The Arizona desert is not the landscape usually associated with Rolls-Royce cars, but it turns out it’s a great place to put one to the test.
Last week, I made the cross-country trek to get behind the wheel of the Wraith, the sleek coupe that also happens to be the most powerful car ever to come from the ultra-luxury brand.
It was wonderful.
But for all its excellent, effortless performance, the Wraith is a bit alienating. There’s no option to change gears yourself, no Sport mode you can select to ramp up the RPM and hear it roar. The car uses GPS to select gears before hitting hard turns, so you never feel the engine at work.
Once you accept that even behind the wheel, you’re kind of a passenger, you’ll love the Wraith.
The V12 engine sends you from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. You close the doors via buttons. Fancy umbrellas pop out of surprising places. The roof emulates a star-filled sky. You can propel yourself down a desert highway and feel like you’re on your couch.
The Wraith starts for $US284,900; the car we drove runs for $US372,324.
Full Disclosure: Rolls-Royce paid for our travel and lodging expenses to drive the Wraith.
The Wraith coupe is designed for those who want to drive, not be driven. Rolls-Royce disdains the word 'sporty,' but Director of Global Communications Richard Carter says 'it's a car for crossing continents.'
The 'radical' fastback-style roof is reminiscent of a 1960s Mustang, but with a classy touch. The car looks fantastic in profile.
To evoke the speed of the Wraith, Rolls-Royce tilted the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament forward by four degrees.
Under the hood is a twin-turbocharged 6.6-liter V12 engine that produces 624 brake horsepower, enough to send all 5,380 pounds of Wraith from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
That power is not noisy. You don't hear any wind until you near three-digit speeds, and the engine only roars when you really push it.
The drive quality is incredibly smooth, thanks to the Wraith's Satellite Aided Transmission. The car uses GPS to see what roads are ahead and select the right gear ahead of time. 'You are simply always in the right gear,' Carter said.
We were surprised to find there's no way to manually control gears. Rolls designer Alex Innes said the team didn't include the option to make the car feel more luxurious. That's fair, but it also makes the Wraith less fun to drive. Same goes for the lack of noise.
And while we're nitpicking, I really dislike the side view mirrors. A car this sleek shouldn't have anything shaped like a Smart car stuck to it. Innes says it wasn't a voluntary choice: European regulations demanded a mirror along these lines due to the Wraith's size.
Other than that, it was all great. The Wraith's infotainment system is both sophisticated and simple, a rare combination in cars today.
In keeping with its style, Rolls-Royce put coach (aka suicide) doors on the Wraith. The wood on the door is one piece and comes as an option.
Options like the Starlight Headliner, which mimics a night sky with fibre optic lights, and the 'RR' monograms on the headrests pushed our car's price from a base of $US284,900 to a total of $US372,324.
The stainless steel treadplates remind you that your Wraith was hand-built by humans. At the Rolls-Royce factory, workers actually push the cars down the assembly line.
Overall, the Wraith is glorious. It's packed with luxury and delivers top-of-the-line performance -- without your help. If you want to engage with a super luxury car, try the Bentley GT Speed. If you want to be in the driver's seat but also sit back and enjoy the ride, take the Wraith.
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