© 2015 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. We use observedUVthrough near-IR spectra to examine whether SN 2011fe can be understood in the framework of Branch-normal Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) and to examine its individual peculiarities. As a benchmark, we use a delayed-detonationmodel with a progenitormetallicity of Z⊙/20. We study the sensitivity of features to variations in progenitor metallicity, the outer density profile, and the distribution of radioactive nickel. The effect of metallicity variations in the progenitor have a relatively small effect on the synthetic spectra. We also find that the abundance stratification of SN 2011fe resembles closely that of a delayed-detonation model with a transition density that has been fit to other Branch-normal SNe Ia. At early times, the model photosphere is formed in material with velocities that are too high, indicating that the photosphere recedes too slowly or that SN 2011fe has a lower specific energy in the outer ≈0.1 M⊙ than does the model. We discuss several explanations for the discrepancies. Finally, we examine variations in both the spectral energy distribution and in the colours due to variations in the progenitor metallicity, which suggests that colours are only weak indicators for the progenitor metallicity, in the particular explosion model that we have studied. We do find that the flux in the U band is significantly higher at maximum light in the solar metallicity model than in the lower metallicity model and the lower metallicity model much better matches the observed spectrum.