Roll down your local Main Street in a Rolls-Royce Wraith and watch the reaction. Eyeballs bulge. Faces contort with envy and scorn. You are instantly the most—and least—popular man in town. Few cars could cause such a visceral response. So is the Rolls all that? And where does RR’s legendary reputation come from? We drive the Wraith—the most powerful and technologically advanced Rolls-Royce ever—to find out.
By A.J. Baime
IN THE BEGINNING
The Wraith follows a long tradition of English craftsmanship. While Henry Royce and Charles Rolls launched their company in 1904, it was the 1907 Silver Ghost that created the RR legend. The car successfully completed a 14,371-mile run (a huge deal at the time), earning the nickname “the best car in the world.” The Wraith first appeared in the 1930s. This new iteration was launched in 2013.
DOORS OF PERCEPTION
The car’s “suicide doors” make an immediate impression. On each side, the car holds in its frame an easily reachable umbrella that pops out at the touch of a button. How very British. The sporty fastback smells mildly of the Bentley Continental GT, but we love it anyway.
Critics note that the Wraith’s interior is derivative of BMW’s 7-Series (BMW owns RR). Still, it’s delightful to absorb the details—the clock with blood-orange needle tips, the sweep of wood paneling, the overall yacht-like design language. And the quality of the leather? If you could afford this car, you’d be wearing underwear woven out of the same material.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Plenty of space here. The Rolls-Royce is traditionally a big car; this one is over 17-feet long, weighing nearly three tons. To enhance the interior ambiance, we recommend the optional Starlight Headliner—1,340 tiny optic lamps hand-woven into the roof-lining, for that “glittering, starry night sky” feel, as RR puts it.
ON THE NOSE
Behold Rolls-Royce’s hood ornament, known as the “Spirit of Ecstasy.” When you lock the Wraith’s doors with your key fob, this little beauty makes an elegant exit—automatically disappearing through a flap into the hood, so it cannot be stolen.
The most powerful Rolls ever has a 6.6 liter twin-turbo V12 producing 624 horsepower, coupled to an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. That’s significantly more power than a Ferrari 458, and enough to launch this British heavyweight from naught to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
Our test drive took us through winding back roads in the gorgeous Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California. Powering through sweeping bends in a car this big, heavy, and expensive, makes you feel like you’re driving a space shuttle. And yet, steering is light (for no gentleman would break a sweat at the wheel), and your feet feel firmly under you. It ain’t a sports car, but it’s definitely athlete.
What makes this the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce of all time? Consider the Satellite Aided Transmission, which uses GPS mapping software to pre-select gear changes according to upcoming road terrain. The Spirit of Ecstacy Rotary Controller (pictured) is all you basically need for dashboard interface, although you can accomplish most interaction through voice command.
So…how much? You wouldn’t get into this vehicle for under $300K. Which makes it basically the price of a decent three-bedroom house in most American suburbs. Since the Wraith is big enough to live in, why not get a sleeping bag and go for it?