By Don Fuller, Contributing Editor
Amazing Factoid: Significant numbers of Rolls-Royce buyers are in their mid-40s. Thus, Rolls is modernizing its act (although not reducing prices) as shown by the 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith coupe and its convertible stablemate, the Dawn. At this level, though, it’s less about the cars’ capabilities and more about the experience of simply owning one. Many high-end luxury cars (Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, BMW 6 Series) match and even beat the Wraith on technology and performance, and for less money, but a Rolls they are not. Sign up for the Wraith or Dawn and you get unmistakable recognition anywhere, an image second to none, craftsmanship bordering on unimaginable, a wondrous 6.6-liter V12 engine and an experience that might transcend the vocabulary to describe it.
If you’d rather take the wheel than the back seat, the Wraith is the Rolls-Royce for you. At over two-and-one-half tons it’s no track thrasher, but you certainly have enough left over for one of those, right? The Wraith is the most driver-oriented Rolls-Royce, maybe in a long time.
Well, it costs as much as a house (in some ‘hoods, more than) and is not for the shy and retiring. You won’t go anywhere without creating a scene and everyone will wonder if you’re somebody important. (Of course; you are.) If you can’t stand that heat, drive something else.
For 2016 the Wraith has standard massaging front seats, Adaptive Headlights, new colors, exterior mirrors that unfold/fold with the remote, Oak Cluster wood in place of Elm Cluster and changes to trim. A new optional cast VIN plate gives an “impactful accent” when the door opens.
It’s well over 17 feet long and two-and-one-half tons heavy; the frivolity of nimbleness has been excised from the Rolls dictionary. The 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith exists not to connect you...
... to the pavement but to isolate you from the world, and it does that admirably. A drive down any road is beyond merely serene, and to describe the cabin quiet, the suspension competence, the engine capability, the totality of the experience, is to quickly run out of clichés. In tighter quarters and closer traffic it can be problematical, and for several reasons. For one thing, it’s really pretty big. For another, the consequences of dinging it can be eye-openingly costly. Still, given a solid dose of both confidence and skill, the Wraith can be hustled around a bit and, according to Rolls-Royce, the 624-horsepower twin-turbo V12 can take it to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.
A headliner glowing with more than 1,300 fiber-optic-light pipes sounds goofy until you sit in the Rolls-Royce Wraith. Then it seems magical and classy. Pro tip: The lights can be customized to match any night sky you prefer.
SPIRIT OF ECSTASY
It’s a little thing but we’re suckers for it. The lady with wings who flies through the air atop the Rolls-Royce grille is known as the Spirit of Ecstasy. In solid silver, she’s $6,525 extra; uplit is $4,025; illuminated is $7,850; gold plated is $10,075. We’ll take her in gold.
Nobody does automotive interiors better than Rolls-Royce, and the 2016 Wraith and Dawn are prime examples of the best there is. It should go without saying that only the finest materials end up in a Rolls, and “sumptuous” doesn’t even begin to describe it. “Fastidiously impeccable” does not do justice to the level of fit and finish of the buttery leather, the exotic woods, the carpet woven from the wool of lambs. A Rolls-Royce costs a lot of money, and Rolls makes certain that Wraith and Dawn owners can see exactly what that money bought.
Starting with the unmistakable Rolls-Royce grille and the winged Spirit of Ecstasy, flowing into that long fastback shape, highlighting with that incredible swath of chrome around the windows, noticing the door handles that can only mean the doors are hinged at the rear, and it all comes together that not only is this undeniably a Rolls, it’s something special even beyond that. Even though the Wraith is aimed at the youngest end of the Rolls’ target buyer, the stunning presence of its exterior says clearly it’s for those who have already made it and are still on the way up.
As expected, the “base” 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith and its companion, the convertible Dawn, include pretty much everything you can imagine in a car. Power memory seats, 4-zone climate control, a navigation-equipped infotainment system and 20-inch wheels with perpetually upright, free-floating logos are all included as standard equipment. A wide variety of interior and exterior color choices is also offered at no extra charge. And of course there's the intangible but just as important appeal of letting the world know you're successful enough to arrive in a Rolls-Royce.
Part of the allure of owning a Rolls-Royce is the ability to customize it to a buyer's taste, and it can result in a one-of-a-kind car. Among the options are a starlight headliner that costs over $14,000 alone, wheel packages that approach 10 grand, a probably infinite selection of paint colors and treatments, a fixed-glass roof and personalized umbrellas (just for you!) that store within the doors. An optional Wraith package lists for $39,995 -- more than enough to buy a pretty nice car on its own. Safety and tech offerings include radar cruise control, night-vision system and lane-departure warning.
The 2016 Wraith and Dawn are powered by Rolls-Royce’s glorious 6.6-liter V12, with twin turbochargers and rated at 624 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. It has an 8-speed automatic transmission. If there’s a more refined automotive combination of awesome power and unobtrusive delivery we’d like to know what it is. According to Rolls-Royce, the transmission uses GPS information to know what the road ahead has in store and then makes gear-selection decisions based upon that information. All in all, this is a magnificent powertrain. The fuel economy is not great, but who cares?
6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V12
624 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
590 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/21 mpg (Wraith) 12/19 mpg (Dawn)
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith is right around $309,000; the convertible Dawn is considerably more, at about $378,000. Options and “personalization” could easily add $50,000 or more. In truth, the price of a Rolls might be less of a concern to its buyers than the price of a Honda Civic is to its customers. For example, a very well-equipped Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe is about half that, a 6 Series BMW will be one-third or less of that amount. For a Rolls, price is probably not the real issue. Before signing on the bottom line be sure and check KBB.com’s Fair Purchase Price, to see what others are paying for ultra-luxury cars in your area. And, while limited-production numbers mean Kelley Blue Book does not have resale information for the Wraith or Dawn, you shouldn’t buy for the investment value.