Test Drive: 2017 Rolls-Royce Wraith

Wraith: a ghost or ghost-like image of someone; an insubstantial person or thing; a wisp or faint trace of something.

Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge is none of the above. It is a tangible, larger-than-life thing of automotive beauty that turns heads everywhere it goes.

I have seen the first and I have just driven the second. While the first is but a fading memory, the Roll-Royce Black Badge version will linger on my mind for the remainder of my days.

The 2017 Black Badge takes your basic (if there is such a word for a car like this) and for $53,875 starts the journey into darkness by blacking out all but a minimum of chrome. The grille is black, the RR badging is black, the tailpipes are darkened. Even the Spirit of Ecstasy is black.

I only had a couple of days with the Wraith thanks to Rolls Royce Motorcars of Alberta in Calgary so my wife and I ran south, stopping short of the U.S. border (though it was tempting to keep going) to visit Waterton National Park where the pace is bit slower than in other mountain parks, the people are friendlier and the wildlife meanders freely amongst the tourists.

I lost count of the times I noticed the Wraith being recorded on cameras and cell phones as we drove. Thumbs up were numerous as were nods and waves. People LIKE this car.

Wraith Black Badge is a two door, four-seater with a black paint job so deep you feel like you could dive into it – 16 layers deep and worth a cool $12,775. The wheels, four years in the development, are a new carbon fibre and alloy with 22 layers of carbon fibre folded back on themselves at the outer edge of the rim.

Just sitting there, it seems to say “welcome to the dark side.”

To accept the invitation, you open the huge “suicide” doors and slide into an interior steeped in luxury: the finest in leather, power everything of course, including massaging front seats

Unique to the Black Badge are high-gloss carbon-fibre interior trim thin (0.014mm) aluminum threads woven into them. The test car comes with a white and black interior colour scheme with black lambs wool floor mats ($1,700), Rolls-Royce Bespoke audio ($11,025) and RR monogram on all headrests ($1,525).

The headliner features starlight illumination, mimicking the night sky with tiny dots of light. At a cost of $17,975, that ceiling should use GPS to co-ordinate the car’s position in the world and the actual appearance of the night sky overhead.

Black Badge’s 6.6L twin turbo V12 whips up 624 horses to propel you effortlessly onward as you sing “hello darkness my old friend.”

Time to close the doors and get under way. I can reach waaay out and pull the door closed, but why bother when I can just press a button located just behind the A-pillar and the door automatically shuts. I can also close the passenger door and open the access to the monstrous trunk, I mean boot.

The engine’s 642 lb-ft of torque goes to work at 1,500 revs and keeps working until red line. It’s quiet and it’s smooth, but punch the go-pedal and you will be shoved deep into the seating. All this exhilarating power is handled by a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox. There’s no “sport” button and no adjustable suspension, just performance and an ultra-smooth, quiet ride no matter what surface I’m driving on.

Oh sure, there are electronic self-preservation nannies with Driver Assistance 3 ($8,925) with active cruise control with stop and go, head-up display, night vision with pedestrian recognition, high-beam assistance and lane departure warning. Standards include rear view and side view cameras.

The only downside, other than V-12 thirst I can find is the massive A-pillars combine with huge side mirrors to block the driver’s view at about 45 degrees from straight ahead, potentially putting pedestrians in peril. I DO love those big mirrors, though. Nothing behind me escapes my view.

The company says Black Badge is a made-to-order car that owes its existence to some well-heeled young owners on the U.S. west coast.

Rolls Royce CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos noticed the modifications, some of which were so “hideous” the company decided to do the customizing itself.

Besides the obvious opulence, I love the simplicity of the controls. There’s no complex technology for simple controls, for instance climate control switches are manual – turn a knob and slide a lever.

The Wraith Black Badge is the smoothest, quietest vehicle I’ve ever driven.

Is it worth the $530,119.66 (all in but taxes)? Probably. But I’m not nearly rich enough or young enough to fit in the target demographic.

But it’s just the way I Rolls.

2017 Rolls-Royce Wraith
Trim level: Black Badge
Price before taxes: $530,119.66
Freight: $5,800.00
Configuration: front engine, rear drive
Engine/transmission: 6.6 L twin turbo V12/ 8-speed automatic
Power/torque: 624 hp/642 lb-ft
Fuel economy ratings: 22.2 L/100 km city, 10.1 highway
Warranties: 4 years/ unlimited mileage
Competitors: A class of its own

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