TORONTO, Canada—Let’s get the price out of the way right now. Nobody ever pays the list price – $346,975, in the case of this Wraith – for a Rolls-Royce—nobody.
Plenty of people walk into the showroom in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver and order one of the models on the floor, but even those have additional options the dealer thought would be a nice touch. Ours came in at $459,950, for example.
If you want to save a buck by not ordering something on your car even though you’d quite like it, then a Rolls-Royce is not for you.
Let’s get the snob value out of the way, too. You can’t look at a Rolls-Royce and picture its driver. It’s probably not an English lord or lady, and these days, in Canada, one in every three buyers is Chinese.
Usually, they order a Rolls because they don’t want to mess around—they just want something hassle-free and luxurious, but they almost always want something that makes a statement about their success.
And as it’s always been, since the beginning of the company more than a hundred years ago, the Rolls-Royce buyer is perhaps as likely to be broke as extremely wealthy, borrowing against the last of his or her considerable credit to impress people who need to be impressed.
A Rolls-Royce makes a statement more effectively than any other car, and that statement is: Look At Me.
Now the Rolls-Royce Wraith adds a measure of performance to an expanding lineup that includes the original Phantom – well, original since BMW bought the company and started making it in 2003 – and the smaller Ghost sedan, and now the smaller Dawn convertible.
“There’s a bit of a growl to the engine,” says the salesperson. “It’s subtle, but it’s there.”
The engine is more powerful than anything Rolls has ever put into a car: a 6.6-litre V12 that creates a massive 624 horsepower and an equally huge 590 lbs-ft of torque. The Wraith may be more than five metres long and weigh almost 2.5 tonnes, but it can still shift itself from zero-to-100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds if the driver wants to do so. Phew!
The Wraith is unmistakably a Roll-Royce, even when the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament is retracted into the grille—this is partly for security, to stop people stealing it, but also for safety, to not shred pedestrians if the car hits someone.
If it’s bent at more than 30 degrees or so, the little statue will pull itself down automatically into a locked recess. You don’t want it down there for long, though: on our tester, it was up-lit at night with subtle blue light to lead the way—a $4,600 option. See how it begins?
The difference from other Rollers is the Wraith’s fastback profile, with its long, sloping roof that suggests a sportier car. Unlike plenty of other fastbacks, there’s still ample room in the rear seats for two people, thanks to the car’s sheer size.
Most buyers will opt for the two-tone paint to set off the roofline. Get out the cheque book again: the regular “commissioned” paint on the tester cost an extra $11,900, but the second shade of paint for the upper area was an additional $10,725.
The two doors are rear-hinged so they open forwards, not backward like almost every other car that isn’t a Lamborghini or McLaren. Rolls-Royce calls these “coach doors” while the Great Unwashed still call them “suicide doors.”
They’re intended to open the cabin more fully and make entrance and exit more graceful, especially for women in long dresses. They’re very, very heavy, and close automatically with the push of a button on the A-pillar so no ungainly stretching and heaving is needed.
They’re not suicide doors, because the car won’t move with them open, but they make a powerful statement to others when they start to swing open in their unexpected way.
Step over the little sterling silver treadplate at the base of the door – it can be engraved with whatever you like, and the tester’s cost $2,975 – and inside, there’s nothing that isn’t Rolls-Royce. No other fancy brand names for the clock or the sound system. The idea here is that Rolls-Royce is its own superlative.
The leather is thick and unblemished and supremely comfortable, and do you really want to know how much extra the seat piping cost, and the top stitching, and the metal fascia veneer? (Sure you do: $6,025, $775, and $6,475.)
The truly costly option in here is the “Starlight Headliner” that has 1,340 little holes in it, randomly filled with tiny LED lights to look like a night sky. It cost an extra $16,775 and took about three days for a worker at the Goodwood assembly plant to create.
If you want it to represent a specific starry sky, such as the one at the place and night you were married, that’ll be an extra $10,000 or so.
There’s surprising little advanced technology, and nothing you can’t get in a high-end German car for a third of the price. Passive lane assistance, high-beam assistance and night vision are all part of The Wraith Package (an all-encompassing $45,600 option) but there’s no blind spot warning or active steering.
You do get umbrellas in the door jambs, though. Are those high-tech? These ones have storage cubbies with dryers in them. If you lose one and need to replace it, it’ll cost $850. If you don’t actually own a Rolls-Royce and want to buy one on its own, it’ll be $1,200. They don’t sell many to non-owners.
This is the beauty of the Wraith. It’s so powerful that, like all Rolls-Royces, it always starts in second gear unless you push a button for first, because such acceleration would be too much of a lurch.
And it’s designed to “waft.” The salesperson says wafting is “like driving on a cloud,” but it’s actually more like in Star Wars, where the vehicle rises a little into the air and then hurls forward. It goes nicely around corners, too.
As for fuel, don’t even think about it. No seriously—don’t. It’s designed to run on 95 octane, like that’s even available in Canada, but will make do with 91 Premium. Official consumption is 18.8 L/100 km in the city and 11.8 on the highway, for an official combined rating of 15.6.
That’s also exactly what I observed in 500 km of driving. So we’ll knock a point off a perfect score because it’s killing the planet.
There is no physical value-for-money to any Rolls-Royce, which is vastly overpriced, so it gets a big fat Zero, here. However, it has a “Look At Me” value that might well be enough to land a contract, or a spouse, or pretty much anything you want, so that gets a Hero.
We’ll split the difference, and if Zero to Hero is one to 10, we’ll give the Wraith a five. It’s all or nothing with this car. No poxy Bimmer or Benz is so ostentatious or confident, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need to get the job done. And if it’s not, drive one of the other cars in your garage.
A Rolls-Royce PR guy summed up the Phantom when he said, “it’s one thing to sell a person on a car that costs $100,000 more than the mainstream, like a Ferrari or Lamborghini, but it’s something else when you’re asking for an extra $400,000. There are a lot less of those buyers around.”
But there are enough – one percent of the one percent – to keep Rolls-Royce in profitable business. You’re really not buying a car with a Phantom or a Ghost—you’re buying an in-your-face statement of your apparent success.
It’s the same with the Wraith, except it’s more fun to drive.