Rolls-Royce Wraith


Opulent and regal, the Wraith is all the things you’d expect from a Rolls-Royce. So why does it look like a sauna inside?


Price: £215,000
MPG: 20.8
Top speed: 155mph

Deep in the vaults of Palais Coburg, a dizzyingly lavish Viennese palace which was once the gaff of Franz Ferdinand (the archduke not the band), we are greeted by clouds of dry ice and sepulchral music. The launch of a new model is always a special occasion, but Rolls-Royce clearly decided something extraordinary was needed for its Wraith.

We are led along a corridor of trees which reach 40ft up to the curve of the ancient barrel ceiling. It’s like a hammy production of Macbeth.



So much speed in such a stately body is perplexing – like a granny hoiking up her skirts and giving Usain Bolt a run for his money. Surely the point of a Rolls-Royce is to waft, to glide from one banquet to the next, rather than thrashing down the autobahn like some jumped-up member of the vulgar classes.



But this paradox is exactly what Rolls has in mind, and it’s a duality that goes back to the marque’s two founding fathers: goody-two-shoes Henry Royce, the perfectionist engineer, and Charles Rolls, the boy racer of his day. The choice of the word Wraith hints at this. Rolls-Royce likes to recycle names from its family tree, it gives a sense of continuity and perseverance (and alongside Phantom and Ghost, it maintains the current spectral theme), but a “wraith” has an edge of wickedness, a dark side, and that’s what this car has, too – a streak of naughtiness.




You won’t initially notice the endless ornate detail as the awesomeness of the first impression sweeps over you. The absent B-pillar, the recessed grille which references the mouth of a jet turbine, the rear-opening coach doors, the self-righting centres of the huge wheels…

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Inside, it manages to be both grand and naff all at once. The carpets are inch-thick sheepskin, the seats look like they’ve been stolen from a gentleman’s club and the doors close themselves. But the open-pore wood veneer would be more at home in a 70s sauna and the light-studded “star” ceiling is pure X Factor.




Technologically it is a masterpiece: wireless hotspot, touchpad multimedia, voice-activated controls. It boasts Satellite Aided Transmission, which uses GPS to scan your route and engage the right gear to ensure a “magic carpet” ride. It’s like a butler leaning over and whispering: “Sir, I’ve selected 7th for the corner ahead.”

Overwhelming and unignorable, the Wraith conjures up a real sense of show time. But it’s not a performance many of us will get to see…

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