If you're truly rich--or its more discreet cousin, wealthy--you'll barely notice the pricetag on the Rolls-Royce Wraith.

BCC your CFO here: It's $289,000, and that's before you've even dabbled in the fittings and finishes that can shave another hundred grand from your offshore accounts. Before you've even raised the idea of bespoke alligator-hide upholstery or canary-yellow lacquered trim.

If you're not so well-heeled, how is it even possible to understand an enormous, enormously powerful two-door coupe like the Wraith?

Just step in the cockpit past the long rear-hinged doors, and enter a cocoon of wood and leather so womblike, you'll disown your humble beginnings and mumble about "having it shipped to the Hamptons for season."

But don't touch the pushbutton to start it up, not until you've looked around for a good, long time.

Star quality

The Wraith is a spin-off from the Rolls-Royce Ghost, but it is unquestionably the star in its household. It's beautifully contradictory. At more than 17 feet long, the Wraith's coupe roof draws the vast cabin close around its shoulders, turning it into a more intimate space that could double as a cocktail lounge, minus the cocktails.

Unless of course you want them, and convince Rolls' bespoke craftsmen to install the drinks cabinet from the Ghost and Phantom sedans in the Wraith's more compact rear seats.

They'll do whatever you want, those artisans, so long as it's obtained legally and sustainably. They'll fit the biggest swath of Canadel paneling on the Wraith's doors at a 50-degree angle, because who doesn't like a good diagonal? They'll put into play window switches that act with the damped precision of the silver-plate keys on a piccolo. They'll paint coach lines on your Wraith's body panels with a squirrel-hair brush. By hand.

Those dazzling flourishes are cause enough to tuck into the Wraith's cabin without even driving. It's splendidly comfortable. The front seats are reshaped from those in Ghost; they pocket passengers more deeply, and have firmer bolsters at the ribcage and under the legs. It's even easy to step into the rear buckets: they skimp very little on leg and head room compared to some other vehicles that get thrown into the same superstar category.

Don't forget to look up. You might be awed by the Wraith's $13,000 Starlight roof, which replaces panoramic glass with a perforated leather-trimmed panel lit by 1,340 fibers affixed by hand to the headliner. The lights vary in intensity, determined by the length and the cross-section of the cut across the fiber itself. Dimmed to dark or lit like a starry night, it's a singular flourish, a toreador cape waved at the luxury makes aiming for Rolls-Royce status--a come at me, bro, delivered in a perfect English accent. 

Stay calm and pass on the left

When that's all taken hold, it's finally time to absorb the Wraith's performance, the best of any Rolls-Royce. The 6.6-liter twin-turbo V-12 engine opens a torrent of horsepower--624 hp, enough to push the 5,200-pound car to 60 mph in about 4.4 seconds, and to a top speed of 155 mph.

It never feels leaden or strained. A remotely urgent wail wells up from under the hood when it's floored, dissipates off throttle into a serene absence of sound. The Wraith's eight-speed automatic uses satellite data and mapping information to "predict" the road ahead, softening some shifts and triggering others to guarantee effortless driving.

Meanwhile, the combination of air dampers and rear air springs removes all but some light tire slap from the cabin, leaving the Wraith unruffled by any surfaces less than a couple of inches off spec. There's body lean--it's big, yes--and the steering's beyond light, a combination of high levels of assist and a large-diameter steering wheel. But it's wonderfully counterintuitive to push the Wraith into sweeping bends at 80 mph, and have it respond neutrally, with some grip left to give.

It's more a driver's car than any Rolls-Royce we've ever driven, though still several degrees removed from the relative hyperactivity of a Bentley GT.

Taking spirit form

Wraiths are like other modern Rolls-Royces, best seen from the side. The fastback body is a hulking, brooding thing, a comely torpedo from the top three-quarters view.

From the front or rear, it's less heroic. The rectangular grille reads right, but the skinny LED bars that serve as headlights underserve the statement. The tail is bluff, and neatly sculpted, though the bars of chrome and taillamps shapes stand out properly only with two-tone paint schemes.

The Wraith's cabin lives and breathes in a way its German cousins are just beginning to tap. Their influence bubbles up between the hides and marquetry in the form of glowing LCD screens and knob controllers that govern Rolls-Royce's version of iDrive.

Even there, the sense of occasion trumps the transistors. The system's voice-recognition capability does its best to imitate a valet, and the Wraith's knob controller takes handwritten inputs, like a good synthesized manservant should.

The same brand of lane-keeping and direction-giving and climate-controlling overwhelms some lesser executive sedans with a morbid sense of futurism. The same bundles of technology are in place in the Wraith, but they're silenced with an all-out appeal to the senses. 

The Wraith simply buries those buttons and pixels--that artificiality--with brush strokes and lacquer, ebony and leather. With polish.

It's the first modern Rolls-Royce that puts the question, "What is that?" ahead of, "Who is that?"