The Rolls-Royce Wraith is opulent, powerful, refined and comfortable. Tiff Needell relishes the chance to drive the most dynamic Roller ever built
Rolls-Royces don’t come along very often so when one does, it’s an occasion to celebrate. The Wraith is only the fourth model to emerge from the company’s lavish Chichester base after BMW moved the famous marque from its old home in Crewe in 2002.
No one seems to know why so many Rollers were named after apparitions when they’re surely the most impressive cars in the world – perhaps it’s due to the way they so effortlessly glide. The original Wraith appeared in 1938 to be succeeded after the Second World War by the Silver Wraith – of which 639 were built before production ceased in 1959. This is the first model since then to carry the name.
Take one look at the Wraith and you know this isn’t a Rolls-Royce for those who prefer to be chauffeured. Like the Phantom Coupé, two huge, rear-hinged doors open to reveal limited access to the two back seats but a perfect entry to the driver’s position. If you’re too lazy to pull the door shut yourself, a little button will do it for you.
Based on the four-door Ghost’s chassis, but with seven inches chopped out of the middle, this Roller is more dynamic and powerful than any that has gone before it. With its swept-back styling that harks back to the Grand Touring days of the 1930s, this is very much a driver’s Rolls.
While the air suspension may be a little stiffer and the steering heavier, this is still the car to waft you across the countryside in great comfort and style. While some modifications may have left the Rolls-Royce Wraith slightly less compliant with bumps and potholes, the confidence it inspires by going exactly where you want makes it feel a much smaller car than it is.
‘My’ Wraith had a stunning two-tone paint scheme that added to the sporty feel while the interior was clad in Canadel panelling, with open-grain Tudor oak that not only looked right but felt beautifully textured.
With the only noise being a slight whisper from the air blasting past the door mirrors, the Rolls-Royce Wraith surges forwards at the gentlest touch of the throttle, with the famous power reserve dial rarely dipping below 50 per cent. Though it might be more compelling than any previous Rolls-Royce, you’re still aware that you are at the helm of nearly two-and-a-half tonnes of luxury, so a certain amount of respect for the laws of physics must be taken into account before you get too carried away.
You barely notice the eight-speed automatic gearbox quietly doing its work. It even thinks ahead of you as satellites tracking your progress check out the road ahead, offering you the optimum gear for any corner.
You’ll sit imperiously high, with the famous command view providing excellent visibility and, if you do want to give the chauffeur his job back, there’s ample headroom for the ‘armchair’ seats in the rear. With the Spirit of Ecstasy figurine proudly leading the way, nothing quite gives you that sense of superiority a Rolls-Royce offers – and long may it continue.