One of the highlights of last month's Geneva Motor Show was the Rolls-Royce Wraith, the ultra-luxury carmaker's new gran turismo. And it wasn't long before it made an appearance in the city where there are more Rolls-Royces per head than any other. On Wednesday, the car was in Hong Kong for a preview before going on display at next week's Shanghai Motor Show.
The spirited new addition to the Rolls-Royce line-up of the Phantom and the Ghost is the fastest and most powerful model Rolls has produced. The powertrain comprises a 6.6-litre, twin-turbo V12 engine harnessing 624 brake horsepower and 800Nm of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
While still as stately as its siblings, the Wraith is a sporty, two-door driver's car with no chauffeur required. From the solid box-like front, the first impression is its similarity to the four-door Ghost, although the grille is angled further forward, and it has a larger bumper and lower air dam. From this angle, the Wraith looks far too large and bulky to go from a standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds, which the marque claims. The top speed is limited at 249km/h, which is more than enough fun but not the fastest car on the roads by a long way.
This long, elegant fastback has been designed to evoke glamorous, streamlined gran turismos of the 1930s. Along with its 20-inch wheels and huge rear-hinged doors - the biggest on a Rolls - the Wraith has a dramatic and dynamic stance. This effect is enhanced by a longer rear axle and a shorter wheelbase than the Ghost. It also has a lower centre of gravity, sitting closer to the road.
The cabin, which seats four, is intended to evoke a nautical feel, with the most extensive use of wood panelling on any car. The open-grain light wood covers almost the entire door panels and centre console.
The soft, Phantom-grade leather is of a volume measured in square metres. Romantic Wraith owners can opt for the so-called Starlight Headliner, which was previously only available as an option in the Phantom. This produces a starry night sky effect, achieved with more than 1,300 fibre-optic lights hand-woven into the leather roof lining.
Groundbreaking technology applied in the Wraith includes satellite-aided transmission, with processes GPS data to predict the driver's next move and automatically select the right gear for the road ahead. It also has the ability to multi-shift down gears when there's a need for rapid deceleration.
There's also a voice-activated call button on the steering wheel, so the driver can command his Wraith to "navigate to The Peak", or make a telephone call, for example.
The first step for an interested buyer, though, is to write a cheque for HK$5.5 million - the car's starting price. The Wraith will be available for order in the fourth quarter.