Rolls-Royce Wraith pictures and hands-on

It’s not every day a new Rolls-Royce comes along, so we stood expectantly with the crowds to watch the Goodwood-based company’s latest car being unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.

Said to be built "in the spirit of the company founders’ historic endeavours in design and engineering", the Wraith certainly presents a pleasing aura of calm, in stark contrast to the crazy supercar wars going on elsewhere in the show hall. Bragging and one-upmanship’s just too uncouth for this stately brand.

But if you fancy your stateliness with a bit more Riviera and a bit less stately home attitude, this will certainly be the Rolls for you. It’s much less massive than the Phantom cars - both saloon and drophead/coupe models. Which isn’t to say it’s exactly small, at more than 5 metres long, but it’s based on the smaller Ghost model, which itself is very loosely based on its parent company BMW’s 7-Series.

It’s certainly very striking, featuring the fastest angle of rear screen we can remember on a production car. You’ll have also no doubt have noticed the two-tone brown/pink-grey paint scheme. Two-tone is a real Rolls-Royce design signature that others are increasingly playing about with, and while we like the brown quite a lot, the contrast colour of the roof didn't quite work. It highlights the rather heavy section above the window line, which most car designers we spoke to thought made the Wraith look a bit, erm, overweight. We also thought it a shame they hadn’t given the Wraith new head and taillights to differentiate it further from the Ghost.

But we’re nit-picking rather as you can tell, and what we do like are the utterly stunning coach doors which hinge open from the rear. The vast, thick chrome window surround is also attention grabbing and the interior has some of the best wooden trim we’ve seen in a car, and we’re not normally big fans of wood in cars. The seats, it would be true to say, are also plusher than anything we’ve ever sat in which has wheels.

And perhaps of greatest interest to people like us - and as we reported in our news story yesterday - the Wraith is the first Rolls to really try and propel this most historic of car brands into the 21st century tech world. So while you still get a 624bhp V12 and it weights several tonnes, it also features some very modern tech developments - such as satellite aided transmission, which uses GPS positioning to work out where the car is and what the driver might be about to do next and select the most appropriate gear.

That navigation system itself can of course be voice-activated and runs through a 10-inch HD screen. You’ll also be able to download a Rolls-Royce app if you’re lucky enough to own one which will allow you to check on the car’s vitals and send it directions, your diary and so on, from your phone when you’re away from the car.

The central rotary controller - spot the BMW theme - through which you control the interface features the Spirit of Ecstasy, Rolls-Royce's iconic bonnet ornament, in its centre, which to be honest made us laugh and we thought a bit chintzy. We preferred the simple, elegant clock in terms of design, though one of our friends said it looked like a Swatch watch, which we doubt is the look Rolls was going for. A raft of other technologies, including surround view cameras, adaptive cruise control and the Rolls signature "star light" LED headliner that mimics a starry sky at night, are other tech highlights.

But perhaps best of all, the Wraith’s only going to cost about £215,000 - which, measured against the prices announced here by Ferrari, Lambo and McLaren, seems like a bargain. We’ll take three please.



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