Rolls Royces have been chauffeuring the world’s elite about town for over a century and they have earnt themselves the reputation of building the finest luxury cars in the world. The driver’s seat has always been designed for a master of discretion, a person who can pick up a world leader and deliver them to their destination in complete calm and comfort.
The Rolls Royce is the car to be seen getting out of from the rear seats, not the driver’s seat… or at least that’s how it used to be. In 2013 the company decided to throw out the rulebook and create something that was still the epitome of luxury but with a focus on the driver. With this, the ultimate Grand Tourer was born, the Rolls Royce Wraith. With the company claiming this to be the most powerful car they have produced, be the most technologically advanced and have the most engaging driver experience.
Inside the Wraith, it’s very much business as usual – it’s complete opulence as you’re surrounded by miles of wood, leather and lambswool and the constellation headliner gives you this beautiful ambient atmosphere at night. The seats are more comfortable than any armchair you can buy and to look out of the windscreen is a bit like looking out to the front of a boat. The bonnet looks a mile long with nothing but The Spirit of Ecstacy to mark the end. As you would expect it’s more equipped than a branch of Currys with a very intuitive and slick infotainment system (admittedly “borrowed” from sister company BMW) and quite possibly the best car audio system ever made. Created by Bespoke Audio, the Wraith’s sound system boasts a 1,300-watt output through an 18 channel amplifier to 18 speakers within the cabin, including two “exciter” speakers in the roof. IT also has a hidden microphone that is constantly listening out for background noise and tweaking the levels to ensure the complete aural clarity.
The Wraith also retains probably my two favourite features of the modern Rollers, the rear-hinged doors and the pop-out umbrellas. I’ll always be a fan of different doors, whether they are scissor doors, gullwing doors, dihedral doors or rear-hinged, they just make that car that little bit more special.
This may all seem very standard so far, but it’s when you start up the monstrous twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 that things start to change. Despite the engine and platform being from the Ghost, there have been many tweaks and modifications to make sure this is not just a 2-door version of the “entry-level” car. The power has been pushed from 562 hp to 623 hp and the torque has risen from 575 lb-ft to 590 lb-ft. This is one very potent car and a quick mash of the peddle and it all becomes very real. 0-62 mph takes just 4.4 seconds which when you think the car weighs 2.4 tonnes, is incredible. What makes it more incredible though, is its gearbox. The Wraith uses an 8-speed ZF ‘box that is linked to the car’s GPS and it essentially plans the gearchanges ahead so you are never in the wrong gear and never short of power when you need it. There are no paddles or shifters in the Wraith, you just put your foot down and hold the beautifully hand-crafted steering wheel and the car will do the rest.
Despite the lack of interaction with the gearbox, the sheer power and pace of the car keeps you feeling involved and a part of the drive. It eats up miles like nothing else I have ever driven but it can still navigate tight turns and climbs with ease. The joy of that GPS transmission is that it lets you just focus what you are doing. Despite the car’s enormous stature, and it is HUGE, it feels light on its toes and even agile at times. It is far from a weekend track weapon, but once you’ve demolished the 900-mile drive down to your French Riviera villa, you can have a bit of fun on those idyllic twisty roads.
The Wraith does a sterling job bringing the luxury brand to a new audience of drivers. By being a Rolls Royce it has carved itself a new niche in the market for those looking for the ultimate GT car. Bentley may have the Continental GT and there’s also the likes of Aston Martin and Ferrari in the pot as well, but none of them ooze the same class and sophistication of the big Rolls. From its sweeping roofline to its wide and imposing front grill and smooth, rounded rear, the Wraith looks fantastic from every angle and there is nothing you could park next to it to steal the attention. To take a name so synonymous with luxury and to make it so powerful and fast is like taking a magic carpet and bolting a jet engine to it. It’s still the same smooth, quiet and tranquil environment, just a lot faster. It’s also one you would want to drive every day, everywhere.