Nothing might so clearly communicate that you won’t ever “get” a car’s raison d’être, besides the fact that you couldn’t ever hope to buy one, quite like $87,424 in options on a Rolls-Royce with a base price of $284,900.
Start with the Starlight headliner in the back seat of the 2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith, made from 1,340 fiber-optic lights sewn into the liner by hand and run off a dimmer above you where you’d normally find the sunroof toggle. It's a dreamy place to let your mind wander, a piece of beauty and whimsy for just $10,000. And as a bespoke feature you can order your Starlight cluster in the exact constellation map of your choice; I’d maybe request the stars overhead on the night of my kid’s birth, just because. Neil deGrasse Tyson, your ride awaits.
Pulled from Rolls' dusty history of coupe names, the modern Wraith arrives as a 5,203-lb. roller with the industry's only rear-hinged doors, just as they were on the 1938 edition. I like so much of everything about the rakish exterior of the Wraith apart from the thoroughly massive rear pillars, if you can even call those slabs of steel pillars. As a result of that long slabby tail, the rear overhang starts looking exaggeratedly long. Wheelbase is, after all seven inches less than on the Ghost sedan, overall length being five inches less than on the four-door. But, c’mon, the car's a beauty, and I’m just hunting around for chinks in the armor.
As for those royal doors: They are enormous, with stainless-steel handles, and they weigh a ton. To handle the intrusion of physics into daily life, Rolls automates the opening and closing via a button right inside the small triangle window at either front pillar.
Rolls-Royce designed the Wraith not for the short-attention span multitasker, but for the owner who might typically ride in back but also likes to hang out at the steering wheel and drive every so often. Those drivers will have all of the modern automotive entertainments, with none of the vulgar GPS fins marring the roof; Rolls-Royce hid the antennas under a rear deck made of carbon composites that don't block reception.
Aside from the door count, the Wraith also trumpets more power than any other Rolls-Royce ever made. The biturbo 6.6-liter V-12 – a bored-out version of the motor in the BMW 760Li – reaches 624 hp and cranks forth 590 pound-feet of torque between 1,500 and 5,000 rpm. Should you wish to bury the throttle, or overtake a semi at speed on the long highway, acceleration to 60 miles per hour takes a conservatively estimated 4.4 seconds. A throttle thus buried into the optional plush woolen footwell rugs creates the most noise allowed into the cabin of any current Rolls-Royce. And it’s in straight lines and fast sweepers where I felt the Wraith offering a bit of a gentleman racer's spirit.
But when the serious curves begin, lateral momentum rules the day. The chassis suggests you back off the throttle a touch; the Wraith ain’t no Porsche 911. And thank goodness for the large compound braking platters at every corner – 14.7-inch diameter front and 14.6-inch rear – behind the standard 20-inch seven-spoke alloys. The steering feels so smooth and unctuously numb, while the actual grip of the steering wheel dressing comes off as thicker and more satisfying than on any previous Chichester car.
In the everyday land-yacht mode, wafting past large shade trees, on one’s way to a picnic at the polo club, the engine betrays only a low, distant thrum. The standard adaptive air ride suspension guarantees that vintage Rolls float; all the rough stuff from the sunny drive day was snuffed out as I would expect. One has to really force the issue to put the Wraith’s hair out of place.
Not all options demonstrated their usefulness during my drive. The Wraith offers the first use of a technology called satellite-aided transmission. Using 3D satellite imagery and the route as programmed into the navigation, the eight-speed automatic transmission anticipates what gear to hold or shift to depending on the topography, speed limits and so forth. It's the first time such a tech with worldwide 3D maps has been installed — and if I could have felt it doing anything perceptible, I might have formed an opinion.
But the world's elite won't embrace the Wraith for technical geegaws. They'll come for the Starlight roof, and the Canadel wood paneling and a hundred other luxury touches that can be experienced even if the car sits motionless. If you’re in a rush, go buy a poor man’s Bentley Continental GT or Mercedes-Benz CL-Class for the common rat race. For all its power, the Wraith carries a different message: slow down your hurry, man.