Tom Ford01 September 2013

First Drive: the Rolls Royce Wraith

A caddish, rakish take on what it means to be a modern Rolls Royce. Not without its foibles, but sublime all the same...

My. Goodness.

Yep, there are generally a pair of reactions to the new Rolls Royce Wraith: slightly desperate autophilia, or a curled lip and dismissive shooing gesture. This is not the kind of car you can ignore. Dislike, yes, but never ignore.

So what is it?

Basically, it's a two-door Ghost, but there's so much more - the rakish, slightly bonkers fastback sees to that. It's also being touted as the ‘most potent and technologically advanced Rolls Royce ever produced' thanks to a tweaked version of Rolls'/BMW's 6.6-litre biturbo V12. In the Wraith it produces 624bhp and 590lb ft, causing this 2.4-tonne behemoth to hit 62mph in 4.6 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155mph, though one suspects the barn-door aerodynamics might limit it much further than that anyway.

It looks... pleasantly crackers.

It is. It's brilliant. Though admittedly this is not a universal opinion. The Wraith is as big as a Ghost - meaning utterly massive - and physically imposing. Plus it looks simple and brutal, but once you have time to digest the shape, you find that it has a generous dollop of detail hidden within the awe of first impression. Frameless windows, sweeps and creases that flow from one surface to the next, wide hips and swollen arches to cover a wider track. It maintains the traditional coach doors, but even the Spirit of Ecstasy figurine on the bonnet is canted forward a few degrees for an extra sense of purpose, above a deeply recessed grille. The reality? You need to see it in the metal. And you still might not like it.

Does it drive like they say?

Yes. But not how you might expect. Initially it simply feels like a Ghost with a restricted roofline, slightly weird acoustics and views. Swanning, it feels just like a Ghost (or even a bit Phantom-ish), though there is a little more bite from the steering and it turns in a little more positively on the re-jigged air suspension. The engine feels strong but not frantic - in fact it feels like a very powerful Range Rover to drive. Or a very powerful speedboat. But then you go faster. And the Wraith gets just a little bit epic.

No, this isn't a sportscar - too big, too heavy and too good at going slowly - but drive it properly and it's excellent, if slightly bizarre, fun. Slow in, fast out. Brake hard in a straight line, allow the suspension to settle on the way through the corner and then pour in the power on the way out. The eight-speed ZF auto Satellite Aided Transmission (see the Audi A8) uses GPS data to make sure the Wraith stays in the right gear. And it works. No paddles, no modes, no fuss.

Drive it badly, without sympathy, and it'll just heave around, understeer and stammer the traction control. But it makes progress with a surprising lick of speed, and a heaving, moaning V12 soundtrack. Also, you look really cool doing it. Probably.

What's it like inside?

Like a Rolls. Brilliant. Experiential. A wraparound belt of open-grained wood, book-matched across the car, leather so buttery and soft it's like sitting in cake mixture. The tech is all borrowed from BMW, but the Rolls execution allows you to forget: wireless hotspot, big multi-media, touchpad controller, head-up display. Carpet so deep you can lose butlers in them.

So it's good then?

It is... singular. If you ‘get' the Wraith, this could quite possibly be the best car in the world. If you don't, it's too big, too floaty, not sexy enough, too brutal.

Top Gear loves the Wraith. We have sold several Editorial Assistants into slavery already. We're pretty unreconstructed around here...

Price: Approx £215,000

Engine: 6,592cc Biturbo V12, 624bhp, 590lb ft

Performance: 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, 155mph (limited), 20.8mpg (combined), 317g/km

Transmission: 8-Spd SAT auto, rear-wheel drive

Weight: 2365kg

 

The verdict:

A caddish, rakish take on what it means to be a modern Rolls Royce. Not without its foibles, but sublime all the same.

Score: 9/10

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