2020 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge review: Half-million-dollar flex
is Rolls-Royce's full-size, grand touring coupe. It measures 207.4 inches from nose to tail, and sports a 122.5-inch wheelbase. The design leads with the vertical slats of Rolls' "phantom grille" and follows up with a sweeping roofline that flows smoothly and near seamlessly from the base of A-pillar to the rear decklid. The proportions and sparse sculpting and detailing lend the Wraith a heavy, solid appearance -- as if machined from a solid block of steel -- that is backed up by both the quality of its construction.
It's an imposing machine, both figuratively and physically.
The Black Badge package adds $50,000 to the Wraith's $330,000 starting price, bringing both performance upgrades and styling tweaks to the party. In addition to a torquier engine tune, there's also a throatier exhaust (which you can still barely hear in the Roller's coffin-quiet cabin), a set of 21-inch carbon-alloy composite wheels and a more dynamic Sport setting for the standard self-leveling air suspension, for more lively handling.
Of course, the suite also adds black badges, black detailing and a dark chrome Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament to the exterior, along with what Rolls calls "technical fiber" trim to the cabin.
V12-powered magic carpet ride
Tipping the scales at a hefty 5,379 pounds (about as much as the full-size, three-row Cadillac Escalade SUV), this is a whole lot of vehicle. Fortunately, it steps fairly lightly, riding on a standard adaptive air suspension that goes from comfortably soaking up the biggest bumps to nimbly picking its way up a twisty road at the touch of a button. At all times, the Wraith feels as if floating over the road rather than rolling on it, but never disconnected or sloppy, thanks to the precise double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension and light, yet direct steering. Even in the sportiest setting (made slightly sharper by the Black Badge upgrades) the Wraith always feels magic-carpet smooth over bumps and imperfections.
Motivating all of that mass is a 6.6-liter turbocharged V12 engine making 623 horsepower. However, this Black Badge version boasts a more potent tune, bumping the standard 605 pound-feet of torque up to 642. That torque is sent through a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, with power sent solely to the rear wheels.
Surging away from a stop is effortless and smooth, like a train leaving the station or an airplane gathering speed for takeoff. There's not even a tachometer on the dashboard in the traditional sense, just a Power Reserve dial that shows the percentage of power you're not using. Even when launching from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, the Wraith feels relaxed, never brutal or even particularly loud. This is simply what it does -- effortless speed.
For comparison, the Wraith's primary competitor, the Bentley Continental GT W12, pulls off the 60-mph sprint about a second quicker, at a stated 3.5 seconds. Mercedes-AMG's S63 Coupe with its twin-turbocharged V8 is also quicker to 60 at 3.4 seconds, though it's hauling about 1,000 fewer pounds.
I don't doubt that Rolls' engineers prioritized efficiency when tuning the Wraith, but given the physical realities of this 2.5-ton car, I'm guessing it wasn't a very high priority. Fuel economy lands at 12 miles per gallon city, 18 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined -- only a single mpg behind the W12-powered Continental. Unlike the Conti, however, there's no lighter, more efficient V8 option available.
Classic cabin tech
Here's the thing about the Wraith's cabin tech: It's not that it's bad; it's just nearly a decade old.
Emerging from behind a motorized cover during the startup sequence is an older version of BMW's iDrive infotainment suite that I'm sure hasn't been significantly updated since the Wraith's debut in 2013. It was awkward and confusing then, and it takes just as much getting used to now. The 10.2-inch screen looks dim and low-resolution compared to the buffet of displays you'll find in the comparably run-of-the-mill Mercedes S-Class or even the BMW Group's own 8 Series . Onboard voice command and navigation get the job done well enough, but feel stiff and dated compared to today's cloud-connected systems.
Smartphone integration is extremely limited. Android Auto? Apple CarPlay? Those things didn't exist in 2013, so the 2020 Wraith doesn't have 'em. You can't easily listen to Spotify or Tidal on the road, but there's a standard 20GB hard drive tucked into the dashboard that can store music ripped from CDs, USB drives or Blu-ray discs. Who's still buying CDs in 2020?!
You could make the argument that nobody is buying a Rolls for the dashboard tech -- and I'd be inclined to agree -- but the Continental knocks it out of the park in this category with its much more advanced Porsche Communication Management-based cabin tech suite.
Modern safety tech
Fortunately, the Wraith's safety technology feels a bit more modern thanks to the addition of an $8,325 Driver Assistance 3 package. Checking this box adds adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic, lane-departure warning (but not lane-keeping assist), automatic high beams, night vision (with pedestrian detection) and a head-up display.
The Rolls rolls out with standard parking distance sensors on its front and rear bumpers and can even be had with a surround-view camera system. However, the driver-aid suite appears to be missing some key features, like blind-spot monitoring, forward precollision warning or automatic emergency braking.
The Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament also hides a bit of safety tech. It's motorized, rising smoothly out of the hood when the Wraith is started and sliding away when parked to prevent theft or damage. However, it can also retract in an instant in the event of a collision to prevent it from striking a pedestrian.
Rather than screens and tech, Rolls-Royce chooses to wow its owners with other unique bits of amenity. None of my passengers or the dozens of bystanders during my week of testing noticed my tech nitpicks, but everyone complimented the Wraith's unique onslaught of luxury.
Trademark to the brand are the rear-hinged Coach doors, made even more impressive with push-button power closing. Above the Wraith's four seats, this example features a Shooting Star upgrade to the Starlight headliner that optionally delights passengers with the occasional fiber optic meteor. There are also standard deployable umbrellas tucked into the door jambs and floating center caps on the wheels that always present the double-R logo upright, even when the coupe is in motion.
And those are just the features and details you can point a finger at or check a box for. Every inch and stitch of the interior and exterior is bespoke and customizable. You don't configure or spec a Rolls, you commission it like a unique work of art.
My example features a special Miami Blue leather trim for the interior with matching pinstripes for the wheel centers, but the sky (and your budget) is the limit when building a Rolls-Royce. Want your initial monogrammed in the Starlight roof? They can do that. How about a specific wood veneer for the dashboard that matches your yacht? They got you. All pink everything? Maybe it's in poor taste, but sure. Knock yourself out.
Pricing and competition
The 2020 Rolls-Royce Wraith starts at $330,000 (about as much as three fully loaded Lexus LCs), but that's just to get in the door. My example features about $130,000 more in options, the most notorious being the $50,000 Black Badge upgrades, $17,300 for the Shooting Star headliner, and $11,900 for the Adriatic Blue exterior paint. Additional options, $2,750 for destination charges and a $2,600 gas guzzler tax bring me to an as-tested price of $461,250, which I'm told is pretty average for Wraith buyers.
When I review a car, I place myself into the buyer's shoes and try to objectively evaluate based on that driver's wants and needs. A sports car buyer has different criteria than someone shopping minivans. The tricky thing about a Rolls-Royce is that it sort of defies objective critique because so much of what makes it "good" is subjective.
Buyers who are even bothering to cross-shop are probably looking at the Bentley Continental GT which is lighter, faster, newer and blessed with better tech. Personally, I prefer the Continental's more sculpted exterior design and more modern cabin as well. For my purely hypothetical pile of money, the Bentley (with the smaller V8) is objectively and subjectively the better car.
One could also consider a host of GT supercars at this price or even make the argument that an AMG S-Class Coupe, Porsche's Panamera or even (if you're feeling really future-forward) a Taycan Turbo are worthy alternatives that match the performance for hundreds of thousands less, but none are really an apples-to-apples comparison.
Value goes out of the window with something this expensive. It's not a pure sports car, so track times and 0-to-60 speeds are only so useful. Even the woefully outdated tech means little compared to the brand and the status that comes with it -- what the buyer is truly purchasing when they commission their Rolls. Yes, the Wraith Black Badge is a truly awesome machine in its own right -- powerful and comfortable with a handcrafted touch -- but more importantly, it's a half-million dollar flex.