AUTOMOTIVE | 7 MINUTE READ
THE WRAITH BLACK BADGE
A dark and edgy new look for Rolls-Royce. Motoring writer Mark Slack looks at a new kind of Rolls-Royce that challenges our traditional view of one of Britain’s most famous marques. Ask anyone what they expect a Rolls-Royce to be and the words English, wood, leather, chrome and flying lady will almost inevitably be included in their answer. There has always been a stateliness about a Rolls-Royce, underlined by images of aristocratic owners, in front of equally aristocratic homes that have so often been portrayed in the pages of the upmarket publications that grace the polished drawing room tables of the rich and powerful.
Well, times change and a Rolls-Royce can now be the antithesis to that rather regal image we have seen for so many years. Since the marque was taken in by BMW, and the first Rolls Royce Phantom glided from the company’s new headquarters on the Goodwood Estate near Chichester, the marque has very successfully adapting to new markets and changes within the ranks of their traditional customers.
A product of that ability to adapt to a new and younger Rolls-Royce customer is the Black Badge line that began with the Wraith last year, and has now encompassed the Ghost and Dawn models. Making a Rolls-Royce that appeals to a new and younger set of customers was a delicate task for a company like Rolls-Royce. They have an immensely loyal and devoted band of more traditonal owners and a fine balancing act was required to introduce the Black Badge range while retaining those existing customers as potential purchasers. Rolls-Royce owners typically tend to own more than one example of the marque.
So, what is black Badge? Wealth is no longer the preserve of the mature and Rolls-Royce has created Black Badge directly from the comments of its younger clientele who eschew the more formal tradition for which the marque is known. In the case of the Wraith, and other Black Badge models, it is a more edgy Rolls-Royce. One that offers an even greater depth of performance in both the literal and audible sense. One that offers the traditional luxury and bespoke craftsmanship for which Rolls-Royce is renowned. One that provides an impressively sporting drive and a glorious sound track like no Rolls-Royce you have ever heard.
With the exception of the window surrounds and door handles the car has lost its chrome which as been replaced by black apparel, with even the Spirit of Ecstacy foregoing her usual brightness for a darkened cloak. The interior of the Black Badge is where the allure of Rolls-Royce bespoke can take full hold with a myriad of colours and styles available to personal taste. What happens if you don’t see something to suit your particular palette? There is little surprise that Rolls-Royce will produce it for you, just you and only you.
When they say bespoke they really do mean bespoke. And they started a long time ago when in 1933, in a move that signalled the truly Bespoke nature of the company from an early stage, Sir Henry Royce himself changed the Double R badge from the traditional Red-on-Silver to Black-on-Silver to ensure it would not clash with the paintwork colour choice of high-profile customers including the then Prince of Wales.
The V12, 6.6 litre power unit that is comfortably packaged under the bonnet of the Wraith Black Badge develops 624bhp and the refinement with with it performs is like automotive chocolate; silky, smooth and very addictive. Its 642lb-ft of torque is felt to great effect should you choose to engage your right foot deeply into the rather sumptuous pile of the footwell carpeting. Under acceleration the roar from the engine is nothing short of sublime and occupants are decidedly surprised when they are pressed back into their seats, such is the accelerative force once your right foot engages the pedal with any kind of enthusiasm.
it is this Jekyll and Hyde character that underpins the essence of the Black Badge in both its driving character and visual style. Rolls-Royce engineers have made changes to the suspension and steering with the result that the Wraith Black Badge is perfectly controlled and never feels wayward despite its considerable size. While it is not a super car it can be pointed with accuracy along a twisting B-road with the aplomb of a car a thrice of its size and weight At the Goodwood Festival of Speed a wraith Black Badge was the fifth fasted timed road car on the circuit and left a not inconsiderable number of quite impressive sports models in its wake.
From its rather dark and menacing front, over the gracefully sweeping curve of the roof, to that discreet tail, the Back Badge is bristling with near and detail touches. From wheel enters that maintain the RR emblem upright whenever you stop, to a star studded interior roof, it truly challenges the traditional vision of a Rolls-Royce motor car.
The marque’s transformation from being an almost exclusively patrician motor car to one that is desired by wealthy influencers of all ages the world over is complete. Progress never stops though and, in the true spirit of Sir Henry Royce’s famed comment, Rolls-Royce will continue to take the best that exists and make it better.