Being handed the keys to a Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge is one thing, however, receiving them at their custom-designed headquarters in Goodwood England is another thing altogether.
Having been chauffeur driven to the establishment, had coffee in the Charles Rolls study, received a personal unveiling of the new Phantom and been given a tour of virtually the entire facility itself, I could be excused for taking the odd moment to pinch myself – but wait, there was even more to come.
I’m not bragging, (well maybe a little) but I have been behind the wheel of the impressive Rolls-Royce Wraith before. It’s a two-door, four-seat, gentlemanly brute that offers both exquisite luxury and yet it’s a vehicle that you want to be behind the wheel of. However, then there’s the Black Badge version, and that was I was to be handed the keys to next.
The Black Badge series is a chance for the prestigious automotive brand to do things a little differently, approach a new breed of customers and in turn, add another dimension to Rolls-Royce. Having only seen one in magazines or on-line seeing one up close and in the flesh was an event all by itself – as if I needed it after the day I’d been having.
The model I would be driving shone brightly in the crisp autumn sun, the seven coats of Ensign red on the bodywork standing in stark contrast to the Black Badge refinements. Matt Butt Rolls-Royce Black Badge Product Manager showed me around.
There has been a lot of work done to both the inside and out but also under the skin, (the engineering), to give the car a different character value, initially when you look at it but also and more importantly, when you drive it.
The Black Badge is the key. On a ‘normal’ Rolls-Royce you have a silver badge with black writing, but with this series, they have flipped the badge around, a black badge with silver embellishments and then there is the dark chrome, Spirit of Ecstasy. This is the first time she’s been seen like this, in a much darker ‘vampish’ form – and I kinda like it.
The dark chroming theme continues on throughout the car but in a balanced way, for example, it’s evident around the grille but the veins remain in chrome and only appears in parts around the bumper. The indicator and window surrounds get a taste of colour too and at the rear, there is dark chrome above the number plates and the tailpipes. Like I said, it’s evident but not overdone.
Then there are the unique (to the Black Badge series) 21”composite Alloy wheels. A very bespoke 2 piece wheel production that has 44 layers of carbon fibre that make up the rim which is then bonded (using titanium fasteners) to a forged aluminium spider in the centre.
Open the carriage doors and step inside. The first thing you see is the Black Badge Technical fibre that flows across the dashboard. A heavily engineered decorative trim. It’s carbon fibre but with a very fine aluminium weave through it (.14 off a mm thick). Very detailed and very technical. The rest of the deep black leather interior has hints of Mugello red in area’s such as seat piping and Rolls-Royce monogrammed headrests. Topstitched instrument panels and starlight roofing all add to the car’s exclusivity.
There are also infinity symbols that subtly make their appearance throughout the vehicle. This harks back to the K3 and K4 water speed cross, the boats used Rolls-Royce engines when Malcolm Campbell made his water speed record and those boats had a Lloyds of London unlimited rating on the side donated by these symbols – so they are there to speak of the unlimited possibilities that surround the Black Badge Series – I love these heritage nods.
Under the extensive bonnet is a Rolls-Royce V12 Engine. The power is the same as the regular Wraith (465kW) but the Torque has been increased to 870Nm, giving 0-100kph in 4.5s and a governed top speed of 250kph. It has an 8-speed box that is GPS attuned and changes gears so smoothly it’s virtually unnoticeable. More weight has been added to the steering, the brakes are firmer and have discs that are 1” bigger in diameter. Faster reacting anti-roll stabiliser, so the car will stay flatter under braking and more dynamic cornering. Increased dampening forces for higher speed stability.
The ‘low button’ on the steering column gear lever is well worth highlighting (and something I would have probably overlooked). When you are above 80% of the throttle it will give you access to the full extent to the rev range and switches on the extra aural character from the exhaust – hard to hear with the windows up though.
Leaving the headquarters estate in my rearview mirror, I headed straight for Goodwood racetrack, keen to put a big tick on my bucket list must-sees, one day I’ll take a drive around but to simply watch the ‘open day’ racers do their thing was quite the buzz. After a thick and tasty bacon sandwich from the cafe, I headed back on to the main south coast road and headed towards Havant, a place that I went to college. Pardon the pun, but driving around my old haunting ground in a Wraith was quite a surreal, out of body experience. I know that the Roller wasn’t mine but it didn’t stop me feeling like I had ‘arrived’ and made something of myself (for a while at least). Shame I didn’t recognise anyone – or vice versa.
With the journey down memory lane over and the precise analogue clock well and truly ticking, I took headed north on a suggested drive loop that took in some glorious (and rather tight) English countryside roads. Tall hedge and tree-lined winding avenues seemed to gel perfectly with the Wraith and the strobe effect of the sun breaking through the greenery I turned the tunes up loudly.
Lord March’s manor was on the route (and although the signs stated ‘Closed’) it seemed a little churlish not to drop on by – I was in a rather rebellious Rolls-Royce after all. The backdrop of the mansion and its grounds were very much in keeping with the car, but the thick black rubber drift mark stains on the driveway seemed to sum up the attitude.
Arriving back at the HQ (safe and sound) late afternoon, there was a chance for a few last pictures before I reluctantly handed the keys back in. But don’t cry for me just yet, I did have a two-hour chauffeur driven ride home in a Phantom to go.
The entire day’s experience was exceptional but topping it off with the Wraith Black Badge was gobsmacking. The Black Badge Series is taking the brand’s bespokeness in a whole different direction. It’s less traditional, more adventurous, it’s dark, and it’s much Bolder – but I will say this, at its core, it’s ALL Rolls-Royce.