With the Black Badge editions of its Wraith and Ghost models, Rolls-Royce appeals to younger buyers with "dark obsessions."
Wayne CunninghamManaging Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Rolls-Royce may occupy the pinnacle of automotive luxury, but it remains very solicitous toward its customers, treating them like the royalty that they, frankly, often are. As such, the company noticed a trend of younger buyers for its cars, and responded with an all-new Black Badge edition, first revealed at the Geneva auto show.
The Black Badge not only turns traditional Rolls-Royce styling elements on their heads, but also is an indicator of the power and feel of the first beneficiaries of this treatment, the Ghost and Wraith models.
Rolls-Royce goes dark with new Black Badge (pictures)
As the name implies, the classic Rolls-Royce badge receives a notable change, with its color scheme inverted. Rather than black letters on a silver background, it shows silver letters on a black background, likely the biggest change to the badge since the switch from red to black lettering. Along with the badge, Rolls-Royce's famous hood ornament, the Spirit of Ecstasy, changes from chrome to what Rolls-Royce calls a "high-gloss dark vamp" in its press materials. That change is less revolutionary, as Rolls-Royce's design director, Giles Taylor, pointed out that owners can and have requested bespoke models with different treatments for the hood ornament.
The exteriors of the Ghost and Wraith Black Badge editions on the Geneva show floor were, of course, black. However, in line with the Rolls-Royce bespoke program, buyers can request any colors they want.
Emphasizing its use of high-quality and expensive materials for coachwork, Rolls-Royce said it developed new trim pieces for the interior, using carbon fiber threaded with aluminum.
Beyond the styling, which can be unique for each car, Rolls-Royce tweaked the throttle, transmission and suspension programming for the Wraith and Ghost Black Badge editions. Where Rolls-Royce traditionally emphasized a "wafting" quality to how its cars drove, these models allow more dynamic performance, likely with more power delivered on throttle tip-in and higher engine speeds in general. The adaptive suspension, while maintaining high levels of comfort, is now programmed to handle driving at higher speeds.
As for more tangible improvement, Rolls-Royce tweaked the Wraith's 6.6-liter V-12 engine, increasing torque by 52 pound-feet, to 642. Horsepower remains at 624, the top output of any Rolls-Royce model. The company found more room for improvement with the Ghost's 6.6-liter V-12 engine, giving it a 40-horsepower increase, to 603.
The increased performance and the darker styling are designed to gratify the younger buyers that Rolls-Royce has seen entering its showrooms and placing orders for its traditional models. Pricing for the Black Badge was not announced at the show, but as with most high-luxury items, it likely follows the axiom that if you need to ask, you can't afford it.