First Drive: 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith

Leather-clad luxury missile.

by on Mar.29, 2016

Forward into the past, the Rolls-Royce Wraith harkening back to the grand GTs of yore.

“How much is too much?” That’s a question that frequently arises when the conversation turns to uber luxury cars.

“I would never pay $300,000 for an automobile,” some will say, which might rule out a car like the 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith. Actually, at $372,545 as tested, it’s not inexpensive by any measure, but after spending some time behind the wheel, we’re convinced it’s worth it.

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The 2016 Wraith embodies the best of the British motorcar tradition and continues to build cars where possible using “olde world” assembly methods like hand stitching, hand assembly and hand finishing of myriad leather and wood components.

Yet, while this might all bring to mind the days of Downton Abbey, the British maker’s assembly plant in Goodwood is far from lost in time. The plant, a couple hours south of London, also uses robotics and other modern methods of assembly where required for maximum reliability and efficiency.

Yards of hand-stitched leather.

Rolls-Royce pretty much hit the proverbial nail on the head when describing it on its website: “Wraith was born of a desire to push the boundaries of design and engineering. Dynamic lines create an enigmatic presence – a presence which plays host to the most powerful Rolls‑Royce engine (automotive) ever.

“Unashamedly built to deliver, Wraith challenges perceptions and offers the most dynamic driving experience in the marque’s history.”

(Maserati joins growing line-up of luxury utes with NY debut of Levante. Click Here to check it out.)

Of all the cars in the current Rolls family, perhaps none was more directly inspired by the European sporting and GT motorcars of the 1930s. There’s a sense of motion in the fastback design. Meanwhile, the reverse-opening coach doors lead you into what Rolls describes as a “contemporary cocoon,” exposing yards and yards of gorgeous leather inside.  The doors are huge, as it the Wraith itself, and allow ingress and egress with nary a hair out of place.

Rolls has wisely incorporated many luxe features borrowed from parent BMW into the Wraith, including the German maker’s navigation and telematics systems, all controlled by the familiar BMW iDrive rotary controller.

(BMW plans to take long-forbidden step with next-gen 7-Series. Click Here for the story.)

Wraith's doors can be opened manually, or operated with a touch of a button on the instrument panel.

Manually open the balanced doors, slide behind the steering wheel and you feel in command of a very large ship.  Power close the doors with buttons on the upper left dashboard. The steering wheel itself is finished in leather and piano black lacquer, with fingertip controls for convenience and safety features. Behind the wheel are stylish white gauges with red tipped black hands.

Fire up Wraith’s big twin-turbo V-12 and 624 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque are at the disposal of your right foot – the “Power Reserve” gauge indicating at any moment what percentage remains untapped.

Move to the center stack and the 10.25” center screen provides essential information on navigation, cabin climate, music sources, and allows for electronic access to a multitude of standard comfort and convenience features.  To the left of the center screen is the start/stop button and to the right, the requisite premium analog clock.

Just below the center screen are a trio of large vents for heating and cooling with traditional “Organ Stop” push-pull on-off knobs.  Very British, very impressive.

Wraith's twin-turbo V-12 makes 624 hp.

Also below the center screen are a row of crystal like buttons that allow for direct programming of certain functions.  Want to raise an lower the “Spirit of Ecstasy” hood ornament?  Program the button to do so.  Need immediate access to the onboard electronic owner’s manual?  Then program another button.

Everywhere you look inside the Wraith, opulence abounds.  In Phantom tradition, you even get retractable, full sized umbrellas in each forward front door pillar.

On the road, the Wraith is part Phantom, and part Ghost.  It’s like the Phantom in the sense that it’s large and in charge, with a nimble ride quality that cossets you in comfort and security.  It’s like the smaller Ghost in the sense that when you want to be “sporting,” the 5,380 pound weight of the Wraith displays harmony with BMW’s chassis expertise.

Surprisingly, it has more in common, dynamically, with a very large 3 Series than with the h Phantom.  No, not quite tossable like the “3,” but certainly confidence inspiring.

Rolls plans a complete makeover of its line-up and will move to all-aluminum construction.

A double-wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear suspension, self-leveling air springs, Anti-Roll Stabilization and adjustable suspension parameters via Electronic Variable Damping Control all come together to assure a good time behind the wheel of this driver’s car.  With the twin-turbo V-12 engine at your disposal, the Wraith hustles down the highway like a cruise missile – purpose built to destroy the competition.

Like all Rolls-Royce models, you can choose bespoke options to your heart’s desire. My test vehicle was outfitted with the $6,075 “Starlight” headliner – a dazzling LED display overhead that turns nighttime cruises into a Neil deGrasse Tyson-like spectacle.

The only thing limiting you as you express your unique desire to be expressive is the size of your wallet.  If you can dream it, Rolls can incorporate it into your new Wraith.

If you want to be “The Goddess of Darkness,” then the Wraith “Black Badge” is for you.  With darkened chrome trim, paint deepened to the blackest of blacks, and unique carbon fiber composite wheels, the Black Badge series is enhanced for a more dynamic drive experience, while commanding ultimate attention on the road.

At the upper end of the luxury/supercar pantheon live many fine motorcars.  The 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith certainly qualifies for membership in this very exclusive club.

(Mercedes’ AMG aims to redefine the future of performance. Click Here for more.)

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