Car review: Rolls-Royce Wraith

Carlton Boyce / 20 September 2016

The Rolls-Royce Wraith is a grand touring car of mind-boggling competence.



Score 

10/10

The Rolls-Royce Wraith not only has the finest name of any new car on sale today, it also has the softest and deepest floor mats you will ever encounter. They are otherworldly in their ability to cosset and cushion and it seems widely inappropriate that they are only there to place your muddy feet upon. 

They are, in fact, a perfect simile for the rest of the car, which is so over-engineered and sumptuous as to make a Jaguar or a Bentley feel like the sort of low-rent hire car you’d pick up at the airport in Spain.

An obsessive level of detail and luxury

The almost child-like sense of wonder the Wraith engenders starts when you open the rear-hinged suicide doors and see the chrome-handled umbrellas that are stowed inside the front wings. 

It continues with the contrasting, raw-alloy bonnet and the centre-weighted hubcaps that ensure the RR logo is always vertical, two features that dodge vulgarity by a whisker but perhaps no more.

Obsessive too, perhaps? Maybe, but not half as obsessive as the steering wheel, which is 1.5mm thicker than that fitted to the Ghost, all the better to provide the driver with the more sporting grip the Wraith demands. 

Or the wood veneer on the doors that is matched side-to-side (of course) with the grain inclined at precisely 55-degrees to “increase the dynamic flow through the interior.” 

Still unimpressed? How about the Spirit of Ecstasy, which leans into the wind 5-degrees more than the rest of the Rolls-Royce range to better emphasis the “Wraith’s powerful nature”. 

While the latter might be a flowery flourish from an over-active copywriter’s pen, there is no denying that it is a wonderfully unnecessary touch.

Reach for the stars

It doesn’t end there, because nighttime brings the starlight headliner to the fore, whose 1,340 individual lights can tailor the constellation to suit the owner. 

The result is so bewitching that my young niece spent hours curled up on lambs-wool floor mats gazing up at them. 

Who wouldn’t splash out on a Wraith if they could, just to generate a childhood memory like that?

Anticipation, not reaction

Yet the Wraith isn’t an overblown casino, Las Vegas on 21-inch rims. 

The V12, twin-turbo engine deploys its 624bhp and 590lb ft of torque through a GPS-guided eight-speed automatic gearbox that changes to the most appropriate gear based on driving style and imminent topography. 

Normal automatic gearboxes react; they don’t anticipate like this, so there is intelligence here too, in a car in which the driver is placed at the centre of the experience.

Manual cars vs automatic

Other models in the Rolls-Royce range might be squarely aimed at the backseat passenger, leaving the driving to the chauffeur, but not here. 

Not in the Wraith.

A grand touring car of mind-boggling competence

The result, even in such a heavy vehicle, is the sort of ridiculous performance that ensures the Wraith isn’t a frivolous indulgence but a grand touring car of mind-boggling competence. 

(Small boot excepted. Your luggage might be impeccably tailored, but it won’t be as comprehensive as you might have liked.) 

Think of a speed and you’re instantly transported to it without apparent effort and without any regard to the Laws of Physics with which other cars constantly reacquaint us.

Fuel consumption? Rolls-Royce says it will return up to 20.2mpg, but it won’t, not ever but then you don’t buy a car like this if fripperies like economics and efficiency feature in your life at any level. 

(If they did, you’d buy an S-Class Mercedes with a diesel engine, making you a very dull boy.)

Petrol engines vs diesel

Not quite flawless

Downsides include door-closing motors that aren’t strong enough to pull those rear-hinged doors shut when you are parked on a slope and the car’s 6’ 5” width that had me constantly on edge in narrow country lanes.

The Wraith is also marketed as a four-seater; while it will seat four people at a push, it is better seen as a high-performance two-seat coupe that offers two occasional seats, enabling you to offer close friends the odd lift home. Indulgent? Of course, but that’s the whole point of it, surely?

An unforgettable price

Nor can you ignore the price. For an impoverished motoring journalist like me, the constant fear that I was only a tiny misjudgment away from the most expensive car accident of my life acted as a brake on my exuberance that would, presumably, be eased somewhat with the familiarity of ownership.

Luxury, they say, is a ratchet and, like all clichés, there is some truth to this. Spending the best part of a week with a car that costs six times more than my first house was always going to be something special, and the reality of sliding back into my Subaru Forester was a reality check that was every bit as painful as I suspected it would be. 

The week that followed was ever so slightly de-saturated and more muted, less frivolous; I’d taken a peek behind the curtain and stolen a glimpse of a world that makes no sense whatsoever but was every bit as glorious as I suspected.

So, is it worth the money? No, of course not. The Rolls-Royce Wraith is an utterly irrelevant anachronism that should have no place in a country in which people rely on food banks to survive. 

And yet, if I had a third of a million pounds to blow on a car, I can’t think of anything I’d rather have as my daily drive.

Stats

Power – 624bhp

Torque – 590lb ft

0-62mph – 4.6 seconds

Top speed – 155mph

Kerb weight – 2,360kgs

Official average fuel consumption – 20.2mpg

CO2 emissions –327g/km

VED class – Band M

Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles

Price – £235,416

Price as tested - £317,004

Best-in-class

The Rolls-Royce Wraith is a one-of-a-kind. If it suits your life then you wouldn’t even consider buying anything else.

The best of the rest

The Mercedes S-Class is cheaper but less decadent, while the Range Rover L Autobiography offers an element of off-road ability and more internal space.

Left-field alternative 

The Bentley Continental is a fast, expensive, and luxurious coupe but unless you are a Division 2 footballer it is unlikely to project an image you would care to be associated with.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.