SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Wraith. The word conjures up images of a “visible spirit” and a “haunting experience,” and haunting experience is an apt way to describe driving the twin-turbo, 624-horsepower V-12 Rolls-Royce Wraith coupe. It accelerates to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph.
By TOM STRONGMAN
One might say that for a starting price north of a quarter-of-a-million dollars the car should be astounding, and that’s true, but it’s Rolls-Royce’s approach to building fine motorcars by hand and using up-to-the-minute technology that make this car a paragon of performance and luxury.
Rolls-Royce invited auto writers to sample its newest model, and I spent about two hours driving on the roads in and around Phoenix.
Waftability. What a wonderful word. No other automaker brags of having “waftability,” or floating gently, yet that is a trait Rolls-Royce prizes, and it has since 1907 when the Silver Ghost got is name because of its uncanny quietness. The Wraith moves as though it were levitating. The twin-turbo’s 590 pound-feet of torque is available from 1,500 to 5,500 rpm so the slightest touch of the throttle moves the car’s two and a half tons like a giant, unseen hand. The engine makes almost no sound at idle, and there is virtually no vibration.
It used to be said that the loudest sound you heard in a Rolls-Royce was the ticking of the clock, but in the case of the Wraith, it was my own periodic gasp as I experienced the car’s phenomenal performance. Acceleration was strong, like a 747 on takeoff, and on the interstate I was startled at how 90 miles an hour felt like 55 or 60. The adaptive cruise control is almost mandatory to stay within the speed limit. Cruising cross-country in a Wraith would be like having a personal jet.
A satellite-aided, eight-speed automatic transmission uses GPS coordinates so it knows where the car is and where it is going, and it selects the appropriate gear for the location. If you’re approaching a hill, or exiting a corner, the car knows it in advance and chooses the right gear. It’s as if you have a silent butler saying, “I’ve selected the proper gear for you, sir. Proceed.” Waftability indeed.
In 1998, BMW bought the rights to the Rolls-Royce name and logo, which was held by the Rolls-Royce airplane engine maker. BMW built a new plant for hand-assembling cars, and its first design was the 2003 Phantom flagship. The slightly smaller Ghost was introduced in 2010. Although the Wraith is nearly two feet shorter than the Phantom, the 122.5-inch wheelbase is longer than that of a minivan. It is five inches shorter and more than one inch lower than the Ghost, which is 212.6 inches long.
In many ways, the Wraith is the modern incarnation of the spirit of Charles Rolls, a daredevil and wild man obsessed with speed and adventure who was the first Briton to die in a plane crash when the tail of his Wright flyer broke in 1910. Rolls had teamed with Henry Royce to found the Rolls-Royce company, and their early cars were legendary for their performance in events such as the Austrian Alpine Trial and the Scottish Reliability Trial.
The Wraith’s interior is total luxury. You close the large, rear-opening power doors by holding a button. Chrome is abundant, as is beautiful wood trim. The door panels are a huge slab of Canadel paneling, but ash, oak, walnut and other more exotic woods are also available. An intriguing $12,925 option is the Starlight headliner. A total of 1,340 tiny LED lamps are woven into the headliner material so that it resembles the stars in the night sky when lit.
Rolls-Royce prides itself on treating customers with the utmost care, and to that end, a buyer can have the car tailored to suit his or her personal needs by working directly with the designers to select the type and color of leather, wood and paint. Special requests will be accommodated if humanely possible. Examples they have received are requests for built-in, heated and cooled Thermos bottles, built-in walking sticks, special tartan plaid trunk lining or teak picnic sets with custom-made crystal. Rolls-Royce executes these special items with the same care and detailing as the rest of the car, be it matching the leather, stitch patterns or inlaid wood.
The base price of the Wraith is $284,900. Options included a fixed glass roof, Canadel wood paneling, Bespoke 1,300-watt audio system, RR monogram on headrests, stainless steel doorsill plates, lambswool mats, color-matched trunk trim, comfort entry system, night vision, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane departure system, camera system, destination and gas-guzzler tax. The sticker price was $359,150.
Four year, unlimited mileage warranty. All service and maintenance is provided for four years regardless of mileage.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org