For the latest classic car news, features, buyer’s guides and classifieds, sign up to the C&SC newsletter here
A lot has changed since the first Rolls-Royce Wraith chassis rolled out of the Derby factory in 1938; not least, that this most British of institutions is now owned and operated by German manufacturer BMW.
But much has stayed the same and, while 75 years separate the two models’ launches, the Wraith name stands for quality, opulence and engineering excellence as much now as it ever did.
Hailed as the firm’s most dynamic model to date, the Wraith has an air of the sporting about it thanks to a striking fastback rear that screams ‘high-speed express’ – though without straying too far from the Ghost platform on which it is based.
The roofline sits 50mm lower than the four-door, while the wheelbase is shortened and the rear track widened.
The result is sleek and muscular, though still demolishes the scales at 2.5 tonnes.
Two-door Royces have always stood out and the Wraith is no exception, with two vast rear-hinged doors that self-close at the push of a dash-mounted button – as entertaining when at the supermarket as at a red-carpet premiere.
Beneath the skin, similarities to the Ghost continue, starting with the 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 – albeit putting out around 10% more power at 624bhp, making it the most potent car the firm has ever produced.
Also carried over is the double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, with adaptive dampers. The set-up does justice to Rolls-Royce’s fame for a smooth ride, while also making a fair fist of keeping roll in check.
The trick dampers can’t completely hide the Wraith’s weight, but do disguise it, making the big coupé a hoot to hustle along.
It’s even possible to switch off the traction control (though you need a degree in computer science to find it, buried in the BMW-derived iDrive system).
There’s no room for such vulgarity as a ‘sport’ button – but one is given ‘low’ for assistance in ascending the steeper hills on one’s estate.
A rose by any other name, it holds gears longer and adds even greater punch; think of it as the lead weight in the Wraith’s sparring gloves, helping it to sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.4 secs.
Power delivery is turbine-like, and shockingly urgent given the car’s mass.
Inside, the Wraith lives up to its billing as one of the most luxurious cars in the world, with acres of soft hide, deep carpets and a finish that is unparalleled outside the world of superyachts.
Opt for the flagship ‘Black Badge’ and you also get a headlining that mimics the night sky.
Whichever you choose, exclusivity is assured thanks to the price and the prevalence of sportier – and, in most cases, more affordable – rivals.
But while quicker, lighter and flashier alternatives abound, those who simply want the best will look no further – just as they did in 1938.
Images: John Bradshaw
- Engine twin-turbo 6592cc V12; 624bhp @ 5600rpm; 590lb ft @ 1500-5500rpm
- Transmission eight-speed ZF auto, RWD
- 0-62mph 4.4 secs
- Top speed 155mph
- Mpg 19.8
- Price £249,240