Driving a Rolls-Royce anywhere in the world gets you noticed. It’s a rite of passage for the super-wealthy, discovers Auto Correspondent Cindy-Lou Dale as she slips behind the wheel of the new Rolls-Royce Wraith.
With a V12 engine, what do you think the Wraith is going to be like? It’s opulent, it’s extravagant and yes, it’s a tad bit excessive. It’s a serene, thoroughbred coupe version of the Ghost, yet it’s more than just a two-door reworking of its slightly bigger brother.
The Wraith is lower and leaner and has what people of my age would call a ‘fastback’. Taking a twenty-minute drive along France’s ruggedly beautiful Côte d’Opale has the V12 humming calmly in the background as if it couldn’t be bothered. The unobtrusive heads-up display on the windscreen shows the whisper-quiet engine to be spritely, but even though it is quick and stable through bends, heaving the 2.5-ton Wraith around tight corners just seems wrong.
The air suspension has also been modified to make it more dynamic, but don’t expect it to climb trees. This car can take a bend at quite some speed but you need to get it right if you want to glide through. Get it wrong and the stability control gets grouchy and it will understeer like a ferry on the Bosporus.
At high speeds, the Sat Nav communicates with the eight-speed automatic gearbox. Lift your foot off the pedal as you approach a bend and it holds the gear without changing up while lane guidance technology sends a gentle vibration through the steering wheel if it feels you’re wandering into the next lane.
And that’s just the tip of the technological iceberg; like many things in this car, the features provide assistance, not aid. As if it was born for it, the Wraith slips into touring mode and its unique chassis settles above the tyres, begging that I push down on the accelerator.
It’s the fastest Rolls-Royce ever (Rolls-Royce refuse to call it fast – they refer to it as being ‘dynamic’) with a 6.6-litre V12 engine, backed by twin turbos, specifically developed by Rolls-Royce engineers. This is no fire-spitting, attack dog supercar but it will hit 60mph in 4.6 seconds. However, you may not want to do this as boy-racing a Rolls-Royce seems a little vulgar.
Inside, the carpet is thicker than that found in most houses, the leather is of the finest quality and the cabin, in general, oozes Salvador Dali-type style from the (real) wood panels, the RR monogrammed headrests, the star-speckled roof lining, and the concealed signature umbrellas in the door frames.
The Wraith is unique in the US$300,000 price bracket for size, space, and luxury. Its nearest rival is the Bentley Continental GT, which is over US$100,000 cheaper, and smaller (and Wayne Rooney has one). And don’t forget the matching luggage!
I garner envious looks from pedestrians and other road users; one mink-coated lady with a semi-hysterical pooch points with one hand whilst covering her mouth with the other.
I pull into a service station to top up the thirsty tank and seek caffeine-laced fuel for myself. Before returning to the vehicle I stand back, allowing the crowd that has gathered around the roller to enjoy it some more. When I open the door, I feel the crowd lean forward, drawing in to catch a glimpse of the opulent interiors.
An elderly gentleman, visibly moved by the sight of the Wraith, asks if he can touch it. His voice is tight with emotion. “England has a long royal history and gave us world-famous educational institutions, William Shakespeare and Wimbledon,” he says. But it also gave us Rolls-Royce, the car of my dreams.”
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