HOW DO YOU improve upon one of the best cars ever made? Simple – just add black.
OK, that is a huge disservice to the Black Badge – the sportiest embodiment of the Rolls-Royce marque. But it is a good place to start.
Rolls doesn’t just choose ‘black’ for its accent colour, though – but rather 'high-gloss black chrome'. And it doesn’t half look good when contrasted against white. Or, in this case, what Rolls calls ‘Selby Grey’ – a colour so stylish is should really have its own colour swatch at Farrow & Ball.
The black chrome treatment is applied to features including the car’s bonnet line, boot lid finisher, front grille, and of course the iconic spirit of ecstasy.
The Black Badge’s 21-inch rims take the theme one step further – a unique carbon alloy composite built to one of the most striking designs since someone said ‘hey, hub-caps are a bit rubbish, aren’t they?’.
So, it’s darker and edgier than the ‘standard’ Dawn (not that the word ‘standard’ can ever be fairly attributed to a Rolls-Royce), but where else has it upped its game?
Well, the engineers were let loose on the now familiar 6.6-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine, and managed to extract 30 more horses pushing the Black Badge up to 593bhp.
There’s increased torque, too – 15lb ft to be exact – giving a total of 620lb ft at 1500rpm. That’s 900Nm in new money, which happens to be exactly double that of a Porsche Panamera 4 – to put it in context.
A 0-62mph time of just 4.8 seconds is fairly staggering in a car that weighs three tonnes.
There’s also more noise – if you want it, that is – courtesy of an optional sports exhaust. A Low button turns the Dawn’s natural dulcet tenor into a bass baritone.
The gearbox and accelerator have been tinkered with to offer a more urgent ride. Rolls calls it ‘spirited’ (see what they did there?). That said, it still provides a flawless endless pull, gear changes more like a far-off whisper than any kind of decipherable shift.
The suspension has also been tweaked to keep it flatter in the corners. But I can’t leave it just at that. Allow me to wax lyrical for a minute about Rolls-Royce’s suspension.
The drive of a Rolls is like cursive calligraphy to a regular car’s block script
The only way I can really explain it is that the drive of a Rolls is like cursive calligraphy to a regular car’s block script. When I first took my seven-year-old son out in it, he asked: “Daddy, how come you can’t feel the ground?” Rolls prides itself on its magic-carpet ride; this was one Aladdin fan who was clearly sold.
When most upmarket automotive brands make a sportier model, they just throw carbon fibre at the problem – there are usually swathes of the stuff inside from the dash to the door handles. Even in this regard, Rolls has found a way to take it up a notch.
The familiar rough diagonal weave has been replaced with a vertical pattern of aircraft-grade aluminium woven together and bonded in carbon fibre. It’s then finished with six coats of lacquer before being hand-polished. The resulting dashboard fascia is quite simply a work of art.
Speaking of which, the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Audio speaker covers look like they belong in MoMA. They’re the only punctuation to the otherwise sparse swathe of pristine leather covering the doors. And the sound quality is worthy of a recording studio.
All the greatest hits that have made modern Rollers so impressive are here – the self-righting logo in the centre of the alloys; the auto-closing rear-hinged coach doors; the umbrellas hidden inside the fenders. It’s James Bond meets Bond Street.
There are also the reassuring nods to the past – the gear selector stalk; the ‘Soft/Medium/Hard’ nomenclature of the air conditioning switch gear; the ‘Power Reserve’ instead of tachometer.
It all comes together in a massive, masterful cacophony of high-luxury. The Dawn is also just plain massive – more than 5.2m long. That’s longer than a Range Rover.
It does mean that this may be a convertible, but it is also a proper four seater. If there are just two of you, clip on the Black Badge Dawn Aero Cowling tonneau cover: a flowing fusion of leather and carbon fibre, this sporty addition helps turn the four-wheel cruiser into a two-seater roadster (in looks, at least).
There are many words that come to mind when you say ‘Rolls-Royce’ – luxurious, elegant, prodigious.
But cool? That’s not always the case. With the Black Badge, though, ‘cool’ is guaranteed.
The actual ‘black badge’ in question is an infinity sign with a line beneath. This is so very Rolls. As if infinity is not quite enough, it literally underscores it. To infinity and beyond? That’s just the Rolls-Royce way.