Just shy of heaven, at just shy of $400,000

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE CAR PAGES - War­ren Brown war­ren.brown@wash­post.com

It is an ex­tra­or­di­nary au­to­mo­bile, to put it mildly. It de­fies nomen­cla­ture— lux­ury, near-lux­ury, su­per-lux­ury, all those mar­ket­ing terms in­vented to sep­a­rate the wealthy and would-be wealthy from their money. Per­haps the per­son who comes clos­est to de­scrib­ing the rar­efied world of the Rolls-Royce-Wraith is Aravind Adiga, au­thor of “The White Tiger.”

And Adiga does not men­tion the Rolls-Royce Wraith, or any­thing Rolls-Royce, in writ­ing about the class strug­gle in In­dia. His ve­hi­cle of priv­i­lege is a chauf­feured Honda City. But in terms of dis­tance be­tween In­dia’s haves and havenots, it might as well be the dis­tance be­tween a Rolls-Royce and a Chevro­let or, to rub salt into the wound of one of my fa­vorite cor­po­rate tar­gets of late, Jo­han de Nyss­chen, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Cadil­lac Mo­tor Di­vi­sion of Gen­eral Mo­tors.

Dear Mr. de Nyss­chen, I truly un­der­stand what you are try­ing to do with Cadil­lac. Re­ally, I do. Give it up. Just make good cars that well-em­ployed peo­ple maybe can af­ford. They will be happy with that, and you will be happy with the sales re­sults.

Stop wast­ing money by mov­ing Cadil­lac to a tony New York ad­dress, or hir­ing a hot­shot Euro­pean mar­ket­ing firm, or com­ing up with TV com­mer­cials that do lit­tle more than in­sult the hard­work­ing men and women who have worked their en­tire lives to own what your com­pany has billed as “the automotive stan­dard of ex­cel­lence.”

Stop putting those peo­ple down be­cause what you re­ally want, what you would much pre­fer, are Rolls-Royce Wraith butts and wal­lets in Cadil­lac seats. It will never hap­pen. Cadil­lac is Cadil­lac. The Rolls-Royce Wraith is some­thing else al­to­gether. It is automotive lux­ury de­fined— a four­wheeled cel­e­bra­tion of the ex­tra­or­di­nary, the com­pletely and won­der­fully un­nec­es­sary, sim­ply be­cause some­one some­where wants it and has the money to buy it. It, sir, is not amass-pro­duced au­to­mo­bile. It does not need a pro­duc­tion-sched­ule busi­ness case. It is for the 1 per­cent of the 1 per­cent— the re­ally, truly rich. Get it?

Let’s start with some­thing al­ways close to your heart: price. The 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith coupe driven for this col­umn starts at $294,025. Starts. Fully priced, as equipped, with all of the “be­spoke” items such as ostrich-skin cov­ered cen­ter con­sole, deep-pile car­pet­ing and “starlight” head­liner, we’re talk­ing $390,000. I had lunch with sev­eral Washington-area Rolls-Royce sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives who can make you a deal for about $308,000. But don’t bet on it.

Buy­ing one of these cars is much like re­mod­el­ing a house with a spouse. What looked good and af­ford­able one day sud­denly be­comes cheap and in­suf­fi­cient the next. The funny thing about hav­ing lots of money is that the whole no­tion of bar­gain­ing be­comes ob­so­lete.

Imag­ine try­ing to sell that idea to a Cadil­lac buyer. It won’t hap­pen.

Let’s talk about the car. What do you get for $390,000 in ad­di­tion to ostrich skin, deep-pile car­pet­ing, a “starlight” roof, truly sup­ple leather seat cov­er­ing, pre­mium au­dio, so pre­mium you have to spe­cial-or­der it?

You get prac­ti­cally any color you want, not what ev­ery­one else has or wants. And you get it ex­actly the way you want it, even if that means the car’s body has to be painted 30 times— no hy­per­bole here— to get it the color, tone, nu­ance you want it. You get one heck of an en­gine— a 6.6-liter di­rect-in­jec­tion ga­so­line V-12 (624 horse­power, 590 pound-feet of torque). Ex­cess. Pure ex­cess.

The rear-wheel-drive-Wraith is heavy, weigh­ing in ex­cess of two tons. But its cur­rent cor­po­rate par­ent is BMW, and that her­itage shows in its per­for­mance— 0 to 60mph in a bit un­der five sec­onds. Won­der­fully ridicu­lous!

There is a down­side to all of this. I did not like tak­ing this one onto com­mon streets. I thought it might get scratched, dented or dusty. I parked it deep in­tomy long drive­way to dis­cour­age the ac­crual of spec­ta­tor fin­ger­prints. Be­ing wealthy is more than a mat­ter of hav­ing money and things. Au­thor Adiga is right. It is a mat­ter of pos­sess­ing the di­vine right of kings, hav­ing ev­ery­thing or al­most seem­ingly ev­ery­thing that goes along with lots of money.

I’m just a jour­nal­ist. My time with the Rolls-Royce-Wraith ended af­ter a few days. I was happy. Maybe, I’ll shop for a used Cadil­lac.


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