Test Drive: Rolls-Royce Wraith

With a new design for the contemporary auto enthusiast, the Rolls Royce Wraith cuts a sleek profile along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

In the early 1900s, the maharajas of India—some 600 feudal kings who retained power under British colonial rule—became huge fans of the Rolls-Royce as the ultimate symbol of power and wealth. By the ’20s, hundreds of the English luxury vehicles roared across the Asian continent, decked out with elaborate designs and eye-catching accessories.

The latest model, the Rolls-Royce Wraith, boasts a sleeker brand of sophistication, but it has nonetheless become the perfect fit for the modern-day maharajas of international business and entertainment. For these VIPs, going unnoticed, or worse, underestimated is as good as being out of the game.

The Wraith—a cooler, more accessible two-door coupe version of the enigmatic Rolls-Royce Ghost—attracts a younger fan base, one that might actually be interested in driving the car, rather than simply lounging in its backseat while being chauffeured. It comes in a standard palette of bicolored selections, but for the customer who goes with the bespoke option, any color swatch or sample sent to Rolls-Royce will be matched precisely.

In another nod to the youth market, the Wraith has a lower-slung profile than the traditional Rolls-Royce, whose higher door frames and easy stepin features appealed to older customers. Hit a button in the upper front doorjamb on the driver and passenger sides and a full-size, leathersheathed umbrella pops out. It’s very Bond-goes-Bollywood.

The Wraith attracts a younger fan base, one that might actually be interested in driving the car, rather than simply lounging in its backseat while being chauffeured.

Slipping inside this regal ride is a multisensory experience. The taut natural-grain leather seat cradles me in a position that feels almost like reclining. The dash and instrumentation panel layout are clean and simple, with mid-20th-century modern analog displays and a spectacular panoramic 10.25-inch center console color display screen. Firing up the twin-turbo 6.6 liter V-12, the 624 horsepower creates an ethereal rumble under the hood. The influence of the German sport sedan masters is clearly evident in the sporty driving dynamics of this made-to-order $280,000 chariot.

As I was sweeping down the Ben Franklin Parkway in the Wraith, I felt as if the elegant boulevard with its fluttering flags and well-tended green spaces was especially designed for this test drive. An eight-speed ZF automatic satellite aided transmission system, using GPS data from the car, surveys the road ahead and chooses the correct gear for the terrain.

And although the words “drag racing” and “Rolls-Royce” seem incongruous uttered in the same breath, I hit the accelerator for a moment to feel the raw power discharged from under that long aristocratic hood—or bonnet, as the Brits would say. Out and back along both Kelly and Lincoln Drives, the Wraith conquered the extreme curves with unfaltering precision.

Few vehicles on the luxury market can combine the trappings of international prestige and contemporary accoutrements as well as the Wraith. In truth, I felt like royalty.