The new Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge is a wickedly cool car. Not that other Rollers aren’t cool — they are, but they also trend toward, well, color. Beautiful, rich colors like blue, maroon, grey, with abundant silver-chrome detailing; colors that provide a challenge for those who possess more somber, edgier personas. You can’t glare menacingly at your adversary in the dark of night from behind the wheel of a candy-colored rolling chandelier. Black Badge fixes that.
It’s the esteemed British marque’s nod toward a younger generation’s affinity for inscrutability. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve; cover it up with a black silk shirt and tattoos. Available for the Wraith coupe and the Ghost sedan, Black Badge infuses both cars with details and tuning to subtly but definitively tweak its aura. Like all the once-chrome detailing, the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament has been blacked out. She now glares into the night like a demon, robes flying wing-like behind her. New aluminum-threaded carbon fiber saturates the interior, and the newly-designed wheels are also constructed of black, multi-layered cross-woven carbon fiber. Other colors are available, but this deep, dark black paint, blacker than space itself, reflects the car’s true essence: a race-ready dark knight.
Oh, and race it will. The Wraith, which I drove in Las Vegas, has the same 624 horsepower as the conventional car’s V12 engine — the most powerful in Rolls-Royce history — but gets a torque bump of 44 lb-ft, up to 620 total. Along with a re-tuned air suspension, a stiffer drive shaft, larger brakes, and a re-mapped transmission that holds gears longer and into higher RPMs, in aggressive driving the car’s performance edge matches its mystique. To prove this, Rolls-Royce unleashed the car onto the brand-new, 1.5-mile racetrack at SPEEDVEGAS, just south of the Strip. At night under the lights — this is the Black Badge, after all.
Engine: 6.6-liter twin turbocharged V12
Transmission: Rear-wheel drive
Horsepower: 624 horsepower
Torque: 620 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 4.3 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph
Curb Weight: 5,380 pounds
Due to a curb weight of about 5,500 pounds, on-track handling remains slightly spongy; under hard braking you do feel the weight. Nevertheless, it corners like a surprising champ, staying flat enough to prevent panicky white-knuckle corrections; the monumental torque made corner exits fun.
It has edge on track, but I felt the need to really stretch the Wraith’s legs. I can only take Vegas in small doses anyway, and the plans to hit the clubs on my second night in town left me somewhat cold — that’s not my scene. Besides, I had a long-simmering urge to see Death Valley, about two hours northwest of town, and no better chariot at my disposal than this inky beast. I left town at 6, the sun still high above the city.
On the highway, the Wraith Black Badge is a rocket cloud — fast, smooth, and whisper-quiet. Its seats are firm thrones of supremely aromatic leather, the wind and road noise are muffled to a purr thanks to thick acoustical glass and copious sound-deadening. An open highway and the car’s power, coupled with the landscape devoid of speed-gauging scenery, coax you to far higher velocities than you might intend.
I arrived at Death Valley minutes before the sun dipped behind the mountains, but wanted to be at the bottom before it went down completely. I went briskly, re-testing the car’s handling on the curvy descent. On the valley floor I climbed out amid a withering, 118-degree blast of solar heat. When full darkness settled in, the Milky Way glowed spectacularly above — the kind of glitter even Vegas can’t match. I lit up the Wraith’s Starlight Headliner, a fiber-optic replica of the night sky that is honestly the coolest automotive option on Earth, and put my camera to work.
Around midnight I cruised back to town. Once in Vegas, I made one more pass down the Strip, admittedly grooving just a bit on the giant ego-stroke driving a spectacular car in public can be, before pulling into the valet stand at the Wynn at about 2 a.m. — barely midday on LV’s timetable.
Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve; cover it up with a black silk shirt and tattoos.
As I unpacked the car, a young woman standing nearby asked me, in a heavy eastern European accent, for a light. I remembered that of course the Wraith has a lighter, so I reached in, pushed it down, then walked around to where she stood in her silky top and short skirt. I opened the suicide door and grabbed the polished silver metal of the plug just as it popped back up.
I held it up and she lit her cigarette, letting it hover for a beat, and I realized she was giving me a look. I smiled, wished her good night, and plugged the lighter back into the car before handing the key to the valet.
It was a non-event — I’m married — but still probably my most baller move ever. I lit her cigarette with a black Rolls-Royce. And took off. Given my uninspiring road trip attire and decidedly sub-Bradley Cooper panache, I don’t honestly think her curiosity would have been quite so piqued were it not for the Black Badge. Even a gleaming white or blue Rolls wouldn’t have done that — there’s so little mystery to those machines. Flashing the Black Badge is an entirely different proposition. But I reveled in an evening of conquest and exploration, punctuated with a hint of mystery, which is precisely what Rolls-Royce had in mind with their sinister new ride.