There is no car manufacturer in the world that is as the iconic embodiment of wealth, opulent luxury, prestige, and refinement as the British automaker Rolls-Royce. For over 100 years, Rolls-Royce has stood apart from its more pedestrian competitors as an enduring symbol of British excellence in manufacturing and design. For generation after generation, royalty, heads of state, and the absolute upper crust of society have turned to this legendary automaker for their vehicles of choice.
With the very latest entry, Rolls-Royce is eschewing any perceived stodginess for a sleek and powerful “driver’s car” that is absolutely certain to appeal to both the finer and the primal instincts of anyone who has the good fortune to sit behind the wheel. The Wraith is considered to be the fastest, most powerful, and the most luxurious vehicle ever put out by Rolls-Royce. In fact, the company states that “this is the car that Charles Rolls would choose to drive.”
After careful review, one would tend to agree…
Anyone with an especially attentive eye for detail will notice at the very beginning that there has been a change made to the Spirit of Ecstasy, the ubiquitous hood ornament. The figure now leans forward at an ever-so-slightly further angle, exactly four degrees, ostensibly to reflect her readiness to accept a faster ride.
The Wraith is designed as a fastback coupe reminiscent of the Ghost sedan, but with a shorter wheelbase and overall height. Even with that trimming, however, the Wraith is still as an enormous and spacious as you have come to expect from Rolls-Royce. For comparison purposes, the Wraith is longer than a Chrysler minivan and wider than most midsize SUVs.
Although Rolls-Royce usually gives a respectful nod to tradition when it introduces new models, in this case the automaker had no internal historical precedent upon which to improve. Consequently, the roofline profile which defines the fastback style has been instead inspired by other classic Italian coupes, in particular the Lancia Aurelia and the 1967 Maserati Ghibli.
The result is nothing short of spectacular. The Wraith has a long, sleek profile heretofore unheard of among either traditional Rolls-Royce models or even the performance models put out by competitors.
Adding to the singular appearance are the unique exterior paint color offerings. The Wraith coupe’s distinctive shape actually lends itself to opting for a two-tone paint job, so the company is offering five upper body colors in combination with twenty-nine lower body colors.
If all that isn’t enough, the company plans to roll out a Drophead Wraith, their term for a convertible, in model year 2015.
Although Rolls-Royce as a company would never stoop so low as to use such a commonplace term as “sporty”, there was nonetheless a focus with the Wraith to create a driving machine with exceptional performance, power, and response.
To accomplish this feat, the chosen engine is a 6.6 liter twin turbocharged V12 powerhouse with an impressive output of 624 horsepower. Combined with an eight speed automatic transmission, this rear wheel drive vehicle can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in under four and a half seconds.
Although they share the same size engine, there were several tweaks made to the Wraith to differentiate its status as a performance vehicle, as opposed to the Ghost’s status as a luxury sedan in the traditional Rolls-Royce mold.
The rear wheel track was widened by over a quarter of an inch, the electronic power steering was reprogrammed for more responsive operation, and the shocks and springs were stiffened by about twenty percent. The result is a powerful, throaty vehicle that is far more agile than one might expect.
Perhaps the biggest technological innovation present in the Wraith is the introduction of Satellite Assisted Transmission, which promises to be the most intelligent drive train ever included in a Rolls-Royce. The onboard computer uses GPS technology to continually scan the road ahead and then automatically choose the most appropriate gear. This prevents unneeded gear change, and ensures that the Wraith is in a constant state of optimal performance.
As is only befitting of any vehicle that carries the Rolls-Royce nameplate, the interior of the Wraith can only be described as uber-luxurious, and the company has been forthcoming with the inspirations for this opulence.
The cabin, which seats four, is meant to call to mind both high-end luxury yachts and the seaside towns where they dock. Indeed, the sweep of the interior is meant to be reminiscent of Le Canadel, the cove in the south of France where Sir Henry Royce would winter. Even the wood, as bountiful as ever, is an open-pore variety called Canadel Panelling. Anything that is not finished in wood will be covered with the soft and supple leather of the most premium grade. One of the most enchanting available cabin features is an overhead fiber-optic light display designed to mimic a star-filled night sky.
The solid construction and massive size of the Wraith work in its favor, as does industry-leading standard safety equipment, such as the force limiting seat belts, the “smart” airbags that automatically adjust to the size of the occupant, and an Advanced Crash Management System, which can sense 2000 pieces of data per second. Should an accident occur, the system, the system can take preemptive safety measures.
One has to applaud Rolls-Royce for taking such a huge gamble. Then, one should congratulate the company for winning that bet. With a price tag of over $300,000, it was an interesting choice to create a car with the seemingly antithetical amalgamated identity of superior elegance and effortless performance. Yet, that is exactly where Rolls-Royce has succeeded, and the Wraith, which at first seems difficult to classify, is firmly ensconced all alone, in a class by itself.