GP Test Drive No. 2: 2014 Rolls Royce Wraith
ROLLS-ROYCE MOTOR CARS gets sporty, or at least all Gran Turismo–style, with its latest model, the Wraith — which is Rolls’ first true GT since the Camargue in 1975. A wraith, the dictionary informs us, is “a ghost or ghostlike image of someone,” and the name is consistent with Rolls’ enduring supernatural nomenclature — the current and former Phantom and Ghost lines, as well as past Spirit and Seraph models.Last year, RRMC brought forth an update (the Series II) to its flagship Phantom, but the Wraith, five years in development, is the first entirely new offering since the production model of the Ghost debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009. So the key questions are:
- Was it worth the wait between new models and new GTs?
- Does the world need a sporty Rolls-Royce that was clearly designed with younger drivers in mind?
I had a week with the Wraith to find answers to those questions — and any others that might cross my mind — as I piloted the car north out of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge toward its final playground, the Napa Valley, where dormant vineyards gave way to blooming mustard and lush green hills thanks to recent (much-needed) rainfall.
The first thing you notice is that the Wraith is big, very big, especially for a two-door. It weighs in at more than 5,300 pounds (2,440 kilograms) and is 207 inches (5,268 millimeters) long. By contrast, the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, an iconic, mega-finned land yacht, weighed about the same and was only 18 inches longer.
It’s precisely because of its girth and power, though, that this car is pure joy on so many levels. I had the opportunity to open it up and can report that it’s frighteningly smooth at triple-digit speeds, perhaps too smooth to be considered a “sports car.” Its sweet spot is around 80 mph — which, given that the twin-turbocharged V12 turns out 624 horsepower, makes sense. It’s also Rolls’ fastest production model ever; you can get from zero to 60 in a flat 4.4 seconds.
Nonetheless, can the Wraith combat the conventional wisdom, prevailing for nearly a century now, that “one drives a Bentley; one is driven in a Rolls-Royce”? This notion has clung to Rolls despite a spate of GTs, and I’m here to report that the answer remains a resounding no. True, it’s not uncomfortable to be chauffeured around in (the steeply sloping roof won’t encumber the occupants of the back seat), but getting in and out gracefully can be a bit of a task.
The continental (a.k.a. suicide) doors are awkward and take some getting used to, but their sheer cool factor mitigates that. One crowd-pleasing feature is the speedometer reflected in the driver’s-side windshield — a very nice little touch. Our least favorite such accoutrement: the fiber-optic lights in the car’s roof lining, which are terribly tacky and look straight out of the late 1970s. But that’s a small quibble.
To our original questions, then: Was the almost 40-year wait between the Carmague and the Wraith worth it? Yes, in many respects it was. The Wraith is unquestionably a fine addition to the company’s current model lineup. And does the world really need a sporty Rolls-Royce? No, not really. But when does the concept of “need” ever factor in to a discussion about a car like this?
SPECIFICATIONS FOR 2014 ROLLS-ROYCE WRAITH
Engine: 6.6 liter, twin-turbocharged V12
Power: 624 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
Driveline: Rear-wheel drive
Transmission: Eight-speed (satellite-aided) automatic
Acceleration: 0–60 mph in 4.4 seconds
Maximum Speed: 155 mph (governed)
Base Price: $284,900 (with options, it can approach $400,000)