| First Drive | Vienna, Austria | Rolls-Royce Wraith |
Engine: 6.6-litre twin-turbocharged V12 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: Bentley Continental GT, Ferrari FF, Mercedes-Benz CL 600
CO2 emissions: 327g/km
Combined economy: 20.2mpg
Top speed: 155mph (governed)
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 632hp at 5,600rpm
Torque: 800Nm at 1,500- to 5,500rpm
In the Metal:
Rolls-Royce's most compact offering is still like the Queen calling her London home a pied-a-terre, as the Wraith's dimensions are still in the 'sizeable' category. That now familiar modern take on Rolls-Royce styling is obvious, though for all its bulk there are some very delicate features to the Wraith's styling; though because they're so far apart you might take some time to appreciate them. The fastback rear is its most awkward angle, it looking better when offered in a two-tone finish. The eventual Drophead cabriolet is certain to improve its lines at the rear .The rear-opening 'coach doors' ensure entry and egress is always an event, and the more rakish, smaller front grille (topped by a Spirit of Ecstasy who's more determined in her angle) befitting of what Rolls-Royce describes as its most dynamic offering.
It's not sporting though, which is underlined by an interior that's devoid of knurled metal plate or any overtly sporting addenda. The Wraith's interior is a glorious demonstration of Rolls-Royce's craftsmen and women's indulgent art. It majors on traditional materials, but that's not stopped boundaries being pushed - the single grain veneers that make up the Wraith's doors caused some serious head-scratching in the wood shop. The finished result has been worth the sleepless nights, though. Those exterior proportions are echoed inside, the Wraith a comfortable four-seater, while the boot is spacious enough for even the grandest of tours.
With 632hp and 800Nm on offer from its twin-turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 engine you might expect the Wraith to be quick, but all that wood and leather isn't light, so it's brisk rather than shocking in its pace. It's undignified to hurry though, the Wraith going about its business of wafting apace in glorious isolation from the world around you.
There's precious little noise, the engine only quietly explaining its effort if you've your foot buried in the lambs wool carpet and the orange-tipped needle of the power reserve gauge swinging around to zero. For the most part it sits satisfactorily with around 90% in reserve. The suspension does an exemplary job of smoothing the worst of the tarmac's battle scars as well, while there's just the merest breath of passing wind around the door mirrors when you start to exceed the UK speed limit.
After all its quiet, dignified isolation elsewhere the steering comes as a bit of a surprise, the Wraith's nose reacting faithfully to input and not entirely devoid of feel through the thin rim. Not that the Wraith is a car to be hustled, it being too big and heavy for that, but it's impressively agile regardless. It flows, beautifully. Balancing that traditional Rolls-Royce supreme comfort with a small injection of increased dynamism is a tricky balance, but one that Rolls-Royce has managed to pull off rather convincingly. Confidently too, as the Wraith is utterly devoid of any means of tweaking the engine, gearbox, steering or suspension settings, resolute that it's got it right and that you don't need to bother yourself with anything so tedious as pressing buttons to change its character.
The only concession to the Wraith's increased dynamism is the satellite-guided gearbox. The eight-speed automatic takes the road's topography into account when selecting its ratios. Think of as a virtual gearbox butler, working quietly and unobtrusively to make progress as effortless and smooth as possible - the shifts themselves are imperceptible.
What you get for your Money:
It's impolite to discuss money, but for the record the Wraith starts at £235,000 before you've dipped into the extensive options for personalisation. Do so and you can easily add many tens of thousands to that, but in the rarefied world of a Rolls-Royce owner it matters not one bit.
It might be devoid of ways to tweak the drivetrain, but for all its traditionalism the Wraith features thoroughly modern driving aids. There's radar-assisted cruise control, a head-up display, parking cameras and the like, these all taken from Rolls-Royce's parent company BMW, but seamlessly integrated rather than feeling borrowed.
It might feature divisive looks (it works far better in reality than in pictures), but get over that and the new Rolls-Royce Wraith is something of a unique proposition. Blending traditional luxury and hand-finished finery with grand touring credentials, scale and accomplished roundedness on the road it makes for a desirable addition to the Rolls-Royce range. Only Bentley's anticipated Mulsanne coupé is likely to offer anything similar, but until then the Wraith is effectively in a marketplace of one. That it convincingly heads it has nothing to do with that.