ROLLS-ROYCE WRAITH BLACK BADGE FIRST LOOK: ROLLING ON CARBON

These days most of the fancy brands with entry prices well up in the six-figure range take a pass on the Detroit auto show held in Cobo Hall. They do, however, always show up for the gallery event. It’s held the Saturday night before press week, so the local 0.1 percenters can use their Christian Louboutin Camilla Boreale Strass Pumps to kick some tires. It was here (the morning after) that we first encountered a Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge coupe and learned that, like a similarly sporty and fastbacked ponycar we’ve covered heavily, the Black Badge Wraith also rolls on carbon-fiber wheels.

The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R’s carbon-fiber rims weigh about 15 pounds less than a 19-inch aluminum wheel of similar size and performance. Lighter wheels reduce both unsprung weight and rotational inertia, which means that trimming weight helps improve acceleration, braking, ride, and handling by a greater amount than trimming it anywhere else on the car could. Not surprisingly, Ford has applied the same technology to its GT supercar, as well. What is surprising is seeing this tech applied to a Rolls-Royce—not a brand that has concerned itself much with weight savings in the past.

2017 Rolls Royce Black Badge front three quarter

You might not be shocked to learn that it hasn’t concerned itself with that here, either. Rather, the carbon-fiber technology was chosen primarily for its aesthetic benefits. Rolls only forms its wheel rims out of carbon fiber—22 layers of it arranged on three different axes and folded over on itself at the outer edges of the rim for 44 layers and extra strength. The hub center and face are formed of forged aluminum and joined to the rim via bonding and titanium fasteners. (Naturally, the spinner hub detail that keeps the interlinked Rs upright is included.) The front 8.5-by-21-inch and rear 9.5-by-21-inch wheels each save just over 2 pounds relative to the eight optional 21-inch wheels offered on regular-spec Wraiths.

They do indeed look pretty cool, and they complement the many other design elements that comprise the Black Badge treatment: reversed chrome on black badges and black-chrome finishes for the Parthenon grille, Flying Lady, lower air inlet, trunk finishers, exhaust tips, and interior air vents. The wheels also envelop brake discs that are an inch larger in front to better arrest the additional speed that Black Badge cars can be expected to achieve given their subtle boost in engine output—40 hp and 44 lb-ft on Ghost Black Badge sedans (to 603/620) and 52 extra lb-ft at identical power on the Wraith Black Badge coupe (624 hp/642 lb-ft). There are no proletarian shift paddles for the eight-speed automatic, but Intuitive Throttle Response programming holds gears longer and shifts at higher speeds whenever the throttle is opened by more than 25 percent—it holds gears to the 6,000-rpm redline at 80 to 100 percent throttle.

Rolls only claims the acceleration of the Wraith Black Badge will improve by a 0.1 second to 60 mph, dropping from 4.4 to 4.3 seconds. Our last base Wraith did it in 4.1 seconds, though, so expect to see 4 flat. And no, folks don’t typically buy Rolls-Royces to spend their Friday nights bracket racing, but we’re told that the Black Badge models are luring Ferrari and Porsche faithful in for a look. If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford them, but the Ghost opens at $351,600, and the Wraith—Rolls-Royce’s highest performing car—starts at $353,700.