Goodwood, West Sussex - When Rolls-Royce introduced its Black Badge range of customised cars at the 2016 Geneva motor show, built by its Bespoke division to appeal to younger, disruptive entrepreneurs who make their own money and refuse to accept the status quo, it was channeling the same spirit that led to the creation of the marque, 110 years before.
Because, just as railway engineer Henry Royce’s obsessive perfectionism was the foundation on which ‘the world’s best car’ was built, it was the Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls’ restless spirit and youthful drive that, quite literally, gave the project wings.
Much as Rolls did when he pushed the boundaries of what was possible, both on the road and in the air, the Black Badge Ghost and Wraith models spoke to those customers who define themselves not in terms of what their wealth can do to insulate them from the future, but how it can help them change it.
Now the Bespoke division has added a third model, the Dawn Black Badge - ‘a sensual space from which to take in the night air’ - giving it a darker, more adventurous dimension with the signature Black Badge design cues.
The first example, to be presented at this weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, is finished, needless to say, in a deeply intense shade of black, created by multiple layers of solid colour and clear coat, individually applied and hand-buffed in what the maker says is its most labour-intensive finish yet for a non-metallic paint finish.
The folding roof is only available in black fabric, while the rear deck is finished in black leather. Even the Spirit of Ecstacy mascot gets a whole new attitude in high-gloss black chrome - as do the grille frame, boot lid finisher, exhaust tailpipes and air inlet trim.
For the interior trim elements, the Bespoke division drew on Rolls-Royce’s aviation heritage to invent a new material. Threads of aircraft grade aluminium just 1.4mm in diameter are woven into carbon-fibre material, which is then bonded and finished with six hand-polished coats of clear lacquer for a striking evocation of the electronic age we live in.
There’s more black inside the air-vents, created by a process called physical vapour deposition, that will never discolour or tarnish, and all over the soft furnishings, finished in soft leather with orange highlights, including a highlight strip running round the cockpit at hip height, evocative of the sunset just before darkness falls.
Black Badge engineering
The Dawn’s 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 also gets a bit of Black Badge attitude, with an extra 22kW - up to 442kW at 5250rpm - and 20Nm (now 840Nm) from just off idle at 1500rpm. The mapping of the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission has been rewritten so that it shifts down a little more urgently, to give you appreciable engine braking into corners.
The Bespoke tuners also revised the steering ratio, weighting and feedback settings, as well as the suspension settings and components, to reduce body roll in swift cornering with the least possible sacrifice of ride comfort.
But the most distinctive change of all is a whole new exhaust system, specifically tuned not to silence but to accentuate the very lowest frequencies. Push the ‘Low’ button and the Dawn Black Badge announces its arrival with a menacing bass rumble that’s difficult to to ignore.
Which is possibly the best illustration of what Black Badge is all about.