Well, someone had to pick the Rolls-Royce Wraith and it might as well have been me. Not least because it guaranteed a sybaritic swoosh from my London base to our Welsh photo location, but there were many more reasons why I was so keen to promote it as one of this year’s stars.
The Wraith, you see, is apt demonstration of Rolls-Royce attempting to shake itself free from conservative constraints. So this car is the company serving up a different take on the Rolls model that was so successfully reimposed when BMW took the reins in 2001.
The Wraith is Rolls showing us its sportier side. Not least through the striking fastback shape that, I’ll admit, was not entirely appealing when we first saw it unveiled at the company’s Goodwood HQ. Yet the look of the car was transformed when I first saw it on the road. Now I love it. So does everyone else, judging by the numerous thumbs-up the car got during its four days with us.
That sportiness is apparent on the road, too. Sort of. In truth, of all the cars that we assembled in Wales, the Wraith doesn’t stack up that well in the purest sense.
The Tesla Model S and BMW i8 handle better, and even the diesel Porsche Macan destroyed it on the Black Mountain roads. But that’s hardly the point. This Ghost-based coupé is as sporty as any Rolls needs to be. And probably as sporty as any Rolls should be.
It’s fun to drive, no question. When you get away from the narrowest roads, where it’s hobbled by its sheer size, you can proceed at way more than a fair clip.
It steers and corners far more crisply than any other Rolls. And, of course, it’s propelled by the same mighty BMW-engineered V12 as the Ghost saloon. But with the Wraith’s seemingly superior throttle response, you can take better advantage of all that torque.
Overall, though, you’re struck by how the Wraith serves up a different type of Rolls experience while still being reassuring familiar. There’s the same SUV-style high-up driving position, accessed through novel coach doors, and you’re enveloped in the same leather, mirrored metal and inch-thick lambswool carpet cocoon.
It’s a wonderful car, then, and now my favourite Rolls-Royce by a country mile, although it’s clearly not the most refined and traditionalists might argue that it misses the brand’s brief as a result.
I also won’t pretend that it’s the best car of 2014, but it’s easily one of the most interesting. Not least because it’s proof that Rolls is stretching its wings. And imagine if the same intent and idiosyncrasies were applied to a super-luxury SUV? Or a smaller car? Now those would be mouth-watering possibilities, if the Wraith is any form guide.