9 Things I Learned Driving the 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith

The Wraith is the car that was supposed to break the stereotype that chauffeurs are the only people who drive Rolls-Royces.

Being the most powerful Rolls-Royce ever created, the Wraith was designed for drivers. I recently got the chance to spend a few hours with a 2016 Rolls-Royce Wraith. Here are 9 things I learned during my time with one of the word’s most opulent cars ever built:

1. The Starlight Headliner is ALMOST Worth It

As far as optional extras on cars go, the Starlight headliner is as frivolous as they come. Rolls-Royce will even allow you to order the pattern to reflect the star pattern and constellations over the town you were born on your birthday. Like I said, frivolous, overly indulgent, and vain, which will be an ongoing theme in this review.

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On the price sheet, the option costs US$6,057, but others have reported that it can cost as much as $12,000. On a regular person budget, it seems ridiculous and hard to justify spending that much on one option that isn’t even that functional. But to understand Rolls-Royce, you have to understand the people who buy it. If they’re already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, a few grand on a fancy option isn’t going to make a big difference. For us, it would be the equivalent of upgrading and getting the heated seats or spending a bit extra to treat yourself to satellite radio or rustproofing.

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So it makes me cringe when I hear myself say this outloud, but the if you get a Rolls-Royce, the Starlight headliner is totally worth it. The fiber optic lights are adjustable, so you can have it has just glowing like an ember or bright enough to actually read a book at night. The light is warm and soft, the type of light that makes people look sexier. It just feels so goddamn special. And if the Wraith is good at one thing, it’s making you feel special.

2. You Get No Sensation of Speed

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There’s no doubt that the Wraith is fast. It’s faster than a car that weighs nearly 5,500 pounds deserves to be. Powered by a twin-turbo 6.6-liter V12, it pushes 624 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels, with peak torque coming online at a ridiculously low 1,500 rpm.

I had always assumed that the Rolls-Royce would be elephant-like: ponderous and slow. But I was so wrong. The Wraith is nothing like that.

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In most cars, when you stomp on the pedal, the force pins you into the back of your seat and you feel it clawing and charging forward. There’s typically a lot of noise from the engine, and you can feel a lot of vibration as the car charges forward. Not in a Rolls-Royce. The car is stupid fast, but because you’re so well isolated from the outside, you can never tell how fast you’re actually driving. You could be going 100 mph but it will feel like you’re driving a third of that speed. You could be breaking the law in the time it takes to check your Rolex, and not even know it.

ALSO SEE: Opulence Alert: 5 Outrageous Rolls-Royce Special Editions

The V12 engine is also remarkably quiet, and from the driver’s seat, you can barely hear a whisper, even if you’re flooring the gas pedal. And regardless of whether you’re driving 30 mph over potholed roads, or 100 mph over smooth highway, it all feels the same. The Wraith simply glides and floats effortlessly over any surface, and is always composed no matter what you throw at it. That famous Magic Carpet Ride they talk about? It’s real.

3. But It’s Not Just Fast in a Straight Line

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The Wraith can handle a corner better than I expected. It dives in, remains composed and the body stays miraculously flat. How well the Wraith glides through corners really belies how much it weighs, and a lot of that comes down to the steering and the perfectly calibrated suspension. At slower speeds, you can steer it with a pinky finger, but when driven with more oomph, the steering tightens up, gets heavier, and gives you more feedback than you’d expect in a Rolls.

Like the rest of the car, cornering is effortless, but it does feel strange, mostly because it doesn’t strike me as a car that should be driven like a hooligan.


4. It Has a Magic Transmission

The Rolls-Royce’s transmission is paired to a satellite-aided gearbox that uses GPS mapping data to read the road ahead of you. It takes that GPS data and pre-selects the proper gear for whatever type of road is ahead.

It looks at corners, roundabouts, country roads, and junctions and tailors the transmission to whatever lies ahead. For example, if it sees you coming up on a corner, it will pre-select a lower gear to help you slow down and power out of it faster. The system also reads your mood, so whether you’re driving really aggressively or just taking an easy cruise, the Wraith always knows exactly what gear it should be in to tackle that corner with zero effort.

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The eight-speed transmission from ZF helps the car feel agile and quick, but without ever compromising that magic carpet ride that Rolls-Royces are famous for. To be honest, I can’t even tell if it’s working or not, except for that very obvious fact that it feels like the Wraith never has a badly timed shift. And it’s always on, and there’s no option to turn it off. 

Rolls-Royce says this fancy transmission was built to make the drive effortless, which it does really, really well. Shifts are imperceptible.

5. People are Very Nice to You

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Driving a Rolls-Royce, you don’t get the same reaction from the public that you get when you’re driving, say, a BMW or Ferrari. It’s much more positive than that. People smile and wave at you instead of scowl or roll their eyes. They will let you pass them or let you into line in traffic. I attribute this to how stately the car is. It’s not exactly flashy, but at the same time, it makes a huge statement, and maybe one that says “respect” and “old money” instead of “douchebag, attention-seeking investment banker.”

ALSO SEE: 10 Insanely Priced Optional Extras in Cars

6. I Love the Umbrella


The Teflon-coated umbrella that’s hidden in the door is a genius feature that I wish came in every single car. The umbrella is the smoothest operating umbrella I’ve ever used, and it’s built to be wind-proof, meaning it won’t blow inside out and ruin your mood on a stormy day. It’s also surprisingly lightweight. I always assumed the umbrella would be heavy, but I was so wrong. Just like the rest of the car, the umbrella is effortless to use, and it’s brilliantly engineered. Your fingers will never get caught in the arms, and it’s built so you don’t have to fumble around to open or close it.

7. Attention to Detail is Everything

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Rolls-Royce’s obsession with details is obvious from the moment you get into the driver’s seat. Most of the buttons on the dash are made of crystal or metal and feel slightly cold to the touch. Even working the switchgear, you get the sensation that it’s all lubricated with honey that came from bees that eat fois gras for breakfast.

The floor mats are made of the fluffiest, softest lambswool, the kind of stuff you want to be naked in. The wheel centers are also weighted so that the RR logo is always facing the right way up. Even the pale, lemony leather is exactly the right shade of yellow as to not look tacky. You think a yellow interior would look awful, but the Wraith pulls it off.

Everything you touch feels special and substantial, and that a lot of thought went into it.

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8. Curious Omissions

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A few things noticeably missing in the Wraith: A heated steering wheel, ventilated seats, power opening doors, all-wheel drive. If I can get a Hyundai Elantra with a heated steering wheel, it sure as heck should be available in a Rolls-Royce. I mean, if you’re paying nearly $400,000 for a car …

9. No Other Car Makes You Feel This Special

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Absolutely nothing on the road makes a statement like a Rolls-Royce can, and I’ll argue that nothing will make you feel this special. When you’re in a Rolls-Royce, everything becomes an event. You could be doing something utterly mundane like driving to the dentist and it will be the best thing you’ve ever done. And if that’s what you want, the Rolls-Royce actually seems like bargain.