Since it was founded some 110 years ago, Rolls-Royce has been known as the creator of elegance on wheels. Rollers were famous for their civility, aplomb, comfort, style – they had that air of a certain je ne sais quoi, sometimes difficult to describe but always a joy to experience (a quiet joy, to be sure, but a true joy nonetheless).
Way back when, a Rolls buyer typically would order the car as a rolling chassis, with engine, transmission and all the go-and-stop parts installed, and then commission a specialized design shop to create the body and the interior. That amazing freedom to individualize lead to many cars of those days being one-offs, unlike anything else on the road. In today’s world, however, customers buy one of the company’s offerings (individualized, to be sure) after choosing from the Phantom (the big boy of the family, available as either a standard or extended wheelbase four-door or a drophead coupe), or the Ghost (the little brother, also available in standard and stretch) and now, the Wraith (not really a two-door Ghost but that general description will work for now). Both the Phantom and the Ghost get their occupants from A to B (maybe “Alpha to Beta” is a better way to describe a Rolls-Royce excursion) with ease and grace but, while powerful and possessing the ability to boogie, buyers of these models weren’t egged on by an excess of power and torque just waiting for the bell to ring and the gate to swing open.
Flash forward (an apt phrase here) to now and take a gander at the Wraith. While Rolls-Royce historically did not advertise the horsepower of its cars (“adequate power”, they’d say), the Wraith was anointed The Most Powerful Rolls-Royce In History. Even the pre-launch media teasers for the car were more Something Wicked This Way Comes than Jeeves Taking Madame to Harrods. (Think this is just an exaggeration? Watch the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ82dP5s1cU.) It’s not even a traditional sedan, it’s a fastback that looks ready to launch even while parked. Think of it as champagne and Grey Poupon meets Sir Torque. I mean, look at these stats – a 6.6 liter V-12 twin-turbo pumping out 624 horses and 590 pounds of torque – they’ve stuffed some serious oomph under that long hood. And does the big 12-banger ever motivate, hurtling this 5,000-plus pound seventeen-plus foot long paean to perfection with seamless alacrity to a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds — staggering statistics for a car of this weight and length. Unlike some of its family members, the Wraith really is more like a wolf in wolf’s clothing as its rakish design exudes confidence and ability.
But, of course, it’s not all zoom and zig with the Wraith. Sporting the first Satellite Aided Transmission, your car will know what lies ahead and pick the perfect gear for the road-to-be-travelled. And who can talk about the Wraith without mention of the sensuous ceiling option, some 1,340 fiber optic lamps hand-woven (of course) into the roof lining, with a dimmer switch for just the right amount of illumination to accompany your rendition of “Starry, Starry Night”. One’s first reaction when reading about this option may not be “gotta have it” (especially given the price, which adds over $12,000 for this twinkly headliner, and more if you want the night sky over your home duplicated on your Wraith’s ceiling) but it truly is mesmerizing. Do it – go for this option – and you will be glad that you ticked that box on the order form.
To drive this car is to roll with elegance. It insulates its inhabitants from the noise and bumpiness of life, a remarkable feat on the crowded streets and freeways of Southern California. It’s such an unusual experience to have both great elegance and storming performance that the Wraith is a joy to experience. “Mine” came liveried with midnight sapphire paint (plus $9,450), crème leather interior with navy blue accents and special piping, oyster rear seat curtains (a nice, elegant touch for $6,525 – what, did you expect that they came from Sears?), a coolbox for the rear passengers (Shipwrecked 1907 Heidseick optional) and even an uplit Spirit of Ecstasy atop the grille, announcing our impending arrival.
Adding to the arrival experience is the Wraith’s “coach doors”. I don’t think that I ever entered or exited the car without someone mentioning “suicide doors”, as if that’s a proper moniker for a car of this class. And, really, both front-hinging and rear-hinging doors have their plusses and minuses anyway. But one very cool feature is that the doors can be closed by the push of a button located on the corner of the dash. The driver even has buttons that can close both doors, no doubt a design created after Mary Poppins dropped the young-uns off at Institut Le Rosey and they ran off without closing the door properly.
I have to note that Rolls-Royces have that cool feature where the center piece of the hub cap, the part with the “RR” so proudly displayed, always stays upright as it wouldn’t be right to have the letters on an angle or upside down when parked. It’s a nice design feature to have these anti-spinners on each wheel cover and further illustrates the incredible attention to detail given by these master craftsmen.
So now it’s time to calculate the results of our analysis of the various aspects of the car. Tremendous power, hand-built luxury, sumptuous interior and distinctive good lucks? Check, check and more check. (Speaking of “check”, the base price is $400k and change.) Equally at home arriving at the Oscars or smoking all comers at the local Stoplight Grand Prix, the Wraith is a stunner to look at, to ride in and to drive, the perfect blend of elegance and power. I’m sold.