The Rolls-Royce name is typically associated with stately vehicles at the peak of the automotive range — refined, ultra-luxurious and exclusive. Arriving in a Rolls means having a chauffeur open the rear-hinged door so the occupant in the opulent rear seat may step onto a red carpet. Although these images of grandeur are what most folks conjure when they think of the legendary British marque, there is a dark side to Rolls Royce called Black Badge. Armed with high expectations, we had the good fortune to spend a short time behind the wheel of a Wraith Black Badge grand touring coupe and came away even more impressed than anticipated.
Contrary to expectations, Black Badge Rolls-Royce models are not always black — in fact, the car we tested was swathed in a polar opposite Arctic White. The 2019 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge we drove had practically every bauble one might think of to add to a Rolls, although there were still a few options. Extras on our tester included the Starlight Headliner (more later), lambswool floormats, a bespoke audio system, a custom two-tone steering wheel, black exterior trim and a Driver Assistance package for a total MSRP of — wait for it — $427,875. At this point we would normally list competing vehicles, but quite frankly the Wraith sits in a class of its own.
So what is Black Badge? According to Torsten Muller-Otvos, the Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, “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.” Well said, Torsten.
The Wraith makes a perfect Black Badge vehicle — as a 2-door GT, it is the most likely of any Rolls-Royce model to be enjoyed from behind the wheel, rather than being chauffeured around in the rear seat. (Although, ultimately, any seat inside this elegant automobile is simply a great place to be.)
Right from the start, the Wraith sets itself apart from any other GT car on the road when opening the large rear-hinged coach doors. Once everyone is inside — ensconced in fine leather seats — the doors are closed with the push of a button. Similar to other Rolls-Royce models, and in a nod to its British roots, the Wraith has an umbrella conveniently hidden in the door frame.
The test Wraith features an elegant interior with contrasting Mugello Red and Black leather with white stitching throughout. Seats wear an RR monogram, and at our feet lay lambswool floormats. The rear bucket seats are comfortable and well appointed — and surprisingly easy to access — although getting out of seats such as these takes some convincing. Just one more minute . . .
One favorite features of the Wraith is its Starlight Headliner. With 1,400 to 1,600 holes in the leather headliner, the ceiling gets lit with fiber optic threads that are hand trimmed at different angles to provide a twinkling effect, mimicking the night sky. This unique treatment takes 9 hours to create; however, a customer may request a specific constellation, which can increase the production time to a full week.
While the Wraith is not as large or imposing as the flagship Rolls-Royce Phantom, it is still catches the eye as something special with its bold presence. Up front remains a classic Rolls-Royce grille with the legendary Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament — in dark chrome as part of the Black Badge packaging, of course.
With a long hood, steeply-raked windshield and a sleek roofline that slopes rearward in a fastback design, the Wraith offers a sporting profile that belies the Rolls brand. Large 21-inch Carbon Alloy Composite wheels add to this sporty, racy nature.
The Rolls-Royce Wraith is no small vehicle — weighing in at more than 5,000 pounds — but it doesn’t feel heavy on the road. Likely part of the reason for this is a massive 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 under the hood that generates 624 horsepower and 642 lb-ft of torque at a mere 1500 rpm. With such high torque available so quickly, acceleration is impressive — 60 mph arrives in around 4.3 seconds.
As mentioned, we had the opportunity to spend some time putting this big Rolls through its paces in the Pacific Northwest as part of a press drive event called Run to the Sun, hosted by the Northwest Auto Press Association. With full power on tap in the Wraith, we found it easy to pass slower cars on the two-lane backroads of northwestern Oregon, but the biggest surprise was how well the Wraith handled.
As we headed downgrade towards the Deschutes River, the roads became twisty and this big car suddenly didn’t feel so big. There was no understeer as we dove into sharp corners, and we experienced excellent grip accelerating back onto straightaways. We fully anticipated the steering to feel overly light and disconnected from the road, but the actual experience dispelled those expectations with excellent precision and feedback.
Quiet and Smooth
Even as we bounded down winding roads toward the Deschutes, cruising in the Wraith was simply serene. The car reacts quietly and smoothly with effortless power available at almost any speed. The Wraith still embodies what a Rolls-Royce is all about — the ultimate in luxury and comfort.
The most sporting of the Rolls-Royce models, the Wraith Black Badge boasts all of the luxury and refinement expected of this legendary marque, while providing the sporty handling expected of a proper grand touring car. However, with a price that is about double the average cost of a house in America, the Wraith is clearly not for everyone. But if you have the means, the Wraith certainly lives up to the reputation that Rolls-Royce has earned in its 100-plus years building fine automobiles.