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Rolls-Royce Wraith review

Derryn Wong
16/04/2014

 

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – Rolls-Royce launches are aimed at replicating the lifestyle of the company’s target audience. As one of the communications representatives from the company put it to me, it requires a whole different level of reality – along the lines of, “This press conference is boring. Let’s fly to Tahiti, now!”

Accordingly, the traditional concept of a Rolls-Royce is owning a huge, elegant luxury limousine and having your chauffeur gently waft you from place to place as you glide around, free of mundanity.

But the Wraith represents something rather different, and we dare say a little more conventional, for Rolls-Royce. The new nomenclature amongst Rolls-Royce’s already spooky litany (Phantom, Ghost, Spirit, Scooby-Doo etcetera) reflects that as well – ‘wraith’ is drawn from Scottish and is a synonym for ghost or apparition. It’s tidy, too, since both names imply something a little more tied to earthly concerns than the others.  Wraith is, essentially, the two-door version of the Ghost.

The Ghost itself is smaller than the immense Phantom, contrast 5.4-metres and 2.4-tonnes to the Phantom’s nearly six-metre length and 2.7-tonne mass in long-wheelbase form. Ghost runs on extensively modified BMW 7 Series architecture, but with very few carry-over parts, and the Wraith is the same, very similar in overall dimensions at 5,268mm long and 2,360kg in weight, but has a wheelbase that’s 183mm shorter, at 3,112mm.  

Goodwood terms the Wraith it’s meanest and most powerful car to date – with 624bhp and 800Nm from the twin-turbo V12 engine it’s nearly 50bhp stronger than the Ghost, and certainly doesn’t lack for power on paper – but we think it’s the looks that really set the car apart from the rest of the Rolls-Royce haunt (that’s the plural term for ghosts).

Alex Innes, one of Goodwood’s design team who worked on the car, said the key aspect of the new shape was the fastback rear. Although the car doesn’t actually have a hatch, since it’s really a boot that opens separate from the glass, it’s a wonderful addition to the car. Innes said the team drew inspiration from the flowing fenders of the original Wraith from 1938 – hence the ‘separate’ upper section which sits on rest of the body. It looks especially good with the contrast Cassiopeia Silver roof and Salamanca blue that our test unit wore.

Inspiration for the swooping fastback rear came from the famous Cisitalia 220 coupe and it says something about the confidence of Rolls-Royce as a company and a brand that it openly cites its references, even from external sources. But the result is a powerful, fast-looking machine that looks even better when on the move – it’s almost a joy to be passed by a Wraith so you can ogle that fabulous rear end.

624bhp aside, navigating the streets of Vienna proved remarkably easy despite the presence of the car. It feels very Rolls-Royce in this respect, with the steering, brakes and handling all very easy to get accustomed to and requiring little effort. Aiming the immense prow does take some care, as does keeping an eye out for things behind you, since the large C-pillars and small rear window minimise visibility, but the Wraith is not wrathful in traffic.

Highways are dealt with almost in a cursory fashion. The car runs on adaptive air suspension which monitors the ground condition every 2.5ms and reacts accordingly – there’s no messing around with modes here and you really don’t need it since the ride quality and handling are spot on.

Yet the best part of the dynamic experience has to be the engine. Yes it’s a big capacity monster with two turbos and mountains of torque, but it is a V12, the engine layout with the most inherent balance aside from an inline six. Paired with the excellent ZF eight-speed automatic, it delivers power accurately and smoothly. In fact it’s very much like a volume knob, a direct and easy-to-manipulate correlation even some lesser, naturally-aspirated engines cannot aspire to.

The bulk of its brawn comes in after 2,000rpm, but it’s not a punch-in-the-guts kind of delivery like many high-performance GT ‘bruisers’ (the likes of which the Wraith most certainly is not, no sir, says Rolls-Royce firmly) but a gradual, heady swell that punts the car forward ‘hand-of-God’ style (as in the massive appendage of a higher being, not Diego Maradona). The supremely quiet nature of the cabin is a little less supremely quiet than the Ghost since the engineers say they piped a little more engine noise in, but it’s still an elegant V12 purr, especially above 5,000rpm, since it actually sounds more like a burbling V8 at lower revs.

The weather gods provided wraith-like weather for our leg of the journey, so it was occasional spots of sunlight otherwise doused in lots of light rain, the occasional heavy downpour and mist. 800Nm on a big vehicle with rear-wheel drive in the mountains doesn’t sound like a recipe for fun. In fact, driving a Rolls-Royce in the mountains isn’t exactly a good thing to do, since they’re usually so wide and large. But Rollers don’t show their weight and the Wraith is no different – in this way it lives up to its ethereal name.

It’s remarkably agile for such a large vehicle, the big-hoop steering wheel and its light-weighting always deliver accurate, usable feel, allowing you to place the car where you wish easily. The body control and response is similarly pleasing and while it’s no immediate-jink sports car, it’s very fun to thread your way through twisty Alpine roads and even hairpins, all of this supported by the friendly throttle.

You can go fast – very fast – if and when you wish, and the Wraith supports that by keeping rock solid at high speed, yet at its heart the Wraith is a wafting grand tourer that rewards smooth, unhindered progress. In the challenging conditions it never put a foot wrong or became unruly. The mass is felt through the brakes when stopping hard for downhill hairpins, in those conditions it feels like it could use more bite, and there’s a tiny amount of slip when exiting uphill hairpins, but nothing to make a daily driver feel anxious.

There’s a new feature on the Wraith called Satellite Aided Technology which uses the GPS to predict what gear you’ll need for a given corner that’s coming up. The ZF unit is basically sound and we couldn’t tell what difference SAT made – but perhaps that’s the entire point.

On the inside the Wraith is naturally
very similar to the Ghost, down to the inset clock on the passenger dash (but spells a different name, obviously), even the shorter wheelbase doesn’t impinge much on room – you’ll seat four in extreme comfort, even six-footers will fit in the back. Material quality and design are flawless, there’s a huge range of options depending on how much you want to spend. New touches to the cabin include a ‘Spirit Of Ecstasy’ infotainment controller – the system is a Rolls-ified version of BMW’s iDrive, of course, but works the same way and now includes a doodle-enabled controlled dial with the Rolls-Royce emblem inset. Also brand new is a ‘Rolls-Royce Bespoke’ sound system with 1,300w of power and 18-speakers/channels, two of which are set in the roof, and offers some of the best audio quality I’ve ever experienced inside a vehicle.

So the Wraith is very much a classic Rolls-Royce made with a slightly more dynamic driving experience but it’s not the young upstart new addition to the existing Goodwood Haunt. Indeed if Rolls-Royce ever went back to motorsport, which is unlikely (but it did choose Austria since it triumphed in the 1913 Alpine Trials with a Silver Ghost) and made a bruiser GT for the road they could call it Banshee, which is from Scottish legend, for the loud, vengeful spirit of the lochs. In the meantime, the Wraith adds a little extra to the existing order of Goodwood’s offerings without introducing any spiritual discomfort.

NEED TO KNOW

Engine 6,592cc, 48V, twin-turbo V12
Power 624bhp at 5600rpm
Torque 800Nm at 1500-5500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 4.6 seconds
Fuel efficiency 14.0L/100km
CO2 327g/km
Price POA

Also Consider: Bentley Continental GT W12

Photos by Rolls-Royce 

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About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's chief editor brings 15 years of experience in automotive journalism. Previously, he was the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. He's contributed to The Business Times, Today, and many other publications, and also covered technology as editor of Stuff magazine. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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