2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith First Test
“Don’t think of it as a racetrack. Think of it as a private road.” That’s what the Rolls-Royce driving instructors told us as we were about to drive Wraiths onto the new Thermal Track in La Quinta, California, about 15 minutes from Palm Springs. (Well, one third of the track, as the Thermal Club hasn’t finished building the rest yet.) There are of course two ways to interpret their comments. The first is that a vehicle like the Wraith simply doesn’t belong on a track. The other would be, well, I’m not sure your wallet’s fat enough to fully grok it. A quick glance at the Thermal’s website reveals that its slogan is “Private Pavement.” One has to imagine that anyone who buys a Wraith – base price $288,600, as tested $360,325 – views most of the world as private pavement. At least potentially. Cars this freakishly expensive remind me of when David Letterman was a guest on Jerry Seinfeld’s Web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Dave’s upset at all the other people in the restaurant and wants them to leave. Jerry says, “We don’t own this place.” To which Letterman grins and replies, “We can change that, though, can’t we?” The point of having too much money might be to remake the world how you’d like it.
That sort of sentiment leads me to the night before we got to Thermal. I was invited to stay in a 5000-square-foot Italian-ish villa located in a private community/golf paradise called the Madison Club. It’s so high-end that I found it a little hard to take. Weeks before I showed up I was asked what sort of things I like to drink. When I walked into the villa’s kitchen, every type of booze I mentioned was sitting on the counter, including semi-obscure stuff such as 23-year-old Ron Zacapa rum. I mentioned I like cigars and within five minutes I was holding a Cohiba (a real one), a Padrón, and a pretty decent Romeo y Julietta Churchill. Here’s the real kicker: One cigar had a Connecticut wrapper, one was a Habana, and the third was a Maduro. Clearly not their first rodeo. I promised I wouldn’t name members’ names, but there’s a very famous cigar-chompin’ action star that’s a member. Maybe two. “We’re not in the saying ‘no’ business,” the club pro who acted as my tour guide explained. I can’t remember a moment when a staff member wasn’t smiling at me. At dinner I confirmed that yes, I do like beef jerky. When I woke up the next day at 7 a.m. there was a pound of it on the coffee table. Like membership at the Thermal Club, you’re invited to buy a house at the Madison Club. You don’t sign up. Oh, the roughly $4.5 million villa I was in was a cheap little guy. There was a 20,000-square-foot monstrosity on the market for $19 million. I mention this fancy, fantasy-world type stuff because if you have the eight-figure net worth typically connected to Wraith buyers, the above is your reality.
Back to the track. Well, I’ll say this: The Wraith is the first Rolls-Royce in the brand’s long and storied history that you can, sorta, drive on a racetrack. I don’t think it’s a very good idea, but the massive two-door has the intestinal fortitude (and the brakes) to pull off a decent imitation of a sporty car. Of course it’s not, mostly because it weighs 5328 pounds, but also because it’s a two-door Ghost, which in turn is a puffed-up BMW 7 Series. I’d call the Wraith the world’s heaviest two-door, but I know the Phantom Drophead Coupe exists. The boys at Thermal are very friendly people and they let me and a British buddy take to their new track in Porsche Caymans. Now folks, those are (obviously) track cars. I’d posit that if you owned a Wraith, it is the car you’d drive sportingly to the track from your villa while your own private works crew towed your track car – probably a 911 GT3 RS – to the private club. Then you’d Wraith yourself over to the airstrip to hop in your G5, because bags of cash. But you know what? The Wraith didn’t embarrass itself out there in the desert. With a 624-horsepower, 6.6-liter twin-turbo V-12 under its long hood, how could it?
What does all that power add up to on our test track? Good question. The Wraith hits 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. That’s crazy quick for such a leviathan, especially a RWD one. Some context: The 2445-pound Alfa Romeo 4C needs 4.1 seconds to hit 60 mph. The BMW M4 hits 60 mph in 4.0 seconds flat, as does the Camaro Z/28. Meaning the not-in-any-way-subtle Roller is capable of embarrassing most folks stoplight to stoplight. The quarter mile is over in 12.5 seconds at 114.0 mph. While it won’t win the drag race, it will hang with true performance machines such as the M4 (12.2 seconds) and the Z/28 (12.3 seconds) for 1320 feet, and kick the little Alfa’s 12.8-second butt. Braking from 60 mph requires 109 feet – not bad at all for such a massive car. Where the Wraith is caught out is in handling: Max lateral grip was a pretty poor 0.82 g and the normally dignified coupe needed 26.6 seconds to flail around our figure-eight course. That’s slow, especially considering how quick the Wraith is when moving in a straight line, and that much of the figure eight is straight. The Camaro Z/28 – for instance – can do the same in 23.6 seconds, a ferociously quick time.
But what about obvious competition such as the Bentley Continental GT Speed? Well, for one, Rolls-Royce will swear up and down, left and right, back and forth that the Wraith does not compete with the Continental. To which I say the problem with living in an echo chamber is that you start to believe everything coming out of your mouth. For another, the Bentley is lighter, weighing “only” 5181 pounds. (That last sentence was 80 percent humor. Maybe 85 percent.) The two-door from Crewe is also AWD. Right, the numbers: 0-60 mph takes 3.8 seconds in the Bentley; the quarter mile is 12.1 seconds at 117.1 mph; braking from 60 mph happens in 111 feet. Max lateral grip is likewise a pretty poor 0.85 g, though the GT Speed can whip around our figure eight in a (relatively) cat-like 25.7 seconds. There you have it, if you only care about numbers. The Bentley’s the better athlete. However, keep watching this space if you think there’s more to a hyper-luxury coupe than quickness.
I’m mainly mentioning these stats for two reasons. One, this is a first test where we disseminate the information our testing crew spends so much time gathering. The other is that Rolls-Royce brought me to the track, presumably for some reason. Funny side note: Thermal was actually a pretty OK track for the Wraith drive because in its present, unfinished configuration it’s nothing more than a bunch of straights and throwaway corners. Almost an ideal situation for a very quick car with strong brakes. Point is, I had fun out there. That’s an important part of a great car – its ability to allow you to enjoy yourself no matter where you are. I’ve found that lately, fun at all times has become a Rolls-Royce core value. If I have one actual gripe with the Wraith it’s this: The as-tested price of $360K means you’re only $100K or so away from a Phantom Coupe. I’ve driven both and I’d rather have that. At this point, what’s another hundred grand? As the Madison Club, Thermal, and the Wraith taught me, not much!
|2014 Rolls Royce Wraith|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$360,325|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||6.6L/624-hp/590-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve V-12|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5328 lb (51/49%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||207.9 x 76.7 x 59.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||12.5 sec @ 114.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||109 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.6 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||13/21/15 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||259/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.24 lb/mile|