Rolls-Royce’s Black Badge lineup was influenced by the unlikeliest of muses — late, great, larger-than-life Rolls owners who had a penchant for rabble rousing. People like Keith Moon, the original Who drummer known for tossing TVs out of hotel windows; Yves Saint-Laurent, who shocked the fashion world by creating a tuxedo for women; Mohammed Ali, whose political defiance made him a symbol for the anti-establishment; Howard Hughes, the eccentric billionaire recluse; and of course, Charles Rolls himself, a swashbuckling racer and aviator who became Great Britain’s first aviation casualty when he crashed his Wright Flier. True to its influences, this vehicle doesn’t carry the usual stuffiness you might associate with the 110 year-old brand.
Black Badge cars wear a series of modifications intended to give a discreetly aggressive streak to Rolls-Royce’s otherwise cushy Wraith coupes and Ghost sedans. For the first time in Rolls-Royce history, the wheels use a hybrid of aluminum and 44 layers of carbon fiber, improving both handling and ride quality while lending a more modern look.
Mechanical tweaks also make the Black Badge drive more meanly. Though the hulking 6.6-liter twin turbocharged V12 engine produces the same 604 horsepower, Rolls-Royce engineers squeezed out an extra 45 lb-ft of torque, bringing the grand total to 620 lb-ft. Coupled with changes to the transmission that enable higher revs, quicker shifts, and more eager downshifts, the Black Badge is engineered to accelerate more eagerly and stop more assertively.
With its look-at-me flamboyance and precious metal presence, the $350,000 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge certainly isn’t for everyone. But for the sliver of population seeking to add a touch of attitude to their posh driving experience, the Black Badge is gilded with just the right amount of darkness.