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Warning, Car Porn


The signature feature is the Rolls Royce Wraith’s Starlight Headliner, consisting of 1,340 LEDs hand-sewn to create an effect of owning one’s personal night sky filled with stars...

Warning, content below represents a man's libidinous fascination with an automobile. It is not Lolita; after all Bradley Berman, the author, is not Nabokov and the Wraith is not underaged. Nonetheless, I find myself simultaneously repulsed... and seduced. David J. Katz

"The Ecstasy of Excess, the Agony of the Sticker" - New York Times

Excerpts from the article appear below; for the full story Click Here

BIG SUR, Calif. — Every carmaker makes compromises. Feature enhancements, like a little more legroom or a touch more horsepower, are weighed against the effect on a model’s sticker price. But what if, in an alternative universe, money could bend the laws of physics, and vehicles were created only to transport mortals to the highest state of driving satisfaction?


I pondered this at the Post Ranch Inn here, as a waiter poured a Thai herb broth — infused with lemon grass and galangal root — from a laboratory-style beaker over a single raw wild spot prawn, cooking it directly on the plate. I had arrived at the trendy resort perched above the Pacific Ocean in a $372,324 2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith, the most powerful Rolls ever produced.

The Wraith is the automotive equivalent of molecular gastronomy, the cuisine that scientifically transforms familiar ingredients into otherworldly dishes. It is excruciating, elite and outrageously delicious.

Start with the whimsical touches in keeping with Rolls-Royce tradition. A crystal rotary controller at the driver’s hand raises and lowers the flying lady statuette, the Spirit of Ecstasy, that graces the bonnet. Perhaps it’s her voice, proper yet sultry, that provides the Wraith’s turn-by-turn navigation voice guidance. Or is it a princess?

Of course, there are the requisite his-and-hers three-foot umbrellas that spring from the door jambs with the push of a button. There is the lamb’s wool that lines the floor of the cabin and boot, warm and soft underfoot when you slip off your loafers. But the signature feature is the Wraith’s Starlight Headliner, consisting of 1,340 LEDs hand-sewn to create an effect of owning one’s personal night sky filled with stars, the luminosity controlled by the driver.

“Because each optical fiber is cut by hand at a slightly different depth, each star has its own intensity,” said Phil Harnett, the Wraith’s product manager. “So it looks like a real night sky.”

The made-by-hand feature takes four days, and though it is the Wraith’s most expensive stand-alone option at $12,925, it is one of the most popular. “Due to demand, we had to look for another poor unfortunate soul to help the four guys who are doing the work,” Mr. Harnett said.

What I never doubted for a moment, and weeks later remains the Wraith’s most indelible impression, is the Empire-size powertrain. The ability for this beast of a car to go from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds, or to reach a maximum speed of 155 m.p.h., is almost beside the point. It’s the inexhaustibility of the acceleration that knocked off my Argyle socks.


The Wraith is not meant to be an agile sports car. Instead, the brute force of its engine, the relaxed yet alert response from steering wheel movements and the syrupy 8-speed transmission combine to make the driving experience effortless. The Wraith is not about feeling the road. It’s about owning it.
Close those Bank of England doors, and the Wraith and its passengers are hermetically sealed from any world outside its own existence. The transitions from one gear to the next are imperceptible unless you mash the accelerator to the floor. In that event, the engine doesn’t roar or rumble so much as it gently vibrates in low hushed tones.

The technology sharing between BMW and Rolls-Royce is reciprocal. The engineers in England developed the Wraith’s Satellite Aided Transmission, which uses GPS-based data to anticipate the need for gear shifts before the road climbs or turns. Mr. Harnett likened the technology to other perks of the one percent: “The satellite data transmission is basically doing everything for you, in an incredibly subtle and aiding way, like a perfect butler or valet will take care of you as a person,” he said. The technology could one day be shared with BMW vehicles.

The Wraith has enough high-tech wizardry to make Hogwarts administrators envious. The list includes a night-vision camera and high beams that automatically engage when the coast is clear. But designers have also left tangible analog features for hands to touch, from 1930s-style radio buttons to organ-stop manual plungers that let you precisely control the flow of air in the cabin.

“There is still a relevance and place for the haptic reassurance of touching a beautiful material, or playing with the nice knurling on the bezel, or fettling with a knob that’s beautifully weighted,” Alex Innes, Rolls’s bespoke designer, said in a telephone interview.

It’s hard not to be impressed with the careful consideration of every element — down to the self-righting wheel centers that always display the Rolls-Royce logo upright. Heaven forbid they should spin like a common clothes dryer.

“I know it’s just a car,” he said. “But when you’re driving a Rolls-Royce, it makes you feel good about your life.”

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