By on April 9, 2015


While designing top-dollar luxury cars was a rare success during my year at CCS, it’s gotta be tough to get these into production.  Consider competition from lower-rung manufacturers, namely those parent companies owning the likes of Rolls Royce. How much shared engineering is forced upon them?  What financial (beancounting) and legal (pedestrian safety, carbon emission) design constraints are forced upon the uber-luxury Transportation Designer?

Design directives get muddy in any vehicle, yet weak design is intolerable at a $354,000 price tag.

2The (legendary?) Chrysler 300 became such a force that the Wraith seeks relevance from that aggressive face.  Not a bad thing: it worked for Chrysler, it’s a no brainer here.

4But that grille!  Old world craftsmanship never goes out of style, even if the individual “teeth” have more gaps than Cletus from The Simpsons.  Perhaps meant to fold away in an accident, let’s hope today’s grilles are more pleasant to get jabbed into your rib cage.

5Many vehicles from the 70s-80s sported safety-minded stand up grilles matching their 60s counterpart’s swagger. But they usually implemented energy-absorbing, spring-loaded grille teeth nestled behind a one piece grille shell.

Not so here,  perhaps safety takes a step forward…at the expense of elegance.

6Emblematic of success, far above your peers.

7Rolls Royce’s trap door for their signature hood ornament is fantastic: even looking cool when retracted, because you know what’s going down later.

8The “flying lady on a ball” is a fantastic piece of kit from a design and user-interface standpoint.

Perhaps a short video (shot incorrectly, rushing at dusk, sorry!) is in order.

8_video1 The chrome strip is frustrating afterthought.  Not long enough to reach the grille, the ending point seems arbitrary and…well…cheap.

8_video2Even worse at the tail: it’s the same class of fail seen in the concept-to-production of the third-gen Chrysler Sebring’s hood.

9The lighting cluster looks suitably upscale, though every car maker encrusts corporate logos/easter eggs on lighting pods.

12Step back: a cheap cut line, worthy of the Chrysler 300.  One of this era’s big design sins is making the front fascia into a bumper. Contrasted to making a lower bumper that’s a “shelf of protection” for the fascia due north.  The cut lines between fascia and body go higher, therefore far more visible.

And curb appeal goes down.

13Imagine if the fender flowed down to a point far south of the headlight.  Imagine the uncluttered, expensive look this provides.

Large fenders dipping below the lighting pods is commonplace for Aston Martins, ya know.

13_1Insurance constraints or whining about a dent in a big metal fender are the least of a Rolls Royce owner’s worries. They worry about the SEC, or other First World Problems.

13_2The bumper cut line wouldn’t be visible from this angle if the  bumper started at the slot below the headlights.  The Wraith walk-around experience deserves an uninterrupted fender free fall.


14For the love of all that’s holy, the correct cut line is presented as the fake, just a few inches south of the real one! Perhaps the taller bumper/shorter fender was a last-minute addition from the beancounters/lawyers?  


15But that’s more than a fake cut line, it’s a light.  Fantastic, even more reason to make the fender/bumper transition at this point.

16Every modern car needs a lower valence with big speed holes, helping visually reduce the bulk associated with the ridiculous height.

17Especially when $300+k ensures no solid castings with fake mesh textures.  Whew!

18The chrome grille lives in a painted shell, with another bizarre choice for the hood cut line. Pushing the cut line forward makes the hood more unwieldly to operate and extra vulnerable in an accident, but again, First World Problems.

18_2The Wraith’s grille shell is an awkward, cetacean tribute to its ancestors. A clumsy integration for modern pedestrian safety standards?

19A better way is to move that hood forward, extending the chrome strip too.  And since First World Problems are ‘fo real son, you just go right ahead and make the hood share the same cut line as the chrome grille.

20Can you visualize the two new proposed cut lines from this angle?

And if pedestrian safety regulations allow for a “shelf-like” bumper, shrink back the fender/headlight area to give a subtle homage to the exposed fenders of pre-war Rollers.  Kinda like the shelf you’ll see at the rear.

21Proper cut lines also mean an unobstructed view of the Wraith’s clever light/sensor assembly.  The chrome ring is a nice touch, but it sorely needs a chrome casing for the light.  It worked for the 2008 Chevy Malibu’s rear marker.

See? First World Problems!

22A timeless wheel design is mandatory on any Roller, these pre-war Bugatti-alike spokes do the trick.

23Branded performance brake calipers have jumped the shark when Rolls Royce does it.

24Rolls Royce’s hallmark self-aligning hubs make any shot a perfect one. And some know-it-all-fulla-crap AutoJourno can’t casually spin them by hand, either!

25The space behind the front wheel is thanks to a liberal “dash-to-axle” ratio.   It’s a perfect place to affix an emblem promoting a history of superior proportioning.

26Let’s marinate on this beauty.

27Like a BMW 7-series, the Wraith’s A-pillar extends deep into the hood: a sad reality of modern car design.
27_1You know what’s coming.


Yes, that’s a sheet of glass where cheaper cars opt for a solid plastic triangle.  But glass is an acceptable DLO FAIL alternative for cars like the $14,000 Nissan Versa Note…but for $340,000 more? Inexcusable bullshit.

28_1The problem worsens when opening the (excellently suicide-hinged) door.  Redesigning a firewall’s hard points for a Wraith can’t be that resource consuming, considering it lacks door hinges!

28_2Perhaps the classy umbrella demanded a door cut line in a certain place.  Perhaps DLO FAIL met its match: the umbrella conquers all.

28_3Truly a magnificent piece of product design (umbrella), integrated into a sad work of transportation design (firewall).

29Even worse, the door cut line is a whimsical curve worthy of a yacht, forcing your eye to naturally follow the curve up to triangular DLO FAIL.

29_1The Wraith’s side has sculptural elements. Note the steep grade on which the side view mirror bolts to the door.

30There’s a subtle character line that also reduces visual heft.

31The door handle is masterful metalwork: reassuring in touch, packed with modern keyless functionality.

32The extra metal spear not only lengthens the door handle’s appearance,  it houses a fancy LED puddle lamp.

33The spear forces your eyes down, south of the DLO FAIL.

34_alsonotechromeseamThe door’s cut line doesn’t meet the starting point of the quarter window.  Frustrating on the CTS-V coupe, far worse on a vehicle nearly four times more expensive.

NOTE: see the chrome’s break point atop the greenhouse. More on that later.

35Not having the window and door cut line match is beyond frustrating. Suicide Door Lincoln Continental it ain’t.

36Start the cut line there, make whatever changes are necessary south of that for a functional hinge.  Could the revised cut line look much worse?

37The chop-top school of thought is getting very, very old.

39Remember what I made you take note of? This break means the Wraith’s quarter window trim comes from two pieces. Inexcusable considering cheaper luxury cars like the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII.

(Photo Courtesy:

If this relatively affordable luxury coupe made it with one piece, what’s the Wraith’s excuse?

40The beancounted quarter window trim, bizarre B-pillar cut line and played out chop-top: the Wraith’s greenhouse is like a greatest hits of poor vehicle design from the last decade.

41We expect ostentatiousness, not clumsy and chubby.  The flat-not-fastback roof, misaligned B-pillar, whimsical door cut line that missed the A-pillar by several inches: all sloppy in side profile.

41_1A less swoopy door starting at the beginning of the A-pillar loses the yacht like swage line, but that’s a good thing: it’s too “fast” considering the surroundings.

42The rear window has a false panel (or is it a spoiler?) giving the impression of hatchback functionality.

43The CHMSL in this false panel is a nice touch.

43_1Ditto this roof indentation: perhaps for rain water drainage, but definitely excellent for breaking up an otherwise huge swath of sheet metal.

44Here’s the actual cut line for the trunk, yes a conventional trunk. Perhaps it could use some of the door’s whimsical curvature.
46While the fuel filler door has a respectably located bend matching the body, it’s better seen south of the wheel arch, deeper into the quarter panel.
47Because it’s kinda bland here! Nothing wrong with an uninterrupted panel, but take the “clean design” hit to clean up the wheel arch. Priories!

48No, it’s not a 3rd Gen Hyundai Grandeur/XG350.

48_1The Wraith’s fantastic wheelbase and strong proportioning is marred by a smooshed roofline giving the appearance of a decadent automotive cockroach.

Perhaps this is an XG350 that met a very well-endowed cockroach.

49But there’s no Hyundai’s with a chrome frame this massive, with lighting elements so harmonically layered.  All elements compliment the chrome trim: nothing screams like so many OEM lenses in lesser vehicles trying hard to be cool.

50So the rear gets a proper bumper shelf and the front does not? This transition adds depth, texture and refinement: even if the cut line is unnecessarily north of the bumper shelf.

52A subtle crease in the Wraith’s trunk keeps it from appearing bloated, bubbly.

53The Wraith’s softened contours on the chrome trunk mustache needs the front grille’s sharp drop off for more bite.

54Add some tooth to the chrome’s bends (around the logo, at the drop off to the license plate) and it’d look like a Rolls and less like a Chrysler 300 emulating one.

55The massive rear bumper is another reason the flattened cockroach roof has gotta go.

Or perhaps the bumper needs to taper up (same height by the rear wheel, 1-2 inches higher from this angle) making a thinner and rounder posterior?

56A thinner bumper isn’t happening: Rollers need substance to make presence. This bad ass bumper is brand honest. It’s one of many great landings at a Frank Ghery designed airport.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week!


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55 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2014 Rolls Royce Wraith...”

  • avatar

    We expect ostentatiousness, not clumsy and chubby.

    Rolls Royce and Bentley (chunky as they are) are now the most expensive trucks in the world.

  • avatar

    Love these pieces. Great article!

    • 0 avatar

      Me too – I wish VV was a more regular feature.

      • 0 avatar

        I wish I could crank them out faster. This one was really hard to format and elaborate, it took at least 15 hours from start to finish.

        • 0 avatar

          There were some good points: have you tried Photoshopping some alternative cutlines? Pictures speak a thousand words.

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks for this…always look forward to these.

            I often found myself re-reading what you wrote and trying to visualize what you were saying, but not figuring it out. I found the shots with your finger pointing helpful, so more of that would be appreciated (and I imagine it won’t add too much additional time). Drawing a rough line on top of your photos would be even greater, but maybe a bit of a hassle. Thanks again.

          • 0 avatar

            I have been toying with the idea of being like my CCS professors and taking a red marker to lines that need work.

            Maybe I’ll do that for next time.

  • avatar

    All this talk of pedestrian safety! Maybe if Myrtle of “The Great Gatsby” had been run over by *this* Rolls-Royce, she’d have survived to nag another day.

    Meanwhile, I wasn’t sure if DLO fail meant that a piece of cheap black plastic was used to extend the DLO past the door cut line, or that the door cut line, A-pillar and fender didn’t meet in one simple vertex. Now I know it’s the latter. I like it better when the piece of glass is *in* the door, in lieu of the plastic triangle, but of course that requires a more-vertical A-pillar. It’s implemented pretty well on several Volkswagen Group vehicles (Touareg, Cayenne, Continental GT and Flying Spur). On my own Volkswagen, the door cut line actually curves around the A-pillar, so as not to need a piece of extension plastic or glass. I’ve also seen this tactic on several GM vehicles, like the Terrain, Equinox and SS/G8. I don’t know what to make of it.

    As always, Mister Mehta, thanks for the excellent Vellum Venom, and the reminder that even (especially) a Rolls-Royce isn’t exempt from a design critique.

    • 0 avatar

      “I wasn’t sure if DLO fail meant that a piece of cheap black plastic was used to extend the DLO past the door cut line, or that the door cut line, A-pillar and fender didn’t meet in one simple vertex. Now I know it’s the latter.”

      Always consider price points. ALWAYS.

      Because it’s the latter on a Rolls Royce, but NOT on cars like the Versa Note, Fiesta, etc. Those get a pass for failing at the latter, but using glass instead of plastic to not fail at the former.

      If that made any sense.

      • 0 avatar

        It makes perfect sense…higher price equals higher design expectations.

        • 0 avatar

          Good design is always seen in the context of price. I am amazed how well some small, cheap cars are detailed. Ford’s Mk2 Focus was exemplary for its sculpting, overseen by Chris Bird. Yet it’s a £14,000 car in base model form.

      • 0 avatar


        “Design directives get muddy in any vehicle, yet weak design is intolerable at a $354,000 price tag.” + “Always consider price points. ALWAYS.”

        I could not agree more and am frequently baffled as to how so many folks can give expensive (or relatively so) vehicles a complete pass on this issue. Sadly it seems likely that good, or at least just-not-bad, design is completely lost on a many.

  • avatar

    “Every modern car needs a lower valence with big speed holes”

    Salesman: Well I can’t _give_ you the car, Krusty, but I _can_ let you have this little number for practically nothing: only $38,000.
    [bullets hit the car]
    Homer: [suspicious] Hey, what are all these holes?
    Salesman: [quickly] These are speed holes. They make the car go faster.
    Homer: Oh, yeah. Speed holes!
    [bullets riddle the car and smash the windshield]
    Salesman: You want my advice? I think you should buy this car.

  • avatar

    Also, that little device in the reflector isn’t a light sensor. It’s a camera. This is how BMW integrates its “Surround View” cameras.

    Here’s what that looks like on the iDrive screen:

  • avatar

    As a fastback/hatchback lover, I still have to agree on all points not regarding the roofline. Even the side windows could be bigger, stretching its shoulders a slight bit more south and let the flow all the way to the rear would also help the rear look less massive.
    The worst part is that many of these ‘fails’ are more than just cosmetic, but reveals how the car is constructed ‘wrongly’ from the beginning. And there just is no excuse at that price point.
    As someone who has wanted to one day become a designer/coachbuilder since I started to walk, I usually end up buying cars that has as few as possible of these fails, despite design not really being prioritized at my price point.
    Still waiting for that Sierra VV ;)

  • avatar

    I appreciate all the design detail info, but honestly, this car’s just plain unattractive. It’s ostentatious for ostentation’s sake. Meant for folks with way more spendable funds than taste.

    The Mercedes S-class coupe has it all over this thing at just over a third of the price.

    I do like the Ghost sedan, though, as long as it doesn’t have that tacky silver hood.

  • avatar

    Excellent critique.

    BMW has no idea how to do fake English styling. VW does much better on Bentleys, but still no cigar. Just massiveness.

    Anonymous looking some Jags may be, but not a one is as useless as this Wraith. And they continue to knock out pretty decent-looking SUVs at Land Rover. The difference is, whatever criticism you can level at the Brits, at least genuine British styling never looks as heavy-handed as the German’s lackluster interpretation of it.

  • avatar

    An excellent, detailed analysis like always!

    I’ve never liked this particular Roller. It’s just trying too hard. It lacks the presence required in an elite luxury motorcar. (I call cars like RR, Bentley, Bugatti, Maybach elite luxury.) It tries to be “sporty,” which is unsuitable for a Rolls-Royce. If it’s got a rolled umbrella in the door, it shouldn’t have sports pretensions.

    Good point on the cheapo fender cut lines as well. Not present on RR vehicles before around 2003. Basically anything pre-Phantom era was much better looking.

    Look at this, it’s breathtaking (chrome wheels aside). A 2002 Corniche.

    This is how you do a two door Rolls.

    I think Bentley has surpassed Rolls now. They have made desirable two doors more recently, with the Azure, and the Brooklands.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2008-2010 Bentley Brooklands and Azure are two of my dream cars. As I’m sure you know, they were the coupe and cabriolet versions of the Azure, and all three cars were essentially reworked versions of the pre-VW/BMW takeover Crewe cars, and dated back to approximately MY1999 or so. The only part I could recognize in the Azure, Brooklands and Arnage that was from Volkswagen Group was the key fob.

      Of course those cars were discontinued after the Arnage’s successor, the Mulsanne, came to market in 2011. There should already have been coupe and cabriolet versions of the Mulsanne, and Bentley did recently debut the “Grand Convertible” concept which was just that…but so far, nothing.

      Meanwhile, the “Phaetons in drag” that are the Continental GT and Flying Spur have aged well, although they continue to offer increasingly-garish variants.

      As for the 2002 Corniche, it is extremely rare, and commands a hefty premium on the used-car market because of it.

      • 0 avatar

        There is an Azure owner somewhere around here locally. I’ve seen it twice in the same relative area around Kenwood. Stunning in a cashmere yellow with a khaki colored roof. An old man is always alone in there at the helm.

        I think they’re missing out not having legitimate Bentley coupe/conv options available. The CGT ones don’t really count, and I’m not a huge fan of how they look how. The original ones were more pure, back in the early 00s. Too much festoon now, as you mentioned.

      • 0 avatar

        Also, Corniche on ebay for some pics pr0n.

        It’s gorgeous. And has had $23,000 in servicing done for its 12k miles. (LOL!)

  • avatar

    Well done, Sajeev. I always look forward to these articles…

  • avatar

    Nice to know that Fuyao Glass is now the default supplier of windows for everything from your $299 lease special 3-series to a $350k Roller.

  • avatar

    Wow. Never knew a car more expensive with my house had some obvious visual flaws.

    I thought you would talk about the shape of the front sidemarkers. They’re just an anonymous shape plopped somewhere on the bumper with no attempt to integrate it into the design. The 1999 E46 and probably much lesser cars do a better job at this.

  • avatar

    Alright Sanjeev, where did you put Sajeev?

    • 0 avatar

      While I am inclined to agree with much of your assessment, your Designer roots are showing on your criticism on the door breaks. Don’t forget that Job #1 on a car like is is making the interior as isolated as possible. The ideal joint for sealing large, moving panels (doors) is still a 45 degree bevel, and that’s not something you can translate to glass (which typically makes do with a simple overlap.) The result is that you need to keep the moving part of the glass inside of the bevel, and the overlap joint will end up being shorter than the door length.

      You could line up your glass very nicely with your door lines if you were willing to sacrifice noise isolation. Most people buying $300k+ hard top coupes care more about the experience inside than the view outside.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry, not buying it.

        I betcha the S-class Coupe (just like the CL before it, which I’ve personally driven) is dead quiet inside even at triple digit speeds. And the new one has a proper cut line at the (invisible) B-pillar.

        No excuses!

        • 0 avatar

          Sure, the cut lines match. And then the door jets out and back 3-4 inches to accommodate the shelf. If all you care about is where the sheet metal butts at the glass line, I can see your point. But then I expect you to talk about the fat-bottomed door line… :)

          Even easier to do it when the door is conventionally hinged – Suicide doors look neat, but they make crap like this overly complicated.

          • 0 avatar

            “If all you care about is where the sheet metal butts at the glass line, I can see your point.”

            Well, considering this is a column on car styling…

            And yes, the S-class Coupe is a fat bottomed, fat everything pig of a coupe. But it gets the big transitions right, which the Wraith cannot.

  • avatar

    I may be wrong, but I think what this Rolls suffers from is the fact that is based on the BMW 7 series platform, rather than a clean sheet design. In addition to the usual regulatory and aerodynamic considerations; it forced the stylists to work with the existing hard points in the BMW 7 series; trying to make a two door sport coupe out of a four door sedan forced them to make compromises.

    Ronnie was kind enough to send me the Maisto diecast of the Lincoln MKR concept car. The MKR was the RWD four door Lincoln Mustang everyone asks for; I photographed it next to the same scale Mustangs in my collection. You can see how using the same D2C platform not only forced certain hard points into the MKR, but the Mustang’s overall flow into the design as well.[email protected]/17090160555/[email protected]/16882763747/[email protected]/17064202076/[email protected]/17064202076

  • avatar

    In 10 years so much money will be worth so little.

    • 0 avatar


      And anyone who could afford one of these cars new could not possibly care less. It’s all about the new shiny, the old is yesterday’s paper.

      I find these cars to be rolling testements to the theory that money cannot buy taste. Hideous from front to back and top to bottom.

  • avatar

    All of that Chrome is metal correct? That isn’t some plastic chrome BS, correct?

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty sure it was all chrome plated metal.

      • 0 avatar

        I assume that bumper is plastic, or else they did a poor job integrating metal, but if the Grille is real chrome then either it’s connected to the Rad support or has its own skeleton? Basically, I’m wondering does it (grille and/or bumper) flex in place with several pounds of pressure or is it solid through and through.

        I don’t expect it to flex and vibrate like a Camry bumper at 80MPH, but were they able to make it as solid as the front end of 60-70s Caddies/Lincolns?

        Obviously not something important to 99.99% of people, but I have to wonder.

        • 0 avatar

          Well I didn’t push on it out of respect to it being an unsold vehicle (not a press car) but the grille was all metal (maybe even the white part) and the bumper was flexible plastic. It didn’t look or feel cheap, per se.

          Nothing can be as solid as 60-70s Caddies/Lincolns, they had solid metal front ends. The suicide door Contis had a one piece front end: fenders, header panel were one. Hood and bumper bolted into the front end. That type of craftsmanship is history, you can’t make cars like that anymore.

          • 0 avatar

            One piece or lead-loaded panel joins?

            Very interesting article as always Sajeev. The front end cut lines are not only poorly placed but what should be sharp corners have a radius that is also disappointing given the price.

            Worse for me are the lower grille corners where you know that somebody insisted on a traditional square shape despite the elegant curve inside. That should never have made production. The mismatch between the grille shell and trunk mustache should have been eliminated too.

            I don’t mind the roof line if treating this as Rolls’ sports car, there is the Phantom coupe as a ‘proper’ Rolls coupe after all.

            Unfortunately I can’t see an obvious solution to the front edge of the door. Losing 90% of that elegant could have had it join neatly, or they could make the door impractically long (would not be able to open the door far enough in conventional 90 deg parking for egress, valet parking is not everywhere) and it would then show the side of the dash board (ok if finished nicely). Or make the wind screen more upright which wouldn’t work either.

            Happily I needn’t be concerned about the issues impacting on my life!

            Looking forward to the next one.

          • 0 avatar

            It really, really looks like one piece. I assume the chrome trim hides some connection, but it’s too skinny to hide nuts and bolts.


  • avatar
    CV Neuves

    An excellent detailed run-down on what appeared to me as atrocious design at first sight. In this price range one should attempt to make the sale on value not gimmicks. Also, timeless design may well include the use of the odd inexpensive standard part, but never shortcurts.

    The original sin of that car is of-course, that the frame of the grille is not forged from one piece. The hood ornament does not sit on anything else than the shiniest chromed surface possible. RR vehicles are all about the hood ornament; for decades customers have been willing to accept numerous issues with those cars for the sake of it.

  • avatar

    It’s maybe worth noting that the car is colour sensitive. In metallic blue it looks very good. Despite the flubs I quite like this car. The grille is disappointing as is the two piece side glass frame. The Lancia Kappa coupe did it one shot for a €30,000 car to boot.

  • avatar

    Don’t buy it in a light color. Cut line issues solved.

    Not that I’d ever buy a car like this anyway.

  • avatar

    Excellent piece Sajeev.

    Now I patiently await your Lincoln Continental critique.

  • avatar

    The second thing I noticed after noting this Rolls’ bland design and proportions was the break in the Wraith’s quarter window trim. I was absolutely shocked and muttered out loud WTF!!

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Great job Sajeev! Well, cross this one off my list as well…

  • avatar

    Needs some stick-on chrome side vent grilles.

  • avatar

    Thanks for opening my eyes a little wider. Some of the things mentioned in this article would otherwise have escaped my attention.

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