Car reviews - Rolls-Royce - Wraith - Black Badge
Fastest Rolls yet, supple ride, elastic engine, remarkably agile, beautifully upholstered
Room for improvement
Average accommodation space, won’t easily fit park bays, dashboard not user friendly
The Black Badge adds edge to the already edgy Rolls-Royce Wraith, but is it worth the $100k premium?
21 Sep 2018
By NEIL DOWLING
JUST when you think luxury – ok, decadence – has hit an all-time automotive high, someone comes along and puts on another layer of icing.
Rolls-Royce is supposed to be the last word in production luxury cars. It claims to strive for the best and that no other mass-production company gets close, so when it ups the ante, second place begins to look decidedly second rate.
Enter the Wraith Black Badge, a reference to this being a Rolls-Royce model grade that leans towards the darker side of automotive life where things are a little edgier and a little less presumptuous.
To go with the name, there’s a lot of darkened chrome and trim of dusty alloy and shadowy carbon-fibre.
The reason it exists – the grade is also available on the Ghost sedan – is to entice buyers into this more unexpected side of the car-maker. But not just any buyer, as Rolls-Royce is aiming at a more affluent, but much younger audience.
Five years ago it stated that the average age of its new-car buyer was 55 years. It is now around 43 years and tumbling as the car-maker focuses on new tricks, while retaining old values.
The Wraith Black Badge is one way to capture that audience, aiming it right into the youth market that wants class, performance and individuality.
At $812,990, is the Black Badge worth the $100,000 premium to the “standard” Wraith?
Price and Equipment
The first problem here is understanding that by adding the two words Black Badge, you’ll have to cough up an extra $100,000. Isn’t the Wraith already loaded? What else is on the shelves in the Goodwood factory, partially buried under grass on the estate that hosts the annual Goodwood festivals?
Well, there’s more performance tuning, suspension changes, extra features and an individual style that aims the Wraith’s dark angel right at a market not normally inclined towards a Rolls-Royce badge – youth.
Can youth afford the entry fee of $812,990 – thankfully, including on-road costs so that’s a bargain, right? Perhaps. But why should youth have all the fun?
In truth, the Wraith Black Badge is for everyone (who can afford it) who wants a car that is distinctive, a presence that for those in the know will recognise it as being a bit more powerful, a bit more exclusive and one chosen only by people who want the best, but a little bit best-er.
The Wraith is based on the platform of the Ghost sedan and Dawn convertible, uses basically the same BMW Group running gear and yet adopts the two-door coupe styling that creates an intimate express.
But more that that, the Wraith cements itself as a Rolls-Royce that has no place for a chauffeur, falling right into the hands of Australians who are among the most selfish owners in the worlds, almost exclusively choosing to drive the car rather than sit idly in the rear.
So no wonder that the Wraith is also one of the best-selling Rolls-Royces in Australia. In 2017, around eight Wraiths were sold nationally amongst a total of the brand’s 45 sales, a rise of 21.6 per cent on the previous year.
Not one was “standard” as all went through the company’s three exes – extensive, exclusive and expensive – to create bespoke automobiles for their clients. Talking of the price at $812,990 driveaway is superfluous as that is not the final price paid by buyers. Think of an average of $120,000 in options and you could be about right.
Above and beyond the option list – including the twinkling starlight headliner at around $23,000 – are the rolling series of variant delights, turning on a seemingly endless carousel like a candy-store display.
On this carousel are special editions such as Elegance with a paint finish created from lots of (really small) diamonds; Inspired which has a musical flavour; Fuxia that is colour-matched to the flower; and Spirit of Calligraphy that infuses the car design with Arabian influence.
As for equipment, here’s a sample: lambswool floor mats, monograms to the head restraints, a leather list too exhaustive to reprint, 21-inch alloy wheels, “coach” doors that are hinged at the back and close electrically at the press of a button, cabin timber so exclusive that it practically has a family tree (no pun intended) for reference, a German engine, seats for four, a boot that actually takes a weekend’s worth of clothes, a statuette that rises and falls from the top of the grille and a name that even millennials respect.
Few Rolls-Royce models have two doors. None of this century – or its predecessor – are rear-hinged and often called either “coach” (in reference to a horse-driven coach that used the design for ease of entry) or because of many life-ending accidents, “suicide” doors.
They are stylish, distinctive and particularly easy to enter and depart because the body only has to swing through 45 degrees rather than a conventional front-hinged door that requires 90 degrees.
Rolls-Royce also makes life a bit easier with the self-closer, employing a small button near the windscreen frame to power the door closed and eliminating any awkward forward leaning to pull the door handle.
The C-pillar pours back into a boat-tail shape so the rear seat becomes an intimate area for two, complemented by the small rear window and the high waistline. It’s roomy enough, but not a stretch on the limousine qualities of the Ghost.
The rear is cosy but the two front seats are all about business. Typical of the marque and its audience, there is a level of quality and materials rarely seen in even cars of the Wraith’s peerage.
Balancing the contemporary infotainment demands with the brand’s historic decor means the latest electronics are hidden beneath a veneer of walnut, sliced from the same tree and its sister veneer used on the dashboard’s mirror image.
Even adjoining veneer slices from the same tree are kept in storage pending the day this car may need accident repair or restoration. Buyers can be fussy but Rolls-Royce clearly takes the fastidious cake.
Interior design is olde worlde meets the internet, carrying old-fashioned fittings masking all the communication and infotainment necessities of the early 21st century. Take the instruments – they’re white-faced dials with pencil-fine black needles and require little effort to imagine how they relate to a 1920s Rolls-Royce dashboard.
There is no tachometer. Instead, there’s a “power reserve” gauge reading in percentages, swinging its needle from zero (all 465kW on tap) to 100 per cent (nothing left so you’re probably hammering and shouldn’t be preoccupied with this gauge reading).
The ventilation is controlled by organ-stop push-pull levers, in chrome of course, that also replicate earlier Rolls cars and even those used by Bentley, once part of the same family.
Cabin treatment is silk embroidery-look on parts of the dash which is officially called “technical fibre” set behind jewelled buttons, while upholstery is black leather contrasted by white piping. You can, of course, order practically any colour and pattern and material in the world – it only takes money.
There is also knurled metal rollers for some functions, including audio volume, that reflect the level of quality of the marque, as does the starlight roof option that is available for the price of a new Corolla (about $23,000).
But it is all about the occupants. The seats appear stolen from a gentlemen’s club lounge room, wide and deep and soft yet curiously supportive.
The front seats are the best but the rears – basically two set in the darkened cave surrounded by broad C-pillars – offer intimacy. Even accessing the rear chairs is easy thanks to the wide-opening doors and liberal front seat travel.
For those who need a boot for actually carrying something, the Wraith rewards with a generous 470 litres and a flat, carpeted floor.
Engine and transmission
Rolls-Royce once said that the engine power was “adequate”, shying away from printing an actual horsepower figure. Things have improved and there’s no need to wonder anymore.
The BMW V12-engined Wraith has 465kW peaking at 5600rpm while torque – the most important number given it primarily is responsible for hauling the 2360kg palace – is a generous 800Nm delivered flat from 1500 through to 5500rpm. The Black Badge’s torque is up 70Nm on the standard Wraith, although power remains the same.
It’s this mesa of torque that is responsible not only for the seemingly unyielding power delivery, but its instantaneous eruption. Hit the open road and overtake a slower vehicle and the passing time can be frighteningly quick.
This trigger response also applies to the coupe’s acceleration, where it can sprint to 100km/h from rest in just 4.6 seconds. This, from a 2360kg car that, by the time you add fuel and two occupants, is more than 2.5 tonnes of ignited propellant.
The engine is a V12 at 6.6 litres, drawn from the BMW shelves that also supply the 7 Series and the Rolls-Royce Dawn and Ghost. The difference is that the N74 B66 engine used in the Wraith is BMW’s first turbocharged V12 – it actually has two turbochargers – and tuned to 465kW while the same basic unit for its sisters are rated at 420-442kW.
That makes the Wraith the fastest Rolls-Royce production car ever made and hence the eye-watering acceleration times.
The transmission is an eight-speed torque convertor automatic driving the rear wheels (it sits on 21-inch carbon-fibre wheels) with the Wraith listed as averaging 14.0 litres per 100 kilometres.
Like some earlier models from the English brand, the gear shifter is on the right of the steering wheel and is not much more than a short pointer for reverse, neutral, drive and a push to park. There’s no ability to individually select a gear.
Ride and handling
The Wraith rides on the same platform as the “small” Rolls-Royce Ghost and its drop-top Dawn. The BMW F01 is also shared with the BMW 7 Series, but not the wheelbase that is 3112mm for the Wraith and 2795mm for the BMW, extending to 3210mm for the long wheelbase “L” version.
Packaged and full of fuel, the hardest aspect of the Wraith is its ability to move so quickly, so silently and with minimal wind and tyre noise. It is an experience close to being out of body, being aware of the car yet feeling so cocooned from its function that most of the senses are dulled.
You would assume a corner would be the Wraith’s worst enemy, yet the car will hold a corner line as good as a lightweight sports sedan and remain equally as refined and composed.
The bit that may be concerning, at least on the first drive, is the vagueness of the thin-rimmed steering wheel. It is connected perfectly to the wheels and the ratio is quite sharp for such a big machine, but the amount of assistance removes any feeling.
Okay, so it’s not a sportscar. But there could be an ounce more weight to the lightness. It is too good a car to be driven sedately.
Part of the ability of the car to balance its incredibly supple, Citroen DS-like ride is the electronically controlled adaptable air suspension.
It’s a system already shared with the cars siblings, including the BMW 7 Series, and has become the go-to answer to high-performance saloons needing the best of every world.
Safety and servicing
Cough up around $820,000 for a new Rolls-Royce Wraith and the company will return the favour with a four-year, unlimited distance warranty that includes – for the same duration – servicing and roadside assistance.
It has condition-based servicing so the car’s sensors will detect when the car needs a technician. The same program is available throughout the BMW range, so owners shouldn’t feel particularly special.
After the four-year warranty has expired, owners can buy a two, three or five year extension.
There is also an “enhanced ownership” program that has a full maintenance program for life and a rapid response for emergencies, such as breakdowns or accidents.
Glass’s Guide does not have an estimate for this car’s three-year resale value.
The Wraith, more so than the four-door Ghost and drop-top Dawn, is directed straight at the young and affluent owner who demands to drive the car – oddly, an unusual preference for the brand in all markets except Australia.
The coupe delivers precisely what Rolls-Royce buyers demand and, as such, it doesn’t disappoint. The Black Badge version is designed to eclipse those people who have just scraped enough money together to get the base Wraith.
As such, it goes straight to the top of the desirable luxury coupe list. No contest.
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Ferrari GTC4Lusso from $578,888 plus on-road costs
The name and the exhaust note says it all but the four-seat accommodation and attention to luxury detail takes the GTC4 – previously called the FF – into new territory. It carries Ferrari’s superb 6.3-litre V12 with 507kW/697Nm for a 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds, partly due to an innovative all-wheel-drive system. Plenty of luggage space, too, with 450 litres standard and 800 litres with the rear seats folded down. It misses the world’s fastest four-seat car tag by a mere 1km/h to the Bentley.
Mercedes-AMG S65 from $501,055 plus on-road costs
Impressive German coupe with AMG’s skill creates a four-seat rocket that will run the 100km/h sprint in 4.1 seconds. The 6.0-litre V12 bi-turbo engine claims 12.0L/100km and pumps 463kW/1000Nm. Inside it’s the best Mercedes gear, including Nappa leather and Burmester’s surround sound audio. Best of all is its stunning coupe lines.
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