Test Drive: Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge

Courtesy Rolls Royce

Black Badge brings out the dark side of Rolls-Royce.

Its high noon and the stars are twinkling overhead. I’m driving a Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge edition in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley and the heavenly bodies hovering above me are tiny fiber optic lights embedded in the roofliner. Even during the day, the Black Badge seems headed for a nighttime encounter.

Other than the chrome trim around the windows, just about every surface, including the famous Parthenon grille, on the version I’m driving is a deep, piano black. (Rolls-Royce offers a complete customization for Black Badge vehicles, inside and out).The interior is mostly black leather and hand-polished black lacquered wood trim, with red accents in the doors and red stitching throughout the cabin. Even the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, which retracts into the hood once the car is underway, is transformed into a Queen of the Night with a high-gloss black treatment.

But the Black Badge isn’t just about gussying up the Wraith’s appearance. That vehicle is already the most powerful car in the English luxury car maker’s line-up with a 12- cylinder engine producing 624 horsepower, and the Black Badge edition puts a premium focus on the experience behind-the-wheel. The two-door coupe I’m driving comes with added torque for better maneuverability, a tweaked suspension system, and an improved 8-speed transmission. Those performance enhancements come to the fore as it gathers speed or takes on the curvy ascension Anthony’s Nose, a mountain overlooking the Hudson River, with the transmission shifting gears quicker and the steering becoming increasingly responsive.

Like all Rolls-Royce vehicles, the Wraith Black Badge eschews the common tachometer in favor of a “power reserve gauge” that starts at 100 percent and counts down as the car accelerates, indicating how much engine power remains. I learn quickly to ignore it: Even at highway speed limits, there’s always plenty of power still waiting to be unleashed by this beast. Racing the clock as I head back toward Manhattan, nighttime can’t come soon enough.

From $361,700; as driven, $416,105; rolls-roycemotorcars.com.