Rolls-Royce is considered to be the most prestigious brand of luxury automobile available anywhere in the world.
We recently had the chance to test Rolls-Royce’s latest Ghost (reviewed here), and came away adoring its personality, not to mention its prestige and overall air of luxury. According to Rolls-Royce, the Wraith is an “imperceptible force”, a vehicle that collaborates the historic elegance of the brand with their most powerful current engine. Being both gearheads as well as self-dubbed connoisseurs of luxury vehicles, our team was excited to check it out for ourselves. A name that dates back to the 1930s, we welcomed the 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith into our garage for a week’s worth of in-depth evaluation.
The Wraith uses a shortened version of the Ghost’s platform, as well as a beefed-up version of its V12 powertrain. However, everything else is completely unique to this vehicle. Incorporating a stunning fastback roofline that looks unlike anything else on the road today, the Wraith’s design director Giles Taylor says that it uses only the best inspirations available, such as the Lancia Aurelia Coupe, to have one of the most beautiful profiles out there. The front end is unmistakable as a Rolls-Royce, including the powered Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament capable of dropping into the hood when the vehicle is locked.
Hand-built at the Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood, the Wraith (and its siblings, Ghost and Dawn) often gets criticized for being tarted-up versions of the BMW 7-series (reviewed here). The reality of the situation is that anybody saying this has obviously not driven the vehicles back to back. The Wraith handles the road with more grace, composure, and class than any 7-series ever could, and offers a level of balance and ride quality superior to anything I have experienced. The front multilink suspension has air springs and electronic dampers, as well as anti-roll bars. The ride is like gliding on the softest pillow imaginable, but somehow, the car manages to display remarkably sharp driving dynamics.
The monster under the mile-long bonnet of the Rolls-Royce Wraith is a 6.6L twin-turbocharged DOHC V12. The keen will observe that this is the same motor in the forthcoming BMW M760Li (previewed here). Output in the Rolls is 624 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 590 lb-ft of torque peaking at just 1,500RPM. All of this power is sent to the rear wheels via ZF’s magical eight-speed transmission. The beauty about this transmission is that it uses GPS to pre-adapt to forthcoming situations such as curves and ramps. It’s not exactly the most detectable or testable setup, but regardless, this transmission is imperceptibly good and shifts gears unnoticeably.
All of this power is good for a mid-four second run to 100 km/h, which is insanely quick for a 5500-lb car, but it’s not like anybody buys a Rolls-Royce for its performance. This may be the case, but the Wraith is the sportiest vehicle the brand has ever put out, and the fastest. A quick jab at the throttle will almost instantly have you past the legal speed limit, and it will feel like you’re still coasting along at 50 km/h. This car has the uncanny ability to eliminate the sensation of speed and trade it for the utmost in comfort and balance. Pushing the Wraith through corners once again demonstrates its competence and balance. This feels like a world-class grand tourer with just the right touch of sportiness when its muscles need to be flexed.
The real beauty of anything bearing the Rolls-Royce badge is once the large suicide doors are opened. The interior is nothing short of staggeringly beautiful – whether it’s the mounds of leather, lamb wool or metallic finish, every single square centimeter inside the car is just spectacular. Our vehicle was equipped with a Hotspur Bespoke interior, which is a combination of striking red leather (with the Rolls logo embroidered into the headrests) and metallic veneer. The headliner deletes its glass sunroof in favour of the Starlight Headliner, a series of 1,340 fiber-optic LEDs strategically placed above passengers to simulate a starry night sky. This can be toggled on and off, and the brightness is also adjustable to be bright enough to illuminate the entire interior at night.
Rolls-Royce is considered to be the most prestigious brand of luxury automobile available anywhere in the world. As such, they have to ensure everything is thought of during development to keep the driver and all passengers as coddled as possible. On our particular test vehicle, even your feet are pampered, with the lamb wool floor mats. Passengers in the car during our test commented on how these are so plush it almost initiates guilt to plant shoes onto them. On the driver’s side, there is a small leather pad on the mat where your heel would go, as to not ruin the soft wool with harsh shoe/boot materials.
Once seated in the comfortable leather seats, it will take most a few minutes to just appreciate how fine the fit and finish on this vehicle is. Everything is not only put together in the most meticulous way possible (by hand!), it feels extremely luxurious and immediately evident why Rolls-Royce has such a reputed name. The metal levers to control the air vents are heavy and operate with a very fluid motion, and the instrument cluster needles are impeccably smooth in their movement. The infotainment screen has a metal door that drops down to cover it, and the controller for the system, finished in ceramic, has a Spirit of Ecstasy on it as well.
Speaking of the infotainment system – it’s worth noting that this is the one place where the Rolls-Royce brand’s BMW ownership becomes evident. The Wraith incorporates a re-skinned and fine-tuned version of the BMW iDrive system, and this controls the navigation, entertainment, vehicle settings, and Bluetooth telephone. To some this may appear to be a negative trait, but the reality is that BMW has the best system in the business. Anyone who has been inside a Phantom or any other Rolls produced in the past decade will understand how dated Rolls-Royce’s proprietary system is, and how much of a blessing this new setup is. The Ghost and Dawn also use the same BMW-derived software.
There is no such thing as a “base model” for the Wraith – every single one is made-to-order and personalized specifically to the tastes of each individual client. Bespoke paint schemes, interior finishes, and specific options bring up the price considerably, but of course, cost is usually no issue for the typical buyer. Adding to the starting price of $346,975, our vehicle was pretty heavily customized. The Commissioned Collection Paint, including the two-tone setup (Graphite Silver) will set you back over $20,000, and small touches like the up-lit Spirit of Ecstasy on the hood add $4,600. There’s an additional charge for the front ventilated seats, and the most expensive – the “Wraith” package that includes most of the common electronic doodads and options. This will set you back $45,600. The total sticker on our vehicle was $459,950. With taxes, freight and delivery, this is pushing $600,000 Canadian.
The most interesting part of our test of the Wraith was its fuel economy. This being a twin-turbocharged V12, efficiency is obviously not its forte. However, despite lacking many of the modern conveniences such as cylinder deactivation, the heavy Rolls’ eight-speed automatic was able to pull off as little as 9.4L/100km on a particularly long highway run. City mileage will not be as generous, and we saw numbers as high as 19L/100km. Our combined mileage over our test (about 600km) was 14.2L/100km on 91-octane premium fuel. The 83L fuel tank is a generous size, without being big enough to be overkill.
We’re fortunate enough to be able to sample the latest and greatest in the North American automotive industry, and this 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith is the perfect example of both of these things. Though the cost of adding bespoke options to the lovely British fastback isn’t particularly cheap, this is one of the most respected and high-quality vehicles available today. Those lucky enough to own them will appreciate its unique touches (such as the power door closers and double-paned glass), and should become quite accustomed to getting comments, looks, and questions about their choice each time. The way Rolls-Royce puts it, this car is special enough for each drive to the store, work, or even a pleasure run to be its own experience – this is something the Wraith delivers effortlessly.
2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith Gallery
*Photos by Theron Lane & Imran Bhutta*