When considering the mission and execution of the 2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith, it's easy to imagine the legendary words of Rolls-Royce co-founder Sir Henry Royce: "Take the best that exists and make it better." Many don't realize there was a follow-up to that instruction: "When it does not exist, design it."
Certainly, the designers and craftsmen at Rolls-Royce followed this directive when resurrecting the Wraith. At the same time, the new Wraith coupe embodies the speedy, adventurous spirit of the brand's other forefather, gentleman racer and rich guy Charles Stewart Rolls. It revives a nameplate last seen in 1938 and now with more than 600 horsepower, becomes the most powerful Rolls model to date. And with its striking neo-deco fastback design, reverse-hinged doors and no B-pillar, the Wraith shows the ultraluxury British automaker turning its gaze down a more sporting path.
The word "wraith" means apparition or specter, an appropriate choice for this shorter two-door version of the company's Ghost sedan. The Wraith, like the Ghost, uses platform architecture based on the BMW 7 Series. But with a 7-inch shorter wheelbase than the Ghost, the Wraith actually changes direction with more acuity than a traditional Rolls-Royce. Even the steering and suspension have been given a quasi-performance tuning.
With self-adjusting suspension, the Wraith is exceedingly composed and reasonably accurate when asked to make quick movements, yet also provides a serenely supple ride. Bringing that mass up to speed falls to a twin-turbocharged V12. Other Wraith features include auto-closing doors, an optional fiber-optic Starlight Headliner, massaging seats and the signature winged Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament (optionally illuminated and/or gold-plated) that disappears into the hood when the car is locked.
Indeed, the Edmunds.com A-rated 2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith represents an unconventional heading for the stately British automaker, but not without calculation. Rolls-Royce has largely watched from the side as former brand mate Bentley wins the hearts of New Money with its two-door Continental GT lineup. It also sees German marques encroaching on its rarefied ground with the recent debut of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe. A Rolls-Royce still has no real competition, but the bosses at BMW still want some insurance on their bets. For them, and for high-end luxury shoppers, the Wraith is indeed a coupe like no other.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Rolls-Royce Wraith is a large four-passenger two-door coupe available in one trim level. Powered by a turbocharged V12 engine, the Wraith glides down the road on a self-adjusting air suspension and 20-inch wheels. Standard equipment includes keyless ignition and entry, power-closing rear-hinged "coach" doors, a pair of full-size umbrellas stored within the door jambs, auto-dimming mirrors, automatic wipers, automatic xenon headlights, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, leather upholstery and trim, heated front seats, 10-way power front seats with lumbar adjustments, driver memory settings, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, four-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a navigation system with real-time traffic and voice control, concierge services, an 18-speaker sound system with a CD/DVD player, satellite radio, digital music storage, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Three optional equipment groups include Driver's Assistance Systems One and Three, and an all-encompassing U.S. Wraith package. Driver's Assistance Systems One includes lane-departure warning, auto high-beam headlamps and a head-up display with vehicle speed and navigation instructions. Driver's Assistance Systems Three includes Driver's Assistance Systems One plus an infrared night-vision display and adaptive cruise control. The U.S. Wraith package includes Driver's Assistance Systems Three plus Bespoke Audio (a 1,300-watt 18-channel amplifier, 18 speakers and digital sound processing), Comfort Entry System (keyless ignition and entry plus foot-actuated power trunk opening and closing), a Rolls-Royce "RR" logo embroidered on each headrest, either a fixed-glass roof or the Starlight Headliner (1,340 individual fiber-optic lights hand-woven into the leather headliner), 21-inch alloy wheels and a camera system that augments rearview with front and side-view cameras and a top-view function.
Many items within the Wraith's grouped packages are available as stand-alone options. Other individual options include ventilated and/or massaging front seats, lambswool floor mats and a plethora of interior personalization options for trim, door sills, stitching, surface materials and inlays. Exterior option highlights include two-tone paint schemes with or without a third, separating color, paint-matched center caps for the wheels and a gold-plated Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament that may be bottom lit or illuminated from within if a polycarbonate figurine is selected.
Naturally, if anything else can be imagined (a particular star constellation for the Starlight Headliner, for instance), Rolls-Royce will fulfill a buyer's request -- for a price.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive Rolls-Royce Wraith is propelled by a twin-turbocharged 6.6-liter V12 engine married to an eight-speed "satellite-aided" automatic transmission. Accounting for intersections, on-ramps and terrain ahead on the anticipated route, the car attempts to use its location and current driving style to select the most appropriate gear for existing and expected conditions.
Generating 624 hp and 590 pound-feet of torque, the latter unleashed as early as 1,500 rpm, the Wraith raced to 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.7 seconds in Edmunds testing. The EPA's combined driving estimate is 15 mpg (13 city/21 highway), yet we averaged 18 mpg overall, and 16.4 mpg on our 116-mile Edmunds evaluation loop.
The Wraith comes with a rearview camera, stability and traction control, antilock brakes, active front head restraints, front-seat knee and side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In Edmunds testing, the Wraith proved it has enough braking power to stop a locomotive, stopping from 60 mph in just 109 feet.
The Driver's Assistance Systems One package includes lane departure warning, automatic high beams and a head-up display. The Driver's Assistance Systems Three package further adds a night vision camera (with pedestrian and animal detection and color-coded warning) and active cruise control (with stop-and-go capability). The Camera System consists of side- and rearview cameras with reverse-path prediction and top-view functionality.
Interior Design and Special Features
We wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Wraith's reverse-hinged auto-closing doors become the next big thing. The same holds true for the Starlight Headliner's 1,340 individual lights hand woven into the roof liner. They're just two examples of how the Wraith's designers honored, "When it does not exist, design it."
What's less observable, however, is that the Wraith also boasts the largest contiguous portions of wood in any automobile. Optional book-matched Canadel paneling (canted at precisely 55 degrees) can adorn each door and continues throughout the interior, lending the look of a luxury yacht to the car. Starting with the most buttery-soft Rolls-Royce Phantom-grade leather seating surfaces, what feels like ankle-deep wool carpet and switchgear so substantial that it feels like it was salvaged from the helm of the QEII, the Wraith exceeds any expectation of opulence and how "the very best" is supposed to look and feel. Nobody will be let down by the execution of the Wraith's interior.
Because of the company's association with BMW, much of the infotainment and navigation electronics are derivative of the generally impressive and user-friendly iDrive interface. However, in the Wraith, the substantial central controller, fittingly adorned with a Spirit of Ecstasy inlay, effectively operates through a uniquely British interpretation of this now-familiar system including multilevel menus and a high-resolution display. Even the car's reminder chime has been replaced with the sound of a harp strum.
Luggage space is generous at 16.6 cubic feet, as is the rear seat that easily accommodates adults. At this price, however, it's curious that Bluetooth streaming audio, keyless ignition and foot-activated automatic trunk opening and closing are options.
With the exception of the sometimes-dulled responses from its GPS-aided transmission (without manual-shift capability), driving the Wraith feels like the occasion that it truly is. An effectively boundless amount of power from the turbocharged V12 is a toe tap away. The self-adjusting suspension would have you believe that every road was paved just yesterday. At triple digits, the hushed cabin is as serene as an executive jet.
However, please don't confuse any of these behaviors with anything resembling slop. The Wraith doesn't buoy, pitch or bounce over bumps -- ever. Sure, if you carry too much speed into a corner, the electronic stability control will let you know you're asking a 5,000-plus-pound two-door to scoff at the laws of physics. But drive it like an old, American coupe (think 1967 Cadillac Eldorado) and the Wraith obeys and rewards like none other. Turn the steering wheel a little earlier and a little farther than one would in a sport coupe, allow the supple suspension to respond and then dip into the power reserve (represented by an actual "Power Reserve" gauge on the dash instead of a rev counter). Let the other guys get there first. You'll arrive in style.
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