Bobby Pawson test-drives the new Rolls-Royce Wraith

Bond, James Bond.
He had an old Bentley, which was soon sidelined for a series of Astons, a Jensen, a Lotus and even a Sunbeam Alpine, yet he’s never gone for a motorcar from that most prestigious and British of stables, Rolls-Royce. However, with the advent of the two-door Wraith, propelled by the most powerful Rolls-Royce car engine ever built (624bhp), surely Q is tempted?

To put the power of this car into perspective, my diesel Volkswagen Golf, which is perky enough, has about 140bhp, the Bentley Continental GT V8 S has 520bhp and the Aston Martin Rapide S enjoys 552bhp. Mind you, the Golf manages about 55mpg on a good run, whereas the Wraith only achieves about 13mpg around town.

Of all the cars I’ve reviewed for Country Life, this is the one I would like to own the most (although, given the £200,000 price tag, that’s hopelessly unlikely). That puts it ahead of its portly uncle, the Phantom; the ugly, but teutonically functional Porsche Panamera turbo; the Bentley Flying Spur S with vibrating seats; the beautiful, but uncomfortable, Aston Martin Rapide S; and all the clumsy and inelegant 4x4s.

To an uninformed layman like me, the engine is quite staggering. There are eight automatic gears and, when you floor it, it feels and sounds as if you’ve opened up a Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engine, as it catapults the vehicle to 60mph in under 4½ seconds.

This car is a paradox when idling at traffic lights, the engine is so quiet that it almost sounds as if it’s stopped, yet, when you open it up, it roars like a lion. It is, quite simply, unlike any other Rolls-Royce ever made and is said to be inspired by the words of Sir Henry Royce: ‘Take the best that exists and make it better.’

Many might expect to see a Rolls-Royce with royalty or oligarchs in the back, but the Wraith is surely aimed at those without chauffeurs, who want to get themselves somewhere fast. In our case, that was North, to fish on yet another river that hadn’t seen a drop of rain for weeks.

The doors are so enormous (the largest ever put on a production car) that, from inside, you can’t quite reach to close them. There’s no need to fret, however, as there’s a button inside that shuts them for you. The opulence runs deep—carpets and comfort are second to none, the star-spangled interior roof unique, the rear seats capacious and the Spirit of Ecstasy on the prow still disappears at the flick of a switch.

The Wraith is cutting edge, too. Safety gizmos abound the car tells you when you accidentally veer towards a white line and the optional ‘head-up display’, which projects driving information such as directions and speed limits onto the bottom of the windscreen, is brilliant.

Being able to see the satnav screen and other instruments apparently floating as a hologram at the tip of the bonnet might make it feel as if you’re piloting a Tornado jet, but it’s no gimmick. Would Bond drive this car?

The Rolls-Royce designers have managed a nod to the DB6 with the overall shape and a surreptitious lip at the rear as well as the cleverly evocative door handles, but, in all honesty, the Wraith is probably too big and ostentatious for Britain’s most famous agent.

Wraith means something pale, thin, insubstantial or ghostly and that’s the only mistake Rolls-Royce made when producing this fantastic machine.

On the road
Rolls-Royce Wraith V12 two-door coupé
Price From £200,000 for the basic model
Annual road-fund licence £505
0–60mph 4.4 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Combined fuel consumption 20.2mpg