When BMW began producing Rolls Royce motor cars in 2003 they started with the sensible and safe Phantom. The Phantom represents the pinnacle of ultra luxury, a massive land yacht sedan for the ultra wealthy. Selling about 1000 units a year Rolls then expanded to the relatively cheaper Ghost. The Ghost is also a massive sedan, RR doesn't make anything small, but at a price a notch or two more affordable. The Ghost is an entry point to the Rolls brand for those looking for an ultra luxury sedan.
Both are great cars offered in several different configurations, but the format is decidedly and intentionally traditional Rolls Royce. When you're reviving a brand, as BMW has, you need to return to the roots. This worked with German precision and Rolls Royce now owns more then 50% of the ultra luxury motor vehicle market with historical Rolls owners agreeing that BMW is building Rolls Royces worthy of the RR on the grill.
With the status of the Spirit of Ecstasy restored it was now time for RR to strike out with something new. Inspired by the co-founder Sir Henry Royce's quote, Rolls Royce built the Wraith.
Take the best that exists and make it better: when it does not exist design it. - Sir Henry Royce
The Wraith genesis comes from Sir Henry Royce but the Wraith is undoubtedly the car Charles Rolls would have driven. A man who adventured with motor racing, ballooning and aviation. Rolls was the first person in history to cross the English Channel and return without stopping in a powered aircraft. A true gentlemen adventurer who would would drive a true gentleman's grand tourer.
The Wraith echoes the spirit of the historic endeavors and adventures of the company founders. The fast back design, the defining element of the Wraith, promises fast and effortless touring. The front is a nod towards the Ghost with the traditional pantheon grille which lets you know that this is indeed a Rolls Royce. The rear is left to contend with bring the broad lines and dramatic fast back together. The lines are brought together with a mix of flair and traditional which leaves a muddled and soft, almost incomplete feel. The Wraith is definitely better coming then going.
The massive coach door, commonly called suicide doors, is another nod to tradition. The rear opening doors give easy access to the plush interior and remind you each and every time you're about to experience a truly special motorcar.
Slide into the drivers seat and take in the craftsmanship of the entire interior. The hand finished wood that covers almost every dash surface. The chrome air vents with aircraft like adjuster knobs. Each and every detail of the interior was address and treated as the most important. No corners were cut, no compromises made. The leather work is so fine that it is finished to perfection even if it will never been seen. That is what makes a Rolls Royce a Rolls and where the $285,000 base price comes from.
How does it drive? James May from Top Gear described how a Rolls Royce should drive -
A Rolls-Royce must be able to whoosh away from a stand still. It can go quite quickly, but it must never feel urgent, it must swell very gently - James May
The Wraith is the most powerful Rolls-Royce ever with a massive 6.6 liter twin-turbo V12 developing 624 horsepower. The power is coupled to the fantastic ZF 8 speed gearbox that you'll find in almost every BMW. Rolls goes a step further and feeds GPS data into the transmission so it is always in the appropriate gear for the upcoming corner or hill. To that end the controls are confusingly simple. Drive, reverse and park are your only choices. There is no sport mode, the car will always be in the exact right gear and the electronically controlled dampers are always adjusting. Want to drive faster and sportier? You simply do and the car keeps up. It is a nice change from the modern BMW where you're constantly telling the car what you want. The Wraith simply knows what you want and provides it.
It also doesn't have a sports mode as it isn't a sports car or even a true GT. It has plenty of James May 'whoosh' with a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds but at 5,400 lbs it will never be that sporty. The weight is never conveyed in the effort required to drive, but in the confidence and road presence. Driving easy finger tip easy and inch perfect precision, which is important when you're driving a car that is 17 feet long.
Blasting around the Arizona desert in the Wraith the miles clicked by too quickly. With virtually no effort we had racked up 70+ miles and the test drive was over as we pulled into the The Canyon Suites in Scottsdale. The 70 miles of highway and rolling desert road had been absorbed by the Wraith and turned a drive into a motoring experience. This is exactly why if you have the resource to travel in a Wraith you would never choose to travel any other way.
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