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Review: 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith

A Roller with plenty of style to go along with its opulence.

All the superlatives and descriptives in the world that could be heaped upon the 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith will still not do this vehicle justice. Obviously a thing, once you are behind the wheel, it doesn't just literally transport you to your destination. It figuratively places you on a pedestal, or in a sense, on center stage.

But such idolatry comes with a price. Again, with literally and figuratively being the operative words here, typical Roller owners run in some rarified air. With a cost of annual maintenance in the neighborhood of $3,900, and an oil change skirting around the $650 mark, depending if you're able to secure a 20-percent off dealer coupon from your ValuPak mailings each week, (as if there would be a discount coupon from your local Rolls-Royce dealership packed inside) a typical RR buyer is in a whole different league.

But if you can afford the price of admission, you obviously don't sweat such trivialities.

What is it?A four-place two-door coupe for the sporting lady or gentleman, the Rolls-Royce Wraith follows the edict by Sir Henry Royce, that states "take the best that exists and make it better." Royce, the business partner of Charles Rolls, continued by saying "when it does not exist, design it.” Famous words for certain, they have been repeated over and over when telling the story of Rolls-Royce, but still they give a look into the philosophy that helped the Wraith come to be.

With BMW Group being the overseers of the Goodwood - based Rolls-Royce Motor Car company, it's a no-brainer that the latest in high-performance engines and suspensions are part of this ultra exclusive coupe's DNA. Powered by a twin-turbocharged 6.6-liter direct-injection V12 engine, that produces 624 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 RPM, it is the most powerful Rolls-Royce ever (even more so if you spring for the St. James Edition). If such performance does not even elicit a flinch, you most certainly are prepared for the mileage ratings and required premium fuel that is dictated by the owner's manual.

And taking advantage of the parent company's economy of scale, the Wraith shares its basic platform with the Rolls-Royce Ghost, and by extension the BMW 7-series sedan.

That German-built V12 is mated to a ZF eight-speed satellite-aided transmission (SAT) that uses GPS technology to "read the road” based on existing satellite views and maps and then chooses the optimal gearing that is suited to the road at any given moment. With shifts so imperceptible and uneventful, we weren't certain how many actual gear cogs made up the transmission until we read the press kit.

The Wraith rides on a cloud-soft combo of a double wishbone front- and multi-link rear suspension, which combines with dynamic springs and dampers to constantly adjust the ride through the firming up or softening of the spring rates and ride quality, as needed. An adaptive rack and pinion steering system offers light touch control to the larger than life leather-wrapped tiller, and firms up while at speed.

Consider the Wraith as a blank canvas. Start with the basic shape and drivetrain, not to mention the $38,825 U.S. spec'd "The Wraith Package.” That kit includes the comfort entry system, adaptive headlights, highbeam assist, lane departure warning, head-up display, night vision, Driver's Assistance 3 package, and the bird's eye view camera system, among other things. Beyond that, the rules are "there are no rules.” The Wraith can be outfitted as you, your hopefully good taste, and your wallet are able to imagine. But that comes with a price, to be determined by the factory and your local stockist.

What's it up against?From a strictly customizable standpoint, competition for the Wraith comes from the Bentley Continental GT, Mulsanne and Flying Spur, the Mercedes-Benz S600 Maybach and the S-Class Coupe.

How does it look?Pulling from several influences, the 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith evokes the grandeur of the Art Deco movement, the early days of flight, and luxury crossings at sea. The rakish look of the fastback coupe reminds us of a 1950s Lothario, capable of seducing his prey with little or no effort whatsoever. Quite successfully, we might add.

Despite its throwback looks, the Wraith is loaded with new tech, as well as innovations that scream look at me-but in only the subtlest of ways. Larger than large rear hinged doors open wide to truly announce your arrival for those who may have missed the Parthenon-like RR grill that sits below the illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament that disappears into its own vault for safekeeping, once the car is locked up.

The looks of the Wraith truly elevate the sense of theater that an owner must have in order to pull the whole thing off. In other words, if you are uncomfortable in the spotlight, you need not apply.

And the inside?Opening the two doors that appear to be at least seven-feet-long, is a bit disconcerting, at first, because naturally people have a tendency to expect them to open the other way. But these are rear-hinged Rolls-Royce doors. Once inside, reach for the door buttons just below the a-pillar, and witness the engineering expertise that must have gone into designing the mechanism that swings these doors closed and locked with a resounding clunk. Now you are in the Rolls-Royce bubble. Take off your shoes and let your feet luxuriate in the lambswool carpeting. Then, for the sake of your passengers, please put them back on. The sounds of a concert harp ring out reminding you to buckle up. Pushing the starter button kicks off an electric motor that sounds like it might be powerful enough to motivate a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. It's at that point that the TwinTurbo V12 barks itself to life. Actually, it's more of a purr. Piano black covers silently open revealing a 10.25-inch high definition display screen that depicts input from the BMW iDrive-like Ecstasy Rotary Controller. The top surface of the controller doubles as a Touch pad where drivers can "trace” a letter in an effort to spell out a destination or a phone number.

Exclusive touches abound inside the Wraith. Canadel paneling is featured throughout. An open-pored wood veneer, it lends to the interior, the look and feel of being on the bridge of a Mega Yacht.

Seating inside the Wraith is more akin to relaxing in one's formal living room. Front chairs include heating, ventilation and massage functions, while the pair of rear seats are just as comfortable, and offer in some cases, more rear seat legroom than found in some four-door sedans.

The boot, or trunk, as we call it, can accommodate 16.6 cubic feet of cargo.

The Wraith can be ordered with a buyer's choice of integral glass roof, or in the case of our sampler, the leather-bound Starlight Headliner, which features 1,340 individual dimmable fiber optic lights. If you are living amongst the stars, it's always nice to be able to touch them, we say.

But does it go?Billed as a sporting gentleman's Gran Turismo, the Rolls-Royce Wraith is typically British, by way of Munich (BMW's home office). Having such dual citizenship, it displays the expected English refinement on the surface, with Teutonic forcefulness in reserve. As such we observed it gently pulling away from a stoplight at one moment, and displaying the motivations of an autobahn burner, the next.

With a sharp jab to the accelerator, The ZF eight-speed transmission takes that as its cue to drop not just one, but several gear cogs down for a rapid getaway. The suspension and its cloud-like ride are unflappable, barely leading occupants to the realization that the car is being driven in anger. Would you like your tea with one lump or two? But, of course.

Defying the laws of physics, the twelve-pot engine moves the 5,200-pounder along at such a rate that it eclipses 0-60 in 4.4-seconds and achieves a top speed of 155 mph before engine management software rains on its parade. Unfortunately, it has a bit of a drinking problem, too, getting mileage numbers in the range of 13 city/21 highway with 15 mpg combined. That subjects it to the dreaded gas-guzzler surcharge of $1,700.

As powerful and refined as this Roller is, it is not so adept at rapid corner cutting. But to think that would be missing the point of this piece of rolling artwork, entirely. Rushing a turn would only upset the car and its occupants at the same time. Instead, we take our time, enjoying the ride as much as the destination it will take us to.

After spending considerable time in the Rolls-Royce Wraith, it is clear to us, this is a car that is to be savored, like a fine meal, one bite at a time. To do anything else would likely lead to indigestion.

Leftlane's bottom lineClearly a vehicle for those who can afford it, the Rolls-Royce Wraith could be the ultimate expression in luxury motorcars (somehow the word "car” doesn't do this vehicle justice.). Ordered virtually as a blank slate, it is one that can be designed, customized and personalized to within an inch of its life. And with a starting price that hovers just under the $300K range, it is definitely not for the faint of heart or wallet.

2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith base price, $294,025. As tested, $398,350.Two-toned paint scheme, $8,950; Deep Garnet, $9,925; Bespoke group charge, $5,525; Dealer options, $1,725; Umbrellas, $700; LED Starlight headliner, $5,900; The Wraith Package (US), $38,825; Front ventilated seats, $2,550; Up lit Spirit of Ecstasy, $3,825; RR inlays to monitor lid, $850; Wraith Treadplates, $2,475; Leather Boot Floor, $4,900; RR Onlay to doors, (Open Pore Wood) $3,375; IP Upper top stitching, $625; Canadel wood veneer, $9,975; Destination, $2,500; Gas Guzzler tax, $1,700.

Photos by Mark Elias. Thank you to Paul Barth and Camera Copters Inc, for location assistance.

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