Phantom. Silver Seraph. Ghost. Wraith. Starting with their names, there is a dark mystique that shrouds the Rolls-Royce motorcars, just as the impenetrable lives of their super-rich owners. If power and luxury had a colour, what else could it then be, but black? And if Drivemeonline were to celebrate the 500th story milestone with 500 hp drives, what could set it rolling more distinctively than the new Black Badge series of the Rolls-Royce?
Wear a black badge as a sign of ecstasy
It is a wicked coincidence that makes up for years of longing and unfortunate misses, when the first ever Rolls-Royce one drives happens to be the most powerful and the most bespoke. As I close those suicide doors after me, and push down the slim modern-day stalk to D, the Wraith Black Badge seems to snarl a cryptic whisper as 12 cylinders roar to life. Power is luxury.
The few horses that the Wraith has more than the Ghost shows in the agility but as we switch cars, the Ghost is quick to prove that it is tuned to be highly responsive. The pleasure delivered by both the cars are strikingly similar, just as they look. (The style of the doors and the rear incline of the fastback are the betrayers.)
The heavy carriage transforms into a speed machine in the most deliberate manner of a knighted noble, tilting generously to maintain its line while attempting to contain its body lean on the largely accommodating springs. The braking isn’t unnerving as hardly a hint of the reverse motive force is felt as I descend from 170 kmph to 70. Likewise, the brute force of six hundred horses hardly moved me, as I zigzagged up one hard corner and another, before heading along the long straight.
There is a reason someone will gladly pay the nearly 200,000 dirhams extra for the Black Badge edition. This car is as Rolls-Royce as a Rolls-Royce ever could be. The devil lives in the dark details, such as the 22-layered carbon inserts and the viciously luscious scarlet or azure leather.
As bespoke as it gets
The Parthenon Grille, the Double R logo and the Spirit of Ecstasy are the very embodiment of the Rolls-Royce brand. Yet, they have lent themselves to bespoke virtues and signature flair historically, from as early as 1933. 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 choice of high-profile customers including the then Prince of Wales. The iconic Spirit of Ecstasy figurine has been large and standing, kneeling and inclined forward to indicate higher performance; she has been made of gold, silver, crystal and stainless steel, and has been bejewelled, lit and uplit.
Now, the Spirit of Ecstasy and the iconic Double R signal the transformation Ghost Black Badge and Wraith Black Badge have undergone. As she mutates into a high-gloss black vamp, the Double R badge on the prow, flanks and aft invert to become silver on black, whilst chrome surfaces such as the front grille surround, boot lid finisher, lower air inlet finisher and exhaust pipes, turn dark. These are just a beginning. The 22 layers of carbon laid in three axes on the wheels are a continuation. Inside as well, the centrepiece is the aerospace-grade aluminium-threaded carbon fibre composite surfacing –material often seen on the surfaces of stealth aircraft.
Yet, what is arguably the most painstakingly crafted and befittingly named luxury car on earth isn’t without an irony. Besides the deepest, darkest and most intense black ever seen on a production car surface, the Rolls-Royce Black Badge may be specified in any colour for the exterior and interior leather.
The Black Badge of Power. The Ghost and The Wraith.
The 6.6 litre V12 engine of the Ghost Black Badge has been modified to generate 40 hp more power to reach 603 hp. The torque increases by 60 Nm to 840 Nm. Upgrades to the 8-speed automatic transmission and the suspensions give the Ghost Black Badge an added sense of urgency in its power delivery. The rear passengers of Ghost Black Badge will still enjoy exceptional comfort thanks to Rolls-Royce’s renowned ‘Magic Carpet Ride’.
The Wraith Black Badge has been refined in a largely similar format with 70 extra Nm added to the most powerful Rolls-Royce ever, with 623 hp. The urgency induced by the 8-speed automatic transmission is pronounced on the track, every time power is demanded of the Wraith Black Badge and each time, delivered flawlessly. The Intuitive Throttle Response of the Black Badge Wraith holds gears for longer, or shifts quicker, according to throttle opening and revs all the way to 6000 rpm with over 80% open throttle making peak power available more of the time. On the contrary, downshifts happen a tad sooner to facilitate more reliable engine braking.
I grant the final words to the Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce motor cars, Torsten Müller-Ötvös. Unedited.
“Black Badge is an attitude to life, an aspect of the Rolls-Royce brand that appeals to those people who are elusive and defiant, the risk takers and disruptors who break the rules and laugh in the face of convention. They are driven by a restless spirit. They play hard and they change the world. Technically and aesthetically Black Badge is the alter ego of Rolls-Royce, darker, more assertive, more confident and powerful, and more demanding. With Black Badge we have created the most commanding presence on the super-luxury landscape. It is a truly transformative moment for our great brand.”