A very visible spirit

Road test: Rolls-Royce Wraith

This week we have had something a little different here at Motor Writer. A six hour drive to Goodwood in a Vanquish (that’s another story), a Rolls-Royce factory tour and similarly long return leg in the stunning Wraith was one of the more interesting Mondays we have had in a while.

Having whisked a Phantom around Millbrook last year (rather like driving Westminster Abbey) it is immediately apparent that the Wraith is positioned at customers who wish to take the helm themselves rather than be chauffeured. Not that it is anything but refined and spacious but there are a few pointers toward this being more of a driver’s car.

Deliberately audible

First, there is just one of those mammoth rear-hinged doors on each side; rear seating, though ample, is more for occasional use. The engine – the same displacement 6.6 litre V12 unit fitted to the other models but with considerably higher output – is deliberately audible when pressing the pedal into the thick carpet, a first with Rolls-Royce. The slightly lowered nose and gently raked grill give a greater look of dynamism and the overall coupé shape is one of energy. This grand tourer is to be driven.

The profile is positively striking. Certainly, the prettiest angle is the front three quarter view but those buttress-like C-pillars give the Wraith a considerable visual strength. Taking in the panel proportions, there are no slender sections anywhere. There is nothing ambiguous about the car: from the deep flanks to the colossal rear overhang, the weighty door handles to the slotted, rectangular headlamps, it is a car designed without compromise.

Behind the wheel, it is astonishingly easy to pilot. Steering is light for parking and weights-up well on the move. There are no distractions such as flappy paddles or different modes for performance and handling; settings are refined based on driving style, current road conditions and a clever look ahead using GPS to detect corners or junctions. It works, too. While there is always some of the traditional floatiness from the air suspension insulating passengers from the lumps and bumps beneath, the level of control is good and noticeably improved when conditions demand.

The little lady

Looking down, although the dials with their pretty red-tipped needles are attractive and clear, the critical information is available via the head-up display which appears to hover just to the right of the little lady at the end of the considerable bonnet. Some slow traffic allows the appreciation of other details, too. The chrome sliders for the air vents, the silky smooth movement of the central storage covers and of course, the starlit headlining. The concept of bespoke is synonymous with Rolls-Royce but we’d find it hard to beat the rich wood with navy and cream leather of our press car for sheer, timeless elegance.

There is no escaping the fact that the Wraith is a sizeable car but it is certainly easy to hustle along. Acceleration feels rapid although being fairly high up, the 4.4 seconds to 60 mph means the experience never feels too frantic. The car’s ability to cover distances effortlessly is enhanced by its maximum 800 Nm torque coming in from just 1,500 rpm. For the mid-range get-up-and-go, it is apparent the eight-speed ZF auto ‘box is swapping a cog or two but it is as smooth a change as any.

We didn’t clean the Wraith for our Motor Writer photo shoot. Instead, the pictures show 500 miles of road dirt, bugs and everything which fell out of the skies during the remarkable electrical storms of the week. For us, this driveability is the true delight of the Wraith. By moments, we have wafted along (and achieved a creditable 28mpg over a four hour run), we have taken challenging routes over the Pennines to put the car through its paces and covered many rapid motorway miles (okay, we were late). In all situations, the Wraith has truly shone (although she’s shining marginally less today than when we picked her up at Goodwood).

Exciting

The Wraith does not compromise the traditional Rolls-Royce values but it does move the company into a rather exciting space. Accepting perhaps just that parking bays are sized for lesser vehicles, this usability is what makes the Wraith a truly fabulous grand tourer.

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Power: 624 bhp (@ 5,600 rpm), torque: 800 Nm (@ 1,500-5,500 rpm), emissions: 327 g/km CO2 (band M), 0-60 mph: 4.4 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●●





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