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January 1, 2014updated Feb 20, 2014

The New Rolls-Royce Wraith

By Chris Boyle

Wraith / Rolls-RoyceAdding attitude to the Rolls-Royce legacy, the brand new Wraith whips V12 power and fastback styling into one paradigm-shifting package.

It was perhaps particularly apt that my recent test drive of the superb Rolls-Royce Wraith fastback took place in the gloriously elegant city of Vienna. The City of Music is among Europe’s most refined and sophisticated and is the Baroque home of the Austro-Hungarian emperors, Mozart and, later, Sigmund Freud. But its gentility masks its edgier history as a Cold War spy center. Like the city itself, the Wraith tells two stories, and intriguingly so.

Sporting an athletic, fluid exterior, easily the storied manufacturer’s most daring, and, dare I say, aggressive, the Wraith oozes a darkly elegant sophistication. The car’s sleek new skin modernizes the design DNA of the company’s more whimsical Phantom saloon that precedes it and adds a rakish, sensual oomph to the executive-class Ghost sedan that it shares underpinnings with. The most powerful Rolls-Royce engine ever lies under the flowing bonnet: A V12 that puts out 624 horses to deliver a 0 to 60mph push in 4.4 seconds. However, while my test drive evidenced a soupçon of exhaust note flourish and a touch more response and handling élan, make no mistake, the Wraith is all Rolls at heart. The effortless wafting, bed-of-air driving feel is nearly indistinguishable from the elevated standard the company has historically set in all of its vehicles.

Crack open the to-be-expected coach doors of this coupe, and the cosseted scents, sounds, and visions of its lineage become even more apparent. The interior is sumptuous, to say the least. The attention to detail is as impeccable as the flagship Phantom: The softest leather, the finest wood trim, even the Phantom’s optional bespoke Starlight fiber-optic-art night-sky headliner finds a new home in the Wraith. State-of-the-art electronics, like a heads-up display, adaptive headlights, a smart, locationspecific GPS-assisted transmission-tuning system, and voice-activated navigation all take a backseat to the cockpit’s overwhelming sense of comfort and style, but that has always been Rolls-Royce’s approach. The cutting-edge stuff is tucked neatly away until you need it; nothing distracts you and your passengers from the remarkable driving experience you are having.

To be sure, many Rolls-Royce automobiles are destined to be driven primarily by chauffeurs, and I have always bemoaned that fact. With the Wraith, lucky owners now have no solid excuse not to spend time behind the wheel. Catching up on business or scanning the pages of the Financial Times in the backseat as you glide down the motorway gives way to the pure enjoyment of driving a car that, certainly, will not only turn heads as you pass, but will also essentially drive itself, giving you ample opportunity to turn your own head and toss back a knowing wink. Base price for the Wraith is about $300,000, but as with any Rolls-Royce vehicle, you will want to take advantage of the factory at Goodwood’s incredible bespoke design services to make this double agent your very own.

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