We traveled to Sin City to check out the brand-new 2017 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge and took the opportunity to ask powertrain and chassis engineers in charge of the project about a few things you wouldn’t find in any press release.
1. The wheels are made from 22 layers of carbon fiber. Rolls-Royce folds almost two dozen sheets of carbon fiber over one another to create the main hub for the wheels.
2. But don’t call these carbon-fiber wheels. While the main structure of the wheel is carbon fiber, the face of the artistic five-spoke wheel is made of aluminum. The aluminum face attaches to the carbon-fiber hub with about 25 titanium bolts.
3. The tinting process for the carbon fiber caused a lot of problems. The first finishes had a yellow hue, and subsequent tints looked straight black; Rolls-Royce wanted the carbon-fiber weave to subtly show through without being obvious or showy.
4. Inspiration for Black Badge came from boxers, musicians, and fashion designers. Rolls-Royce says famous Spirit of Ecstasy owners like Muhammad Ali, The Who’s Keith Moon, and the fabulous Yves Saint Laurent are a few of the archetypal “disruptors” who helped inspire Black Badge’s development.
5. The infinity symbol motif isn’t as lame as it looks. It’s actually a symbol that, during the first quarter of the 1900s, English insurance companies required on high-performance cars doing top-speed runs and the like, labeling them “limitless.”
6. The suspension took two years to get right. Basically the entire run of development for Black Badge. Turns out teaching old dogs—the chassis experts who create the most comfortable cars on the road—new tricks—like developing a Rolls with a bit more edge without doing away with its hallmarks—is difficult. Rolls put together an auxiliary team of engineers to supplement its existing “old dogs” and bring fresh perspectives to the project.
7. Bosses told engineers the car’s launch needed to be more aggressive. Just before Black Badge models went into serial production, Rolls-Royce chiefs drove the car and said it needed to feel more assertive off the line; the engineers happily obliged.
8. The transmission benefits from more than just aggressive shift logic. While adjusting the gearbox’s software so the eight-speed would hang onto gears longer, the engineers also improved the clutches and gears to reduce internal friction and improve efficiency.
9. The driveshaft isn’t different, but it is more robust. Engineers added material to the driveshaft to reduce NVH and better cope with the Black Badge’s extra 30 lb-ft of torque and more aggressive launch.
10. The tires look the same, but they’re not. Rolls-Royce asked Continental to rejigger the rubber compound from the Wraith so the Black Badge would roll on something a bit stickier.
11. The bigger brakes are for better brake feel. Sure, you have more braking surface area and can benefit from better heat dispersal if you enlarge brake rotors, but Rolls-Royce didn’t have performance in mind when it added an inch to the diameter of the front brake rotors.
12. Shift paddles wouldn’t have been “appropriate.” The engineers tell us that “someone always brings up the idea,” but it’s swiftly knocked down since the automaker thinks shift paddles wouldn’t be proper in a Rolls.
13. Engineers really wish they could’ve programmed a second, sportier throttle mapping for Black Badge. Pressing “Low” on the Wraith’s shift stalk is akin to putting the car in sport mode. Doing so adjusts the way the transmission thinks but not the throttle, because engineers didn’t have the resources to create new software required for two separate throttle mappings. Expect to see something like that in the not-too-distant future.