BEST of the BEST 2014 | Wheels | Coupes & GTs: Rolls-Royce Wraith

The venerable British carmaker’s youthful spirit...

Once perceived by the masses as dusty relics from a bygone era, Rolls-Royce motorcars began to shed that image around the turn of the millennium when BMW purchased the brand and produced handsome reinventions of the sedans, coupes, and convertibles. If there are lingering doubts about Rolls-Royce’s ability to produce stylish, contemporary-looking vehicles, the Wraith should eliminate them.

The Wraith is a fastback coupe inspired not by fuddy-duddy Rolls-Royce vehicles of Edwardian Britain but by the ever-sensual Italian designs of the beetle-back 1950 Lancia Aurelia and the 1967 Maserati Ghibli. It is the gran turismo look: a lowered silhouette with lines that are more flowing than those of a stately sedan.

Company executives say that the $284,900 Wraith is part of a plan to reduce the average age of Rolls-Royce buyers, which is now over 60. It is, they say, an automobile that is suited to younger, more modern tastes. As one Rolls-Royce executive has noted, “It is a car that allows [younger buyers] to retain their street credentials yet also is seen as a cool understatement.”

The delight is in the details of the Wraith. The front facia is not so huge, is shorn of sharp edges, and is much less intimidating than those of earlier models. The seats have been redesigned with just a hint of Recaro to appeal to younger bodies. More contemporary patterns, fabrics, and leather colors bring a new, lighter mood to the interior. Rolls-Royce even offers a selection of two-tone paint schemes.

The Wraith’s performance capabilities will appeal to drivers of any age who enjoy going fast. Equipped with a twin-turbocharged, 6.6-liter V-12 engine that churns out 624 hp, the car is the fastest, most powerful Rolls-Royce ever. It storms from rest to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and its top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. Regardless of the intended steersman, the car will still appeal to more seasoned drivers, who may find it a pity to waste the Wraith on the young.

Rolls-Royce, www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com

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