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