Rolls is rolling. Riding off the success of the Ghost, it sold the most cars in its 109-year history, twice, setting new records in 2011 and 2012. The wave of success can be contributed to a departure from the past as the Ghost launches a new era of cars meant to be driven and not just driven in. Taking what it has learned from the Ghost, which accounts for one in three of its new car sales, it proffers the Wraith for 2014. Starting at the front, the Wraith mirrors the Ghost until about three-fourths of the way down, where the sloping rear roofline takes over, endowing a grand-touring appearance through a sporty fastback design. The two also share a sense of driving involvement not found in the Phantoms, which often beckon for a chauffeur so that you can lounge in the rear chairs.
One good reason to take the helm is the 624-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 6.6-liter V-12 engine. It’s the same BMW-sourced engine found in the Ghost, but offers more power in the Wraith and proves that the luxury brand has some excitement in its bones as it whisks its occupants away to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Unfortunately, it’s limited to 155 mph, a little disappointing for a car of this class and of these power levels. Meanwhile, Bentley is setting land-speed records with its Continental, even if they are on ice. Then, there is the eight-speed automatic transmission, which now uses the global-positioning system to monitor the road ahead and select the most appropriate gear, depending on the driving style. For instance, if the driver is having fun around some twisty turns, the transmission will hold the lower gear, staving off the upshift until exiting onto a straight path.
As in all Rolls-Royce models, the Wraith is also just a nice place to be. Access to both the front and rear is through a pair of frameless coach doors. As in the Phantom Coupe, the lack of a B-pillar makes accessing the rear painless. Soft leather hides with recessed piping, smooth chrome accents and a new Candel paneling, which retains the wood’s natural texture and open grains, promising to elicit responses from our more visceral senses. For every antiquated touch of old world luxury, there is also a piece of modern technology. Above is a Starlight Headliner, where 1,340 fiber-optic bulbs give the impression of looking up at a clear night sky, and below is a bright 10-1/4-inch-long screen controlled by an iDrive-like knob and a touch pad that deciphers characters drawn with one’s fingertip. Then there is the surround sound system, which pumps out 1,300 watts through no less than 18 speakers.
The Wraith provides a second car in what appears to be a mini Phantom lineup. It’s not that they are actually much smaller than the Phantom models, just less expensive and sportier. Now, all that’s missing is the convertible.
Price: $300,000 (estimated)
Engine: 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-12
0-60: 4.4 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)
Transmission: eight-speed automatic transmission
Torque: 590 foot-pounds (estimated)