The Spiritual Leader - Rolls-Royce Wraith

Live Life Drive

The Spiritual Leader - Rolls-Royce Wraith

We like to think that we are made of something more than just a collection of flesh, skin, and hair. That we have something immeasurable and unique within all of us, like a higher conscience or a soul that transcends our mortal wrappings. Scientists would scoff at such a notion. After all, quantifiably, we are nothing more than a mass of proteins. Our complex thought, emotions, and self-awareness, the result of a cocktail of chemicals, spewed out by our organs. Epinephrine is one such example. Secreted by the adrenal glands, it increases our heart rate, boosts muscle strength, and heightens our body’s blood pressure. You and I might recognise it better by its other name, adrenaline, or the juice that fires up our senses and gives us that ‘rush’.

In that sense, excitement and exhilaration is only the end result of a chemical reaction. Even if you are skydiving, bear-wrestling, or toying around with 600hp and going from 0 to 100km/h in under 5 seconds, from a physiological perspective, they are one and the same.

Curiously, Rolls-Royce new Wraith coupe doesn’t seem to be administering a rush of blood to my head. Even if its 6.6-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine has 632hp at my disposal, and gets me to the 100km/h mark in a more precise, 4.6 seconds, my pulse hasn’t quickened one notch nor my palms moistened since getting into the driver’s perch. In any other car of comparable performance figures, the twist from the engine is enough of a shock to awaken the dead. But in the Wraith, the most powerful and dramatic car ever to roll out of Rolls-Royce’s factory in Goodwood, I am just as calm and relaxed doing north of 120km/h, as I was sitting in the stillness of its beautifully crafted cabin only moments ago.

Not that it is anti-climatic. The serenity of my surroundings is all part and parcel of the Rolls-Royce experience. After all, ‘waftability’ is the name of their game. To facilitate that, the engine’s reserves of 800Nm of torque are entirely at your behest from a mere 1500rpm. Even if I were to put the hammer down, the Wraith’s eight-speed ZF automatic transmission will quietly shuffle in the right cog to ensure an effortless take-off from the line. There is no slug to the chest as it picks up the pace. No cacophony of exploding petrol, nor a shudder. Instead there is a subdued snarl to be heard as the Wraith surges forward on an unending wave of torque, the silver Spirit of Ecstasy that is perched over the pantheon grille gently rising skywards, as though it is on the bow of a yacht, cresting over an unseen force beyond its own. In the meantime I’m pressed deeper into the plush leather trimmed seats, whilst the rest of the scenery slips by, left behind in the wake of the Wraith’s mighty stride. There is no shock to how the Wraith goes, but there is plenty of awe at the way it does it.

Peel away its bold fastback body, study the intricate machinations that lie beneath its luxurious decor and utterly captivating ‘Canadel Panelling’ trim, and you would find that the Wraith is more than just brand-recognition and excess. The transmission for instance, uses the GPS data from the Wraith’s on-board navigation system to predict the road ahead, so that it knows when you are about to go up an incline or around a bend, and will prepare the right gear to suit the occasion, like having a butler that does the shifting for you. We know that BMW has been using a GPS-aided transmission on some of their higher end models, but where those systems are used as a tool to save fuel, the Rolls-Royce uses to magnify its opulence. As such there is no manual override for the transmission, or numerical indicator for what gear you are on, or even a rev-counter for that matter, as such things are concerns of unwashed masses, to their minds at least. Everything is taken care by the transmission’s electronics. And try as hard as I might to fool the eight-speed ZF’s electronic brain with the odd kick-downs and unexpected lift-offs, the gearshifts are as imperceptible as it is faultless.

Despite having only a set of front rear-hinged coach doors, and the most powerful engine fitted to a Rolls-Royce car, the Wraith rides with the regality that is to be expected of a Rolls-Royce. All four of the Wraith’s massive 21-inch seven-spoke wheels are propped up on air suspension dampers. To keep the ride level and pillowy, each of the Wraith’s dampers are said to be able to make 400 individual load calculations a second, and fine-tune the ride accordingly. So, even as this 2360kg heavy leviathan of luxury and excess were to be hurtling through an off-camber bend, the computer systems on board are able to discreetly tweak the damping rates to maintain a calm and level ride, while keeping you in control.

On the highways at least the ride is wonderfully smooth and cushioned. It floats gracefully and effortlessly over the undulations of the road, the dampers doing a fine job tweaking the ride that you do feel suspended on a cloud with a surreal, almost majestic feeling. The only disturbance to be had were the odd vibration when running over rutted surfaces at speed, the unfortunate result of having a hefty mass bearing down on huge wheels and low-profile run-flat tyres. And although the soundproofing is thick enough to silence an idling V12, at speeds of 120km/h and beyond, some wind noise starts to filter through no thanks in part to Rolls-Royce signature wing mirrors that are the size of dinner plates. That said, these flaws are circumstantial rather than an oversight.   

Though the air suspension system does adjust the ride quickly and automatically, there was a brief moment when I quickly turned off the straight and easy, and pitched it immediately through a corner, where it felt more like a sea-faring vessel. A slight momentary roll in the body was present, shortly before the onboard systems worked out that the wafting is over, and playtime has just begun. Subtly, the dampers and steering systems got to work, adjusted themselves according to the feedback from the raft of sensors onboard, and by mid-corner I noticed that the ride has gotten tauter, body roll is taken down a notch, and steering made weightier. Its grandiose nose now responds with greater precision to my commands, its typical thin rimmed Rolls-Royce steering transmits a clear line between the road and the palm of my hands. Ironically for a brand that snide the term ‘sportiness’, the Wraith’s steering is chattier than those that you find on the most recent BMWs, though nowhere near as weighty, since that requires effort. 

Continuing on through another sequence of fast sweeping bends, and with the Wraith’s onboard computers more certain of the route I’m taking, it feels like a different kind of sprit from my first attempt. With less slack in the steering, and absence of wayward tipsiness in its composure, as its anti-roll stabilisation keeps body movements in check, the Wraith reveals itself to be better adept at going around corners than its mass and dimensions would suggest. The steering is quick and direct, and though there is a notable amount of body lean in the corners, it is in controlled amounts. Just enough to keep that ‘magic carpet’ ride on the inside, without compromising on the chassis’ road-holding qualities outside.

Even going through the odd broken surface, the dampers do a remarkable job at retaining the level ride comfort without destabilising its poise. The transmission is ready and waiting with the correct course of action in mind. Upon an invisible cue, gathered from streams of data known only onto itself, the transmission promptly slips down a few gears as the thrust from the engine sends me on my way. Though I never do get to push the power reserve needle any lower past than the 40 per cent mark, the engine’s vast power reserves is more than enough to haul four of us on board, and all 2360kg of Rolls-Royce at a rather rapid pace. 

As a piece of engineering, the Wraith is incredible, a veritable penthouse on wheels. More pressingly, for its boast at being the most power Rolls-Royce car, is it a driver’s car? Yes, for a Rolls-Royce. Just don’t expect it to light your trousers on fire like a supercar would, after all you won’t derive much interaction from the controls, as most of the menial tasks are already well taken care of by its array of computers. And while the V12 is omnipotent, it doesn’t stir your senses quite like a supercar does.

Being a Rolls-Royce though, the lack of traits that will get your adrenaline pumping is entirely expected, even for something as powerful and focused as the Wraith. It is a dignified way of enjoying speed and g forces. But the Wraith is more than numbers. There is something different about the way Rolls-Royce does things. In today’s world of big-budget productions, there is no shame in knowing that some big name brands are joined at the hip with main street names, all in the name of splitting the bill. But you would be hard pressed to find anything from Munich poking out from beneath its luxurious trappings. Just as how I think half the worth of a Michelin-star course is in the presentation, it is the details which really sets the Wraith apart.

Everything you touch in the cabin, the steering, signal stalks, switches, and buttons has a bespoke feel. The instrument cluster is a bank of classy watch-like dials, with the dial hands on the Wraith sporting special orange highlights that evoke Rolls-Royce aviation heritage. Its onboard multimedia system and the menu interfaces use a unique font and appearance, whereas its 18-speaker 1300W sound system is specially bespoke to the Rolls-Royce. Even the iDrive-derived controller dial, has been redone with a crystal glass surface, etched with a beautiful Spirit of Ecstasy figure. Priced at RM2.3 million before options? The Wraith is money well spent. Though that figure will fluctuate depending on the number of customisations and options one picks. And even if you are going down Rolls-Royce’s ‘pre-loved’ Provenance route, Rolls-Royce would still be able to get Goodwood to customise certain trim pieces for customers, such as the headrests or scuff plates.

The Wraith sits in a confluence of performance and luxury that no car can quite replicate. Even though it is made by the same metals you would find in other cars, the same silicon components that form its brain, and copper that make up its nervous system, the Wraith still stands out as an unmistakable symbol of opulence and excellence. It is almost as though that beneath its sheet metal, there is something ethereal about it, something that transcends its construct, like a spirit or a soul. 

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