Rocking and rolling in Vienna

The new Wraith has all the elegance you would expect from a Rolls-Royce but it packs quite a punch as well

THERE’S a delightful moment in the recent C4 TV documentary, Inside Rolls-Royce, where a chap coming to collect his new car from the factory in Goodwood explains the extent of his purchase.

“The base price is £235,000 and I have spent £125,000 on options… If I park against another Wraith I am not going to have them thinking they have a nicer one than I’ve got.” One part of the extra cost is Selina red paintwork, a special colour named after the customer’s wife.

In Vienna, at the very, very exclusive Palais Coburg hotel some months earlier, the people from Rolls-Royce seemed reluctant even to put a price on their new motor car. Gentlemen simply don’t discuss these things openly. The price, it seems, is largely immaterial to Rolls-Royce customers, and anyway, cars are always personalised, which makes the initial £235k just the palate cleanser.

The villagers in the low Alps, where we head after breakfast, have already become immune to these luxury two-door-coupés wafting through the Sound of Music landscape. Drivers are on their best behaviour, and the Wraith can be as quiet and discrete as any Rolls-Royce in history, with a modicum of restraint.

Yet the power is identical to that of the McLaren MP4-12C supercar. If 6.6-litres of V12 engine weren’t enough, there are a couple of turbochargers, too. The result is 624hp and acceleration to 62mph in a mere 4.6 seconds. Not as fast as the McLaren, certainly, but quick enough to see off any riff-raff.

The volume of the engine isn’t very Rolls-Royce – no ticking clocks can be heard beneath the roar – but everything is relative. There’s nothing as uncouth as a Sport button or paddle shifters for the eight-speed automatic transmission, though you can press a “Low” button on the column mounted gearshift to hold the lower gears a bit longer.

After a brief flirt with this I didn’t think it worth bothering. The ride may be a bit firmer, but in a Rolls-Royce context that simply means the bumps are more noticeable than in a Ghost or Phantom. The Wraith is not really sporting at all, more of a Rolls with an added touch of agility. It can even float somewhat, which may not be great for those with a queasy disposition.

It’s unusual to talk as long as I have about the mechanical side of a Rolls-Royce. It’s the look, the interior, the elegance, the sublime loveliness of the complete package that is always so bloody seductive.

Travelling along, whether driver or passenger, the Wraith doesn’t feel stuffy or old fashioned as I suspected it would. Yes, there is the inevitable wood-and-leather stuff going on, but modern touches abound to entice drivers into progressing from their top-end Mercedes.

If there’s a quibble it’s that the seat cushions are a little short, without the support of a Ghost or Phantom. In other respects comfort is superb. Squeeze past the folding front seats into the rear and you’ll never want to get out. With the optional drinks cabinet in place, you could survive for days.

The Rolls-Royce Wraith is thus all you might expect, plus a little more. It won’t be for shy and retiring types, though it does look more discrete with the paintwork in just one colour. And it doesn’t even come close to winning any prizes for environmental consciousness.

Yet for, let’s say, a mere £300,000, people are guaranteed to notice you arrive. And they’ll have to conclude that you probably have at least a Range Rover, perhaps a Rolls-Royce Phantom, for carrying a full compliment of passengers. You’ve made it. That’s nice, isn’t it?

Peter Burgess works for motoringresearch.com.

THE FACTS: ROLLS-ROYCE WRAITH

PRICE: From £235,000
0-62MPH: 4.6 secs
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
CO2 G/KM: 327g/km
MPG COMBINED: 20.2mpg

THE VERDICT:
DESIGN Three Stars
PERFORMANCE Four Stars
PRACTICALITY Three Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Two Stars