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Rolls-Royce Wraith redefines value

Unbelievably, four days passed before someone asked the question.

Halloween day, I flew to Arizona to drive the newest Rolls-Royce, the $295,000, 624-horsepower, two-door Wraith. 

Not until the following Tuesday did a friend ask the inevitable: “Is it worth it?”

Of course, a thing is worth whatever someone will pay for it. By that measure, 3,575 people found it worth dropping a minimum of $265,000 -- the cost of the Wraith’s four-door Ghost sibling -- to join the R-R club.

That is, by the way, a new Rolls sales record.

  • Perhaps we could framed it this way. You might find it worth spending $295,000 (plus taxes and a gas guzzler penalty) if you want a car:
  • that’s built by hand, on a production line pushed by craftsmen, not machines;
  • whose GPS-aided transmission knows about corners before you do and shifts in advance;
  •  whose mammoth rear-hinged doors open and close at the touch of a button;
  • that weighs just south of three tons, yet blasts from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and stops nearly as quickly;
  • whose designers wax rhapsodic over a so-subtle-you-might-not-see-it bodyside crease they call the “waftability line.”

There is only one Rolls-Royce.

It wasn’t always so. A 1971 bankruptcy spurred a bout of legal wrangling that at one point saw Volkswagen in possession of the “Spirit of Ecstasy” mascot and the iconic Rolls grille, but BMW owning the name. Due to Its long engineering association with Rolls, BMW won out  

Today, Rolls-Royce is a British company under BMW ownership. British craftspeople build the Wraith atop a version of BMW’s 7 Series platform. Its twin-turbocharged, 6.2-liter V-12 engine, 8-speed transmission and suspension are BMW-derived.

Even so, Rolls execs say the Wraith should not be considered a sporting machine, but a spirited one. Luxury with a dynamic quality, they say.

Underway, the Wraith is serene, swift and poised. It slices through traffic like a yacht in a harbor full of dinghies. Surrounded by club-quality leather and wood -- the Wraith’s open-grain wood panelling is hand-cut and installed at a 55-degree bias throughout -- driver and passenger cocoon themselves against worldly travails.

During hard acceleration, the big engine roars to life in a symphony of detonation and the transmission flows seamlessly through its cogs. Steering is light and frictionless and the suspension moderates unwanted body motions. At speed in the Arizona desert, the Wraith flowed down into washes and out of them into curving uphill grades with controlled ease. It’s not much for quick transitions, though, and its 41-foot turning circle discourages close-quarter parking-lot maneuvers. 

Rolls owners seem to derive as much pleasure from personalizing their cars as they do driving them. As many as 95 percent the cars it sells are delivered with some degree of personalization, says Rolls, whether it’s a unique thread color on the hand-sewn dash, a custom-built, trunk-mounted picnic hamper done up in teak and tartan or a one-of-a-kind candy-apple-red carbon fiber dashboard.

Bespoke services can add 30 percent to the cost of a typical Rolls. If you don’t have time to fly to the Isles to meet with the Bespoke Department design team, they’ll come to you. 

And that has to be worth something.

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Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.