reminder that you’re driving something very special indeed.
I’m not loudly passionate about Rolls-Royces; I’m quietly passionate about them. You might adore a Ferrari, or love a Lamborghini, but a Rolls-Royce? You understand a Rolls-Royce. You get its beauty, its engineering miracle, its rarity, its grace, it timeless appeal, its assurance that the finer things in life just get more sublime as time passes. A Rolls-Royce will always be in my Dream Garage.
Price as tested: £327,174
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