2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith is the luxury brand's all-new grand
herds of Bavarian cows are trekked to the Alpine meadows to feast on
pastures lush from snowmelt. They are among the healthiest cows on
the planet, which is why Rolls-Royce sources its leather exclusively
from Bavarian cattle.
There are no
pockmarks from large mosquito bites. And, to ensure the hides are
even more perfect, only bull skins are used. The females are too
prone to stretch marks.
radical pursuit of perfection that has made Rolls-Royce the
preferred marque of royalty, whether they’re genealogically
certified princes or merely the rock stars, corporate executives and
NBA players who perceive themselves as such. The $284,900-plus
Wraith is the latest vehicle the British coachbuilder has created to
One of the
most surprising aspects of Rolls’ all-new grand tourer is its
fastback profile. The two-door four-seater may look like a
traditional Rolls from the front, with its squared face and tall
grille topped with the instantly recognizable Spirit of Ecstasy hood
ornament. But move to its side, and it takes on the character of the
sports car it wants to be.
Powered with a
twin-turbocharged V12, the Wraith is the most powerful and fastest
Rolls-Royce ever made, and it takes the sort of gas that proves it:
91 octane is the minimum it will accept. It prefers a sort of
gasoline that’s difficult to find: 95 octane.
Wraith for an afternoon in Scottsdale last week, I was free of the
unsavory task of finding the right gas as I rocketed across the
Arizona desert. The tomblike quiet of its cabin was interrupted only
by the growl of its 624-horsepower engine, which, like everything
else in the Wraith, was marshaled to action with the barest of
effort as I pressed its billet-aluminum accelerator pedal to the
lambswool floor mat.
that the Wraith — which was designed, at least in part, to combat
the notion that Rolls-Royces aren’t drivers’ cars, but cars in
which one is driven — lacks paddle shifters. Indeed, its gear
changes were indiscernible. The Wraith marks the debut of an unusual
new technology called satellite-aided transmission. Leveraging GPS
to spot what’s ahead on the road and adjust the car’s eight
gears accordingly, it is designed to keep the car in the optimum
gear at all times.
From the turn
signals to the steering wheel to the brakes, all of the inputs on
the Wraith are activated with the lightest touch. Its suspension is
tuned to cushion the blows from the riffraff of the outside world
rather than connect drivers to the terrain.
navigation is genteel. Directions are narrated with a British accent
and a synthetic female voice that doesn’t demand that drivers turn
left or bear right but requests such actions with a
the Geneva Motor Show in March, the Wraith began its built-by-hand
production in August, with first pre-order U.S. deliveries starting
in October — or far later, depending on the bespoke trimmings.
prides itself on offering the highest level of customization, and
not only for the usual suspects in prefab options, such as wheels
and colored leathers. The coachbuilder’s bespoke team has, in the
past, designed twin thermoses crafted from the same metal and
skinned in the same leather as the Phantom that housed them in the
door panels – a feat that, according to Rolls, is the only flask
to ever be crash tested.
have built custom walking sticks that were fit to the owner’s hand
and converted a trunk into a wine cellar, complete with a cooler and
vehicle, Rolls-Royce is a luxury commodity as much as it is a car
– one that’s built to last for decades and to cater to its
driver’s every whim.
To that end,
the Wraith’s designers sequestered themselves on an island with
the goal of unearthing the brand’s core values and translating
them into a new car. Developed to entice drivers to take the Wraith
when visiting a vacation home, even if the helicopter or private jet
is faster, the result was a grand tourer that puts the emphasis on
grand. That is to say, it’s a premium vehicle delivered with no
compromises to luxury, space or performance and offering more
versatility despite a smaller, less formal, silhouette.
the Wraith’s product manager, its design team was predominantly
thirtysomething. Their youth shows in the Wraith’s daring,
un-Rolls-like profile, even as it retains various Rolls-Royce
novelties, including "suicide doors" that are hinged at
the back instead of the front.
distinctive, even, than the gullwings of the Mercedes SLS AMG or the
dihedrals of a McLaren 12C, the doors can be closed with the touch
of a button on the window sill. No need to tax arm muscles that have
had enough of a workout from Christmas shopping at Barneys.
It would be
nice if the same button could also open the door, but for that,
owners are out of luck. Alas, they will need to open the doors
themselves or rely on the valet or butler.
The door sills
are equally special, housing, as they do, matching Mary Poppins-style
umbrellas that are likewise released with the touch of a button.
The Wraith was
designed as a tribute to its founders, Charles Rolls, a
turn-of-the-century daredevil and aviator who would rally race by
day and dine on the finest filet mignon at night, and Sir Henry
Royce, a mechanical engineer whose R Type Aero engine once held the
speed records for land, air and water simultaneously. The two came
together to form Rolls-Royce in 1904 with the credo to "Strive
for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and
make it better. When it does not exist, design it."
has largely lived up to that ideal, especially since being purchased
by BMW in 1998. At that time, Rolls-Royce lacked a factory, so one
was built in Goodwood in the south of England. The Wraith pays
tribute to the opening of that factory in 2003 with an unusual
headliner option that threads miniature LEDs through its perforated
leather in the pattern of the night sky as seen on Jan. 1, 2003,
can be turned on or off with the touch of a button, which is wise.
It looks odd when it glows in daylight but is positively stunning at
night, where the car becomes its own Griffith Observatory.
Rolls-Royce says the headliner can be customized to buyers’
individual astrology if desired.
vehicle was up-fit with $83,000 worth of bespoke goodies, including
an unusual two-tone exterior paint scheme that offset a bright blue
with silver. It also featured Canadel paneling. The largest wooden
door panel on any production car, it is carved from a single piece
of wood and finished with an open grain that doesn’t polish away
The section of
the Rolls-Royce factory with the most employees is its wood shop due
to the manual effort of cutting and polishing, according to the
Wraith’s project manager. In fact, the woodwork of each Rolls is
sourced from its own individual tree, the remainder of which is
stored at Goodwood, should the paneling be damaged and need
replacement at some point in the car’s life.
Owners of the
Wraith expect nothing less. And that’s what Rolls-Royce delivers.
tested (with two-tone paint, starlight headliner, monogrammed
headrests, etc.): $367,875
Direct-injected, twin-turbocharged, 6.6-liter, V12, 4 valves per
cylinder, 8-speed automatic transmission
624 @ 5,600 rpm
lb.-ft. @ 1,500 to 5,500 rpm
Top speed: 155
0 to 60 mph
acceleration: 4.4 seconds
length: 207.9 inches
fuel economy: 13 mg city, 21 mpg highway, 15 mpg combined