It’s nearly as expensive as Montgomery County’s median home value, but it’s an automobile whose value will plummet rather than appreciate.
It’s longer and less-fuel-efficient than a Cadillac Escalade SUV, but it’s a two-door, four-passenger coupe.
It’s a car whose paint job costs as much as a Nissan Versa and whose floor mats cost more than an iPhone X.
It’s the Rolls-Royce Wraith, a vehicle whose absurd impracticality will strike some as a glorious rejection of everyday automotive sensibilities — and others as a garish obscenity.
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The Wraith occupies a unique niche in the world of ultra-luxury vehicles.
While many of the world’s priciest sedans are often driven by chauffeurs, the Wraith’s rakish roofline makes it clear that the owner doesn’t want to sit in the backseat. Yet, the upright, elaborately-chromed front end and massive dimensions command a sense of road domination that will keep even SUV drivers in line.
Furthermore, most six-figure exotic coupes are racetrack-focused models like Lamborghinis or Ferraris — vehicles that prioritize incredible performance limits over comfort and luxury. The Wraith is neither a stodgy sedan nor a low-slung, hard-edged two-seater. Except for giving up an extra-roomy rear seat, the Wraith includes all the extreme cushy comfort found in the Rolls’ Ghost sedan.
This means an interior that’s more like a well-appointed living room than the close-quarters cockpit of a fighter jet, which is the vibe you’d find in a Lamborghini. It means soft, yet supportive, seats with ample room for two adults and passable comfort for two more in the rear. It means a zealously finished interior — the dashboard takes fewer styling risks than the exterior, and execution is hard to fault. And those $1,400 lambswool floor mats beg you to ride barefoot, letting the material absorb your toes as they sink in.
One unique touch: Because even a $19,000 Hyundai has a touchscreen on the dashboard, not everyone wants to show off his or her technology. Rolls-Royce can hide its dashboard screen behind a wooden panel when it’s not in use.
Just because the Wraith isn’t an all-out sports car doesn’t mean it doesn’t also enjoy some sporting qualities. Its 6.6-liter 12-cylinder engine has a whopping 624 horsepower, enough for ferociously quick, yet elegantly quiet acceleration. And although this big, heavy coupe doesn’t have racetrack-ready handling, it has fantastic suspension composure.
Rolls-Royce is known for creatively extravagant features.
The doors are hinged in the front rather than the back, which offers both a distinctive look and easier rear-seat access. Drivers can’t reach the open door from their seats to pull it shut, but not to worry — the Wraith is power-operated.
If you want to enjoy the stars on a cloudy night, don’t worry about opening the sunroof. Instead, just buy the $15,000 Starlight Headliner: a sea of more than a thousand lights woven into the car’s ceiling.
You don’t even have to pay extra to get the custom umbrellas that hide in the front fenders.
That’s good, because even the base price is about $320,000, plus a $2,100 “gas-guzzler tax” for this 15-mpg coupe. The tested model — featuring the upgraded floor mats, starry ceiling, seats monogrammed with the Rolls-Royce logo ($1,200), and other necessities — hit $420,930.
More good news: You can also enjoy an exuberantly luxurious driving experience from the Mercedes-Benz S 560 coupe, which starts at a mere $125,000. (Good luck even buying a one-bedroom condo for that price around here.) It gives up the Rolls’ over-the-top features and inherent exclusivity, but it still offers a sublime driving experience and head-turning good looks.
Brady Holt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association.