• Huge performance; superb craftsmanship and build quality; high-tech 8-speed auto; flat cornering, ultra-quiet cabin; superb ride comfort
  • No manual shift option; high performance in terms of speed rather than handling

9.5 / 10

Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
by Mark Hacking

The Rolls-Royce Wraith may be a car that is about to alter perceptions slightly. When the topic of conversation turns to high-performance cars, the name Rolls-Royce is rarely mentioned. Correction – the name Rolls-Royce is never mentioned.

This makes sense because the staunchly British brand is known for large automobiles that glide down the road rather than tear up the road.

But a number of Rolls from past eras have been entered in all manner of reliability and speed trials in the company’s early days; they’ve even set three world speed records and proved victorious in Grand Prix racing.

To top it off, the current Rolls-Royce fleet comprises three model lines – the Phantom, the Ghost and, now, the brand new Rolls-Royce Wraith – and all are powered by V12 engines, so there is a tradition of performance here.

While that tradition is not likely to lead the brand to start laying down fastest laps around the Nurburgring Nordschleife or clicking off a flying quarter-mile at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the arrival of the Rolls-Royce Wraith may signal a slightly different direction. Reason being, the Wraith is not only the fastest and most powerful car ever built by Rolls-Royce, it’s also a fast car – full stop.

Under the massive hood of this glorious fastback is a twin-turbocharged, 6.6-litre V12 sourced from corporate parent BMW; in this application, the engine cranks out 459kW and 800Nm of torque. Those are some significant numbers – so, too, is the car’s expected 0-100 km/h mark of 4.6 seconds, an extremely quick time for a vehicle that weighs 2440 kg. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h, as per BMW policy for many of its offerings. (If the limiter were removed, between 290-300 km/h should be possible.)

Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review

The power builds smoothly and effortlessly; so much so, you need to keep a constant watch on the speedometer to avoid rocketing right past local speed limits, which happened to yours truly while passing through the Arizona desert test route. (Luckily for me, one of our colleagues on the launch had already cleared a path for us, distracting the local law enforcement while driving another Wraith.) The incredible silence of the vehicle makes it even more difficult to determine how fast you’re travelling; the name “wraith” is right on the money.

The V12 is linked to an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission that features the first-ever application of GPS-aided automatic shifting. So, while the Wraith doesn’t offer the capability to manually control gear changes (there’s just a “low” button on the stalk; no sport mode, no gear lever and no paddle shifters), the transmission does alter shift points based on the type of road you’re about to encounter. For example, it will hold a lower gear in anticipation of on approaching sequence of corners or downshift automatically when about to leave the highway.

Speaking of corners, the Wraith tosses up another surprise here.

While the Rolls is not a sports car by any stretch, the combination of the air suspension system, electronic variable damping and stability control system with torque-vectoring braking combine to give the big coupe a very flat ride through the turns.

Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review

An even bigger surprise is the variable power-assisted steering; while it’s not particularly crisp or direct, the consistency of the weighting is remarkable.

These driving impressions are, of course, transmitted through the various elements found in the passenger compartment, which is fabulously lush and, as mentioned, ridiculously quiet.

The oversized steering wheel will remind some of the helm of a yacht, but here the wheel is thicker – befitting for a car that is the sportiest in the fleet by far.

Similarly, all the other controls have weight to them, from the buttons to close the coach-style doors to the metal vent pulls to the Spirit of Ecstasy rotary controller used to operate the car’s many climate control, audio system and navigation system functions.

The centre console showcases a 10.25-inch touchscreen with swipe, pull and pinch functionality, as well as the ability to read cursive characters written by fingertip.

To reinforce the notion that the Wraith is a next-generation Rolls-Royce, there is a USB port, 20.5 GB of onboard storage capacity and front seatback pockets specifically designed to hold a pair of iPads.

The cabin configuration consists of four individual seats – covered in the finest natural grain leather, of course. The seats offer a nice balance of plushness and support, like fuzzy slippers with orthopedic inserts. Other traditional Rolls-Royce touches, including the optional lambswool floor mats, embroidered headrests and Teflon-coated umbrellas hidden away in the doors, complete what is a very exclusive picture.

Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
Rolls-Royce Wraith Review

The 2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith is one of the most unique new cars on the road today and, in many ways, it defies classification. It offers the effortless performance of a classic GT coupe. But it’s not a GT in the same way as, say, an Aston Martin Vanquish or a Bentley Continental GT. It’s different.

The exterior design of the Wraith also sets it apart from the crowd – the fastback look is a completely unique take on the Art Deco-styled cars of the 1930s.

When accompanied by the optional two-tone paint scheme that visually separates the hood, roof and boot from the rest of the car, this shape is emphasised further.

Being an honest-to-goodness Rolls-Royce, the Wraith also has unparalleled levels of luxury and an options list that can easily add $150,000 to the base price of  $645,000. The combination of all these qualities makes the Wraith a very compelling proposition—one that will, no doubt, be a popular choice for those with the means and the desire to drive a car that’s completely unique.

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Rolls-Royce Wraith Review
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  • from ere

    My maths isn’t great but 2x10s and 2x8s does not equal a overall score of 10.

    • Exar Kun

      It’s an overall, not an average. It’s a 10/10 car for what it sets out to achieve, even if it’s not the cheapest thing out there nor has the handling of a mid-engined supercar.

      • Jordie (CA Tech)

        Should actually be a 9.5/10 but our transition from a 5 star system to out of 10 has restricted this, but we’ll have a fix up very soon.

      • http://www.caradvice.com.au Jez Spinks

        Spot on, Exar Kun

      • from ere

        Well then an overall score of 10/10 should include subscores of 10/10 and maybe 1×9/10. This isn’t about averages it’s about the scoring system. 2 subscores of 8/10 means the car isn’t a 10/10 car.

        • Exar Kun

          I’d rather a system that scored a car for its intended purpose than trying to compare it to every other car in the world on one scale. The subscores are enough to show where it compares in the broad scheme of things.

  • Exar Kun

    I love these. The rear 3/4 looks slightly awkward so I’d have to have mine in a single tone darker colour but the rest of the package is just lush. I’d love to just experience one for a day.

  • Darryl

    Read a review of this on a US website, and they were commenting on the high $285,000 starting price, making it only available to the top end of the one percenters! I guess it isn’t likely to get an ANCAP rating here either. Also like that they don’t need rego plates at the front too. Not sure about the wood panelling on the suicide doors, but I suppose it looks better up close.

    • Rob

      They really need to get rid of the woodgrain styling in these luxury cars. sure they were in fashion in the 50’s (Dont actually know when), but times change and you cant keep the same thing forever. it annoys me when you see something so modern like a large touchscreen but see woodgrain surrounding it in the car, it has no place in a modern luxury limo IMHO, i prefer the interior styling of cheaper European models

      • MissTeenGeorgia .

        as if you can afford one. The buyers of these kind of cars love wood work.

      • ArnoldJR28

        Depends. IMO, wood grain is fine provided it’s not slathered all over the place. The wraith is fine, whereas I remember reading reviews of the Bentley Mulsanne and the wood all over the place (on a really anachronistic dash) looked hideous to me.

  • Golfschwein

    Bonkers. Over the top. Crazy. Gorgeous.

  • marc

    10/10 for the Tax Dept too.

  • Kelly

    Love the look. But what is the actual base price? Other sites say $287k. I’m on a budget you know.

    • nugsdad

      In Australia that’s just for the options


    Great car! Couldn’t even afford a tire from that thing!

    • ArnoldJR28

      I know what you mean….apparently the cost to engineer the wheel hubs (basically so that the RR logo doesn’t spin with the rest of the wheel) is equivalent to a small hatchback’s cost.

  • Bryan

    I wonder how it stacks up against the Bentley Continental GT? That would make for an interesting but very expensive comparison test!

    • Steve

      It looks very similar to a Conti GT actually particularly the rear three quarters view. In pictures I would say that the Bentley looks more resolved. But the Roller is very much in a class of its own. You just have to look at how the door opens and the opulence inside to know that it is better than the Bentley.

  • Sydlocal

    Under the massive BONNET Mark. We are in Australia after all, not the US! Especially when talking about a British car like a Rolls. 😉

  • Norm

    They don’t “really need” to do anything. That’s the point…:)

  • Rose White

    what is that horrible tacky grey thing on left corner of dashboard! Surely some design student could have come up with something more attractive?