Back in 1993 Lord March, British aristocrat and racing enthusiast, desired to bring racing back to the famed British Goodwood Circuit. When he wasn’t able to hold a race on the track, he did what any respectable motoring-nut would do – he decided to hold the race on the grounds at his estate. The Goodwood Festival of Speed was born and has since become the bucket list event for any automotive enthusiast. Just down the road from the Goodwood Estate also lies the headquarters for a small automaker known as Rolls-Royce Motorcars. It was fitting then that during the week of the 2015 Festival of Speed we dusted off our boots and stepped over a door plate stamped “Hand Built in Goodwood, England” and into the 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith. We had already driven the Wraith briefly in Arizona, but now the car car was headed further west for what we deemed the “Hollywood Festival of Speed.”
Underneath the nearly 5ft bonnet out front, there exists a twin-turbo V12 that is derived from the BMW 760Li power plant. In the Wraith, it has been enlarged and tuned to produce an amount of horsepower more adequate to move the 5,300 pound vehicle. I would bore you with exact power and torque numbers – but that isn’t what a Rolls-Royce is about. Driving through Hollywood on city streets, the Wraith is calm and effortless in how it coasts you along the road. The pilot is encompassed in near silence as a sanctuary to focus only on the car and only on the driving. When behind the wheel, you get the sudden urge to continue past your destination and pilot the car cross-country. This “grand touring” automobile continues to beg you to point the Spirit of Ecstasy towards the east and drive until you see the Atlantic.
The Rolls-Royce is also very pleased to run about the mountain roads with cars more than half its size. You can certainly feel the weight of the chassis as the car rolls around corners – but it is more planted than you would ever imagine. The German side of the family is apparent as the steering gives you input and allows you to feel the road beneath you. The Wraith effectively uses a corner-braking system that applies some braking pressure to the inside wheels during cornering to help shift the nose in the right direction. Like a luxury yacht on the sea, the Wraith can be pointed at any upcoming wake of asphalt and cut through the corners with confidence. The Alfa Romeo 4C we witnessed on the hill climb would certainly be a more enjoyable car for a spirited dance through the hills – but don’t underestimate this Rolls. As night fell we descended upon the city of Los Angeles and took some time to appreciate the interior of the car.
The standard Wraith MSRP is just shy of $300,000 and ours ran up to $397,000 with the additional options. Since you are paying the price equivalent of a decent size condo near Los Angeles, you would expect only the highest quality materials and comfort in the interior. The folks in Goodwood do not disappoint as the Wraith is a hand-built canvas, covered in supple leather and fine wood paneling. The interior leather on this particular Wraith was a deep “Consort Red” color and contrasted nicely with the thick, soft, black carpeting. If you have never dug your bare feet into the carpeting of a Rolls-Royce – you are missing out on the finer things in life. The dark “Tudor Oak” wood on the doors and center console were simply beautiful and each piece is hand placed to ensure the grain is angled at a perfect 55 degrees. The doors themselves open in a “suicide” fashion and can be closed using a button inside the vehicle. As we passed the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, our faces happened to be lit from the glow of the Wraith’s interior starlight roof. Each individual fiber optic “star” is hand placed – as we recently witnessed – and can be customized with any various star pattern you should choose.
As the curtain closed on our time with the Rolls-Royce Wraith, I couldn’t help but think that we had just experienced an automotive legend. Some could criticize the price or some of the driving characteristics – but they are missing the point of the Wraith. This car, with its villainous body lines and enormous V12 powertrain, is a rolling tribute to the overall spirit of the automobile. The owners that appreciate this car won’t simply fill out an option sheet but will build and craft the Wraith as an extension of their personality and their success. It will then exist as not simply a car but as an echo of past automotive prowess and an echo extending into the future. Years from now, their grandchildren might take the same Wraith out to the Goodwood Festival of Speed and feel the true presence of the car and understand where it came from – but perhaps that type of ending only exists in Hollywood.