Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge: Less stately, more edgy
No matter how well-prepared you go to test-drive a Rolls-Royce (RR), there’ll always be something to throw you out of gear. The first encounter with this particular Wraith Black Badge is most likely to be one of disbelief. An RR in dual tone and of all the combinations white-and-turquoise blue? Far from ‘stately’ - the operative word in describing everything RR.
It begins to fall into place once you realise that the Black Badge (BB) is a permanent bespoke series that rolled out of Goodwood prompted by customer demand for a RR like no other. It used motor racer Sir Malcolm Campbell, business magnate Howard Hughes, musician Keith Moon, designer Yves Saint Laurent, boxer Muhammad Ali and motoring pioneer Charles Rolls for inspiration to make something ‘fundamentally different’ to appeal to young men in a hurry. The average age to RR owners, apparently, has dropped from 55 to 43. Now, they’re wooing a still younger set from the late 20s to the early 40s. This car is an engineering makeover of the Wraith that would not only appeal to ‘ambitious, hedonistic egotists’ but also project their sensibilities. You can order a BB in any colour and that explains this un-stately colour combination.
Once you’ve got over the shock of its colour and settled in, you’ll agree sooner rather than later with RR’s claim that the BB series is an alter-ego of the Wraith and the Ghost. When you’ve processed all this information, you’ll realise there’s no shame in being overawed by the Wraith BB.
As you drive out of the roundabout outside Al Jenaibi into the pre-iftar traffic in the fourth lane of Sultan Qaboos Street in Qurm, the Wraith BB’s abilities become abundantly clear. On most other occasions, in most other cars, exiting the roundabout to immediately join the fast-flowing traffic on Sultan Qaboos Street requires gunning the engine. But for the Wraith BB, this is a cakewalk, thanks to the Wraith’s twin turbo 6.6ltr V12 mated to an eight-speed transmission. The Wraith BB’s power plant generates the same 632hp but has 52Nm more torque on tap for a total of 870Nm at 1,700 to 4,500 rpm. This is the most powerful and fastest RR ever built.
In the 2016 annual hill climb Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Wraith BB left a bunch of supercars - including a Jaguar F-Type SVR, McLaren 675 LT, McLaren P1 GTR and an Aston Martin Vantage GT8 – behind. For a car of this size (5,285mm long and 1,947mm wide) and weight (2,440kg), it feels remarkably agile. The testing conditions from Wadi Kabir to Yeti and back aren’t a patch on the Goodwood trail, but enough to give a sense of what the car can do as it navigates the bends and inclines without the slightest hint of strain.
The Wraith BB grips the road through wheels developed specially for the BB series over four years. These lightweight alloy wheels have 22 layers of carbon fibre which are further reinforced with aircraft-grade aluminium bonding these to the rims using aerospace strength titanium fasteners. Add to this its speed dependent steering adjustment, it instills confidence in the driver to push the car to its limits.
The while-and-blue colour combination extends to the interiors as well with impeccable finishings to the plush leather upholstery. Noise insulation is total with only the air-conditioning heard inside the cabin which is packed with creature comforts.
The user-friendly central console and dashboard are set in an aerospace-grade aluminium-threaded carbon fibre composite surface woven with aluminium thread and bonded with carbon fibre. As if that isn’t enough, six coats of lacquer are then applied to it and pickled for 72 hours followed by hand polishing to achieve a rich, mirror finish.
Driver assistance systems include Head-Up Display (HUD) with not just the driving speed but also speed limit of the stretch of road the car is being driven on and an option to raise the suspension. Overwhelmed by all the features available, we simply forgot to test this option – which will haunt us for some time to come - but the car drives like a dream in any case.
For a car the launch of which was considered a transformative moment for the RR brand itself, it never ceases to surprise. It helps to never forget RR’s claim that the Wraith BB is the ultimate in pure luxury and engineering.