All is quiet. The city is in darkness.
A creature emerges from beneath yesterday’s newspaper and scurries across the street to disappear into a dark alley. A stranger leans against the wall, using his collar to hide his face from the light cast by the half moon. Who is he? What is he doing there?
Casting your eyes downwards, you quietly cross the street. It has been a long day and you don’t want a confrontation. Safely on the other side, you hear a car approaching. Is it the law? You see the silhouette of an elegant lady. She cuts through the shadows of the night. Her name is Eleanor. You have heard mention of her before, heard rumours of her dark side. For years she has been seen as a bright symbol of success, of wealth, of prosperity.
But now she lives on the edge...
Before you think that Wanted has been taken over by Marvel comics, the star of this dark scene is not some caped crusader, but actually a Rolls-Royce. The company has gone all Star Wars and moved over to the dark side with its Ghost and Wraith Black Badge models. The squeaky clean suits at the company’s head office in Goodwood, UK have recognised that there are those out there who like taking a few risks, who live more on the edge, who perhaps have a darker side to their success.
Rolls is now chasing what many might call the disruptors — those who do not conform to the status quo — and has decided to introduce the Black Badge models as a permanent sub-brand of the famous luxury marque.
“The Black Badge spirit manifests itself through a series of carefully considered design elements, which together express a darker luxury sophistication,” says Giles Taylor, director of design at Rolls-Royce. “New material accents and tonalities are combined to accommodate the tastes of those fast-moving customers who adopt a strident approach to life’s finer challenges.”
Those carefully considered design elements include, obviously, a black badge and a grille made of darkened chrome. Other chrome detailing has also adopted a darker persona, while the wheels are now made of aluminium and carbon fibre. Then there is Eleanor, the famous Spirit of Ecstacy. She has gone from the traditional polished silver to black, with
Rolls referring to her as a “black vamp”. Not a vampire though, even though she might disappear into the grille during daylight hours.
Inside everything is also rather un-Rolls like. There are electric blues and gentlemen’s club purples (not that we know anything about gentlemen’s clubs) or perhaps it is designed to reflect a discreet, invitation-only, high-stakes casino beneath the streets of Knightsbridge in London.
It is also more youthful, with the company chasing a younger (or young-at-heart) market since the release of its Dawn. There are plenty of wealthy members of the younger generation who play by different rules. To play to the younger set, you also have to have interior design details in carbon fibre, except Rolls does not call it that. That is far too BMW. Instead it refers to the material as “aerospace-grade aluminium-threaded carbon fibre composite surfacing”. Basically, the material you find on a stealth fighter or in Batman’s suit.
The chrome in the interior has also been darkened, but not with paint. Rolls uses a process known as physical vapour deposition, because simple paint would eventually fade.
Then there is the power of the dark side, courtesy of some tweaks to the 6.6l V12. The Wraith version gets an extra 70Nm of torque, while the Ghost Black Badge gets an extra 30kW and the torque has been raised to 840Nm.
We donned our best evil villain gear and went to experience the new models. Not in some upmarket part of town though; instead we headed to the Kyalami race track. A race track? In a Rolls? Yes, because the engineers promised that the darker side of the new models also means they are more dynamic. That is perhaps pushing it a bit — after all, a Rolls is rather heavy and not inherently designed to be flung through a tight right hander at the bottom of the Mineshaft, but it performed remarkably well, without being pushed anywhere near to the limits of its abilities.
The Black Badge models are not about charging around a race track though. They are about entering a new realm, a realm where Rolls-Royce has not really existed before. They are about being more modern, darker, more risky. They are about the perception that they are more thrilling.
So perhaps it is apt to end with some of the most famous lyrics of all time, by none other than Michael Jackson. “For no mere mortal can resist, the evil of the thriller.” Would you ever have thought that you would see those lyrics being applied to a Rolls?
ROLLS-ROYCE WRAITH BLACK BADGE
Price: On request
Acceleration to 100km/h: 4.5 seconds
C0² emissions: 333g/km