When Rolls-Royce expands its model line-up, it's not difficult to foresee what's coming on stream. Now that the Phantom flagship has spawned four versions in the guise of a saloon, a long wheelbase version, a coupe and cabriolet, you could easily fathom what's going to happen in the smaller Ghost range.
Today, the Ghost has a four-door derivative joined by an extended wheelbase variant to please Asians, as it were, and the Wraith, a two-door fixed-top alternative.
No prizes for what's coming up next because, in the first place, a convertible wearing the Flying Lady badge up front appeals strongly in the US, a major market for Britain's most hi-so brand.
However, we are glad to report from Austria, where the international driving trials of the Wraith have been held, that the soft-top won't appear in showrooms in the near future.
But the focus for this week's test drive report is none other that the Wraith, a car which the Brits wish to emphasise is the most powerful Rolls ever made.
By being based on the Ghost, itself having technical and mechanical bits nicked from the 7-series of BMW, Rolls-Royce's owner, it's not exactly hard to imagine what kind of car the Wraith is to be in and to drive.
Doors open face-forward like the Phantom coupe.
Before getting into the gist of the dynamic abilities, it's worth commending Rolls-Royce for its ability to cover up the BMW components as effectively as possible.
Like the Ghost, the Wraith is genuinely a Rolls in terms of exterior appearance. Even the headlights, front grille and tail lamps correlate to the Phantom's design language, making the Wraith a junior Phantom Coupe, in essence.
But what makes the Wraith extra-special is the fastback silhouette it carries above its waistline which makes the car utterly distinctive in the top-end of the super coupe market.
Of course, the design could be controversial, particularly when the Wraith is dressed up in two-tone uniform. The upshot _ true of any Rolls _ is that buyers can personalise the Wraith with whichever colour and trim they like. After all, what we're talking about here is a car that's being treated by tycoons as a form of art in motion. So when a potential customer opts for shocking pink interior leather upholstery, don't get miffed. It's all a matter of choice.
But what we would like to seriously recommend is the star-lined ceiling in the cabin which essentially makes the Wraith, just like other Rolls-Royces, truly special. Moreover, the level of perceived opulence in the Wraith is without doubt unrivalled. Even the Continental GT from Rolls-Royce's ex-bedmate Bentley can't really the match the Wraith in terms of sheer luxury.
You won't be able the detect BMW's DNA in the Wraith's living room, unless you're a nagging forensic expert trying to quell the Wraith's 30 million baht proposition in Thailand. Examples of sharing are the coat hooks and the mobile phone holder in the centre glove box.
Star-lined interior ceiling is a must-have option.
Complementing the generally beautifully crafted cabin is generous head and legroom from whichever chair you're sitting in. Boot space is okay, rather than spectacular _ we wonder if that is really going to bother top politicians and their ilk or not.
Behind the steering wheel, the Wraith feels just like a proper Rolls-Royce. The instrument panel and other functions feel rightly bespoke. But the driving environment is not totally free from faults. Some switches and column stalks are obscured by something else, and the A-pillars are sometimes obtrusive when driving, which we'll get into shortly.
Power in the Wraith comes courtesy of the Ghost's 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12, albeit power bumped up by some 50hp to 630hp. It's not that it really needed more power, but the more crucial thing is the torque it packs at low revs to give the Wraith what Rolls-Royce likes to describe as genuine waftability.
And it's really like that on the move, just like in any other Rolls-Royce. All you need is a gentle tap on the throttle to make the Wraith move around without any effort. Prod the gas a little more _ even without going into kickdown _ and it sails away impressively.
In fact, that's how the Wraith needs to be driven, by just maximising on the unflappable amount of low-end punch. That's why there isn't a rev-counter in the Wraith _ as in all of its brethren _ because you don't necessarily need high engine speeds in it.
Because of this, you can't stop thinking why Rolls-Royce's electric car project couldn't get off the ground because the characteristics of electric propulsion _ maximum torque from 0rpm, seamless power delivery and superior aural refinement _ perfectly suits the Rolls-Royce concept.
That experimental car in question is the 102EX, which people at Rolls-Royce said customers have rejected because it doesn't have a V12 motor _ well, more likely the V12 image we reckon.
If you floor the accelerator in the Wraith, it begins to emit that trademark 12-pot burble. But, as said earlier, it doesn't feel markedly superb at high revs. And you're wasting fuel, too, if that really mattered. Cylinder deactivation? Nope, just all cylinders dancing away at all times.
The Wraith doesn't really like to be pushed like a sports car in the first place, despite the brand's claims of it being the most dynamic Rolls-Royce currently on offer.
There's body roll in corners, the nose dives under hard braking and the steering is geared a little too leisurely when driven with enthusiasm. At times, you can feel the car struggling with its heavy weight.
And despite having light steering around the Austrian capital of Vienna, you can generally feel the bigger dimensions the Wraith packs over a Conti and the horrific turning circle it has, akin to that of a four-door pick-up.
The Wraith won't feel anywhere as dynamic as, say, the Continental GT Speed. And if you really want the ultimate in driving enjoyment, that honour would probably go to either an Aston Martin or Ferrari.
But that would be totally missing the point in the Wraith, as Rolls-Royce would happily agree. What the Wraith does best is being a long-distance luxury grand tourer, just with a touch more sportiness than in the more image-conscious Phantom Coupe.
What is sufficiently available in the Wraith _ and not surprisingly in any sense _ is excellent noise suppression at indecently high speeds and a silky smooth ride, despite riding on 20-inch wheels.
And combine that with aesthetics which have a great sense of occasion whether you're going to look at it or sit in it, the Wraith is in a class of its own.
A Rolls will always be a Rolls, it could be concluded.
What is sufficiently available in the Wraith is excellent noise suppression and silky smooth ride.
The other SUPER COUPES
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor