2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith Review

DrivingTalk road tests the Rolls-Royce Wraith

By Tim Kendall | 13th March 2014

Vital Statistics

  • Model: Rolls-Royce Wraith
  • Engine: 6.6 twin-turbo V12 petrol
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Price: £235,000
  • 0-60: 4.4 secs
  • Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)
  • Economy: 20.2 mpg (combined)
  • Options fitted to test car:
    See Text

2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith review

Rolls-Royce. The ultimate wheeled expression of success? The Beatles, Alan Sugar, Simon Cowell, David Beckham, Jimmy Tarbuck and other assorted golf-playing comedians from the ‘70s – all of them made it and all of them bought A Roller. I’ve never understood why anyone would want to pour their hard-earned into such an ostentatious expression of wealth. Surely it’s a terrible cliché, a two fingered salute to the proletariat and a ruddy great slap in the face with that Greek temple radiator grille?

Not being possessed of the requisite silver mane or a penchant for fat cigars, I’ve never wanted to drive one of these wafty and profligate creations. Just as well, as I’ve never had the good fortune to get behind the wheel.

Then last week, DrivingTalk was invited to have a poke around Rolls-Royce HQ in Goodwood and drive of some of its current crop. Well it would be rude not to.

2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith

Power from the 6.6-litre biturbo V12 is ample….

Rolls-Royce Wraith – what is it?

Essentially it’s a fastback version of the Ghost. However the Wraith isn’t Rolls-Royce’s only 2-door tin-top, there’s been a Phantom-based coupe on sale since 2008, which is bigger and pricier still than the Wraith. Significantly, and although Rolls’ tends to be coy about matters so vulgar as power, the Wraith is its most powerful creation ever. With a tuned version of the Ghost’s 6.6-litre V12 biturbo perched in its bow, there’s a business-like 624hp and 800Nm (590lb ft) of torque available from 1,500 rpm. That’s enough to shuffle this 2.36-tonne, 17ft long leviathan to 60mph in 4.4 seconds. So this Flying Lady has enough firepower in her drawers to upset Bentley’s apple cart. Good job Bentley doesn’t belong to the same corporate family anymore.

Will the new Wraith look good on my driveway?

Well now. If your pile is Blenheim Palace, it’d look right at home pose-parked on the pea gravel.  It might look a bit OTT if you reside in a Barratt two-bed semi, mind.

So the Wraith is a sight to behold. Indeed when I first clapped eyes on it sat outside Rolls-Royce’s sublime Nicholas Grimshaw-designed HQ in Goodwood (the chap has good references, see the Eden Project, Cornwall), it looked bob-on. Pulling off the trick of being both imposing and elegant, the Wraith stays  just the right side of brutish and in a two-tone hue, has a cool art-deco vibe. That stylistic nod to the ‘20s and ‘30s is a vein running through Rolls-Royce’s recent design language under BMW stewardship, but it shines brightly in the Wraith. Penned by Rolls-Royce Design Director Giles Taylor, it’s genuinely a Very Cool Thing.

2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith

Waftability comes as standard on a Wraith but it also does corners

What’s the Wraith like to drive?

Like nothing else. It’s not the V12 you notice first though, that’s barely audible. It’s the ride.

Similes to describe the Wraith’s ride? It floats like a cruise liner. But before you reach for the Bentley brochure, hold fire, because the Wraith isn’t the lolloping corner-phobe that the last sentence might imply. But what leaves a lasting impression is the manner in which it totally insulates passengers from the slightest undulations, as if suspended on a cushion of air with no discernable connection between tyres and tarmac. Again, sounds bad but it isn’t.

Oh and the performance. The Wraith really goes some, but not in the clinical way some of today’s uber-powerful performance cars do. The Wraith does speed with charm, not detachment.

Normally, noticeable pitching under acceleration and braking would be frowned upon, a sure sign the chassis engineers had failed in their job of applying appropriate levels of damping and body control to temper the wayward tendencies of very powerful underpinnings. Not so in the Wraith. The fact is with 624hp to call on and precious little lag from the blown V12 it’s entirely in-character. Marry right foot to carpet and the Spirit of Ecstacy rises skywards, the nose lifts and the head-up display quickly reads some very illegal numbers. All of which adds to the sensation that this big coupe is prodigiously fast for its size and weight.

2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith

And the handling?

Make no mistake this might be the most powerful Rolls in history but it’s no sports car. And neither does it try to be, but it’s still a sight more dynamic than the Ghost on which it’s based – which itself can trace some of its architecture to the BMW 7-Series. The rear track is wider, the wheelbase is shorter, the centre of gravity is lower and the steering also weights up at speed – all of which helps this big beast feel totally at home when pressing on. Fast sweepers are the Wraith’s natural playground – surge towards a corner, scrub off some speed, choose your trajectory, then wake up the V12 for a very satisfying, if not electrifying way to hustle a Rolls. In short, it flows.

The satellite aided transmission really does work too, finding the right gear by anticipating the roundabout, corner or junction you’re approaching. Only the lack of manual control over the gearbox – paddles would be nice – jars. To offer a switchable gearbox with paddles would be frightfully un-Rolls-Royce though. Akin to the Chairman of the Board wanting to type his own letters.

2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith

Canadel wood and Phantom-grade leather lines the Wraith’s interior

Interior: What’s the Rolls-Royce Wraith like inside?

The old gentleman’s club on wheels cliché rings true here. Indeed it’s hard to conceive of a more opulent environment than the Wraith’s exquisitely crafted cabin. There’s soft Phantom-grade leather everywhere and acres of Canadel wood panelling covering the dashboard and doors. Canadel you say? It takes its name from a cove in the South of France where Henry Royce and his design and engineering team spent their winters – and has a light coloured, tactile finish that gives a yacht-like feel. James, our affable factory tour guide lets slip that quite a few of the factory staff are ex-exployees of Sunseeker, crafter of flashy, high-end powerboats based nearby on the South Coast. You can tell that both skill and love goes into building these things – anything you prod, stroke, sit on or look at is a visual and tactile treat.

2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith

Starliner headlining features over 3000 handwoven fibre optics

How much does a Rolls-Royce Wraith cost?

Seriously, if you have to ask…

The base price of 2.36 tonnes of steel, leather, wood and V12? It costs £235k. But few Wraiths, if any, will leave the factory without an extensive foray into the options list and when it comes to customisation, anything goes – solid gold Spirit of Ecstasy included. The test car sported a starliner roof – with a Dacia Sandero-worth of fibre-optic lights hand-woven into the headlining to create the impression of the night sky. Impressive, but utterly pointless.

 Rolls-Royce Wraith launch video:


 

2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith

2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith Review

  • Performance: 10/10
  • Ride & Handling: 8/10
  • Economy: 4/10
  • Equipment: 9/10
  • Want one factor: 9/10

The Verdict

The Wraith is one of those cars you could credibly call magnificent without sounding like a '50s throwback. Cossetting, impeccably crafted and possessed of serious get up and go. Yes you could have a Bentley for less, yes you could have a Merc S-Class Coupe with all the bells and whistles for £100k less, but if you’ve driven one of these and you can find the readies, you really wouldn’t want to.

Summary

  • Peerless style, quality and performance
  • No manual override on gearbox

By Tim Kendall
13th March 2014

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