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THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENTS
Is the Rolls-Royce Wraith the ultimate gift?

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Dec 7, 2013

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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The Wraith, manufactured by Rolls-Royce (Orcatek Photography)

FIRST DRIVE By John Grafman As the reveal and drive of the new Rolls-Royce Wraith (a Scottish ghost, we are told) approaches, the anticipation slowly heats to a rolling boil. Perhaps flying roughly 700 miles round-trip from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Arizona strictly to undertake a mere 70 miles of seat time in the Rolls sounds screwball, but who in their right mind wouldn’t want to delve into the newest product from the ultra-premium motorcar company? On paper the Wraith really appears to expand the appeal of the brand. Right from the start, the fastback design hints that this is leaning towards a sporting mission. This car, albeit weighty, is entrusted with a 12-cylinder, four-valve per cylinder, 624 horsepower engine, and boasts a staggering 590 pound-feet of torque, which can overcome an incline without the slightest hesitation or effort. The imposing Rolls-Royce Wraith can sprint at sports car like speeds, conquering 60 mph in a snappy 4.4 seconds. Even the sophisticated Satellite Aided Transmission (SAT) has GPS connectivity, allowing the gearing to be adjusted in anticipation of the environment, such as selecting a lower gear for downhill grades, thereby reducing reliance on braking. Yes, this has all the trappings of the world’s best sports coupe. Even the Rolls-Royce Director of Communications, Richard Carter, mentions the technical achievements of the past to conquer the land, speed, and air records with the Rolls-Royce powerful R motor in 1929, and the early 1930’s, including the coveted Schneider Trophy for seaplanes. Certainly, Richard is mentioning this to us auto media wonks during the very exclusive presentation in preparation of unleashing an aggressive Wraith sport coupe that’s built to take on the competition. Unbelievably, those of us thinking the Wraith will be deemed the Radical Rolls are flat-out wrong!

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The most striking angle on the Rolls-Royce Wraith (Orcatek Photography)

Indeed this does have most of the right parts, but this isn’t designed to take on Bentley. This isn’t even filling the niche that occupies the space between the Bentley Continental GT and the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe’. This is really another design that encapsulates all that Rolls is currently known for. This is a butter smooth, elegant statement. If the consumers and connoisseurs enjoy the other models the brand offers, they too will love the Wraith. Comparisons between the Wraith and Ghost are sure to be batted about, but the Wraith only has roughly 20 percent of its content shared with other platforms. Of that 20 percent, most of it comes in the form of powertrain and electrical. While much of the design looks familiar to other models, as it should, the new Rolls is distinct enough from its siblings to garner its own following. The exterior styling is both flowing and muscular in presence. In particular the rear fenders have a shape that most want to stroke to complete the sensory experience. The fastback roofline is however the most identifying feature. The silhouette is more aggressive, in the same vein as the Bentley GT. And, while it appears that the design creates a rear pillar that would form a blind-spot for the driver, in fact doesn’t pose much of an issue. As with the other R-R products, this is oversized in comparison with other plebian, lesser forms of personal transport. It is hard to not be noticed when arriving in this massive British turned German automobile. Lucky for us, the roads along our route in Arizona are often one-lane drives, allowing onlookers to stay aft of our machines, thereby reducing any chance of gawkers drifting into us. On the occasions where there is heavier, side-by-side traffic, the new Rolls commands the attention of those around us. Those that have any sort of inkling as to what’s going on in the world of cars, or simply on what’s cool, are transfixed on the fastback.

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The dashboard has come a long way (Orcatek Photography)

Sadly, those on the outside don’t get to relish in the refined interior, that borrows cues from the finest in interior design, of both cars, yachts, and homes. The interior door panels feature Canadel wood paneling, formed with compound curves and grain running at a 55 degree angels to vertical. This provides both a sense of motion, and a textural component due to the heavy grain of the wood that isn’t found on any other car on the market. Creating the panels required overcoming challenges in production, but clearly this is within the skill set of the remarkable craftsmen at the legendary marque. The feel of the materials prove that this is the real McCoy. The vents are metal, leather of the finest quality envelops the interior, and virtually all of the parts that occupants touch are refined. Some liberties have been taken, but none that detract from the overall product. One such compromise is the chromed surround overhead housing the sunroof switches that are made of composite, which is rather difficult to distinguish from polished metal. The roofline does appear to compromise the space inside the cabin, but this is an illusion. In fact, as the Wraith is so large to begin with, the impact from the fastback styling is negligible. This is still an accommodating, delicious cocoon for four grown adults. As this is decked out in some of the finest materials available, the problem isn’t getting people inside the car, but rather extracting them after the drive. And really, who’d want to leave? Dozens of miles of driving in the beautiful desert of Arizona, beginning from and returning to The Phoenician hotel on East Camelback Road in Scottsdale, doesn’t truly provide a wide range of real world conditions. However, the well-maintained roads do provide hills and a few twists and turns to explore the agility of the Wraith. The drive is about the same distance as commuting from Newport Beach in California to Calabasas further northward. In that time a few key aspects are evident. First, this is as smooth and quiet ride as one could ever dream of. Second, this is happiest on the flats, and straights. Not that the Wraith unravels at the seams when the road conditions change, but this does lean and expresses the size of the car giving the driver a reminder that this isn’t a sports car. Third, as the suspension and sophisticated, eight-speed transmission are so supple, and the engine is refined beyond imagination, it is easy to exceed the speed limits if we aren’t paying attention. On the flip side, the 14.7-inch brakes (14.6 in the rear) can haul this back without drama. While the that might not sound like a big deal, but given that the Rolls is about half-a-ton heavier than most cars at 5,380-pounds, this is indeed comforting.

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The Wraith interior (Orcatek Photography)

The steering feel is for those that have a light touch, as it is on other Rolls-Royce products. Again, this doesn’t lend itself to sporting applications. Both myself and other drivers in the press did have a tendency to wander in our lanes, as the slightest input translates to redirection, yet the driver is often unaware of the actions. This does offer up a few proper solutions to aid the driver. Heads-up display in the windshield does provide navigation info, and vital info, such as both the posted speed limit on the street or freeway, and the actual speed of the car. The posted speed is also presented in a discrete indication on the dash panel. This also has distance sensitive cruise control, allowing a safe and driver adjustable space between the Rolls and the car that’s ahead of it. The navigation system on this short jaunt provides correct feedback in spite of being taken off of the given route several times. In other words, there is no excuse for not returning the Wraith at the end of our little excursion across the desert. Okay, so this isn’t the sport coupe we are hoping for, but for those that love the brand, this is every inch the Rolls-Royce that they’re expecting. And, it’s as sweet as can be. But for those that want more, there’s always the option of a bespoke model. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too! For more information about Rolls-Royce products, go to rolls-roycemotorcars.com

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(Orcatek Photography)

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Rolls-Royce Wraith Price: $284,900 (base) Engine type: 6.6-liter, 12-cylinder, four-valves per cylinder, direct injection EPA mileage estimates Combined/City/ Highway: 15/13/21 miles per gallon Horsepower: 624 @ 5,600 rpm Torque: 590 pound-feet @ 1,500-5,500 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive Transmission type: Eight-speed automatic / 8HP90 with low range on steering wheel, Satellite Aided Transmission Suspension: Front: double-wishbone front suspension, air-suspension system and electronic variable damping Rear: multi-link, air-suspension system and electronic variable damping Wheels and tires: Front: 8.5 in x 20 in, Goodyear EMT 255/45 R20 Rear: 9.5 in x 20 in Goodyear EMT 285/40 R20 Brakes: Front: Ventilated disc / 374 mm / 14.7 in Rear: Ventilated disc / 370 mm / 14.6 in Anti-roll stabilisation, dynamic stability control including dynamic traction control, together with cornering brake control and dynamic brake control Overall length: 207.9 inches Overall width: 76.7 inches, with mirrors Overall height: 59.3 inches Curb weight: 5,380 pounds 0-60mph: 4.4 seconds Top Speed: 155 mph (governed)

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