A thing of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing
- John Keats, 1818
As we flashed through the streets of Vienna to the Alpines region on the outskirts of the Austrian capital in Wraith, Rolls-Royce's latest sensation, the soliloquy of the English poet of the Romantic era came to our minds.
For Wraith is indeed a thing of beauty, a joy forever.
It has been heralded by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars as the most powerful Rolls-Royce with the boldest design that has ever played host to the famous Spirit of Ecstasy figurine.
Indeed, Wraith is a masterpiece of elegant simplicity. Grace and beauty define the exterior presentation. The swept lines of the fastback, a style whose origins can be found in 1930s automotive design, clearly signal its purposeful character, one which hints gently at the noir.
The bold fastback design exudes Wraith's style and beauty. With a high waistline combined with low roof line and raked cabin, it displays cues that can be traced through past generations; effortless poise with accentuated rear overhang, elegant coach doors and, of course, the Spirit of Ecstasy adorning the grille.
A wider rear track, longer bonnet, raked glass house and deeply recessed pantheon grille unite in presenting a truly focused car, a Rolls-Royce with its own unique character.
Gentle evolution is also a theme of the 102-year-old Spirit of Ecstasy figurine. Positioned further forward on the grille and angled by five degrees, her eager position draws the eye up and along the bonnet, helping define the development of three harmonious lines: the waftability line, waist line and roof line.
In side view, it is the fastback that most clearly sets this latest Rolls-Royce design apart from its thoroughbred stable mates.
The linear formality of the waist line gently dips to the rear, providing a sense of stability and effortless poise. This combines with the expressive gesture of the window graphic that sweeps downwards to the coach door swage line and gives expression to that essential Rolls-Royce trait of waftability.
Frameless coach doors and the absence of a B-pillar further augment elegance and drama. Doors open to reveal an exquisite interior and are closed from inside at the touch of a button.
With all four windows down, the side opening adds length and a sense of waftable debonair to Wraith’s character. The elegant chrome side finisher frames this graphic beautifully and pulls the eye seamlessly down onto the rear wheel. For further open view touring enjoyment, a fixed glass roof can also be specified, complete with leather sun blind.
In Wraith’s design, every detail has been considered; stainless steel door handles, for example, conceal barrel locks maintaining clean exterior panels.
Three new wheels have also been designed to fit like a tailored shoe, which include a standard 20-inch seven-spoke design along with optional 21-inch seven-spoke part polished and 21-inch five-spoke part-polished, bi-colour choices.
Prominent rear shoulders with powerful wheel arches nestle the tapered glasshouse, accentuated by the raked rear screen. Whilst the striking silhouette of the long fastback hints at a sporting dynamic, Wraith is clearly a consummate gentleman’s gran turismo.
The perfect balance has been struck between the visual language of the fastback’s heyday and a thoroughly contemporary Rolls-Royce motor car. Traditional high-seating position and Rolls-Royce proportions remain, leaving the beholder in no doubt that it is true to the marque’s DNA.
Step inside Wraith’s coach doors and there is the feeling of going aboard a luxury yacht.
It is a serene space for four occupants, cocooned in a striking and contemporary interior furnished in beautiful materials, surrounded by tactile Phantom-grade leathers.
Design details like the expansive Canadel panelling and blood orange needle tips for speedometer and power reserve gauge hint further at agility, speed and performance.
The dynamic theme is reinforced when viewed from the driver’s seat. Black chrome dials are framed by a black horseshoe sweep, whilst the steering-wheel is thicker rimmed to build dynamic intent.
Perfectly appointed storage compartments for two iPads add convenience for rear seat passengers, whilst automatic door closing buttons located behind the A-pillar aid those in the front.
Warm and serene, Wraith’s interior lighting bathes occupants in gentle light. Beyond this, additional ambient lighting comes on request – courtesy of reading lights above C-pillars and waterfall roof lights that deliver increased but unobtrusive illumination with a hint of Art Deco influence.
The constellation is also at your disposal as the Starlight Headliner presents a starry night sky within the cabin, an effect that is achieved with 1,340 individual fibre optic lights hand-woven into the leather roof-lining.
Wraith is the most powerful Rolls-Royce ever to have played host to the Spirit of Ecstasy figurine. It develops 624hp, from a 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12, an engine that features direct petrol injection to maximise efficiency and reduce emissions.
Should drivers wish to take advantage of the extraordinary power at their disposal, they may choose to be propelled from rest to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds and on to an electronically governed top speed of 250km/h.
The Wraith debuts the most intelligent drivetrain ever to feature in a Rolls-Royce, including the application of ground-breaking technologies like Satellite Aided Transmission (SAT), which processes GPS data to predict the driver’s next move and automatically select the right gear for the road ahead.
Unnecessary gear changes are thus avoided, augmenting the Rolls-Royce trait of waftability. Following a sweeping bend, for example, the optimum gear is always pre-selected for effortless acceleration.
Complementing SAT, Wraith’s dynamic enhancements include a more direct steering response to aid precision in corners, as well as more dynamic spring and damper settings.
Power is transmitted – effortlessly – thanks to an eight-speed, automatic ZF transmission. The combination of powerful engine and sophisticated transmission leads to immediate power delivery with 800Nm of torque available to the driver from 1,500rpm.
It also features the ability to multi-shift down gears. When the accelerator is pushed rapidly, the car knows that the driver is seeking to maximise acceleration and it moves directly to an appropriate lower gear.
Wraith is built around a steel monocoque body, which means there is no separation of chassis and body. The advantage of this construction is a reduction in exterior dimensions whilst maximising interior space.
The body has been engineered with a double front bulkhead to help insulate the interior from engine noise. It is constructed from steel sections and then wrapped in steel panels, which are brazed by hand. This allows a seamless join, which is then sanded by hand until it is perfect. In total, 6,364 individual spot-welds are applied to Wraith.
Compared with Rolls-Royce Ghost, the rear axle is 24mm wider, the wheelbase is 183 mm shorter and the centre of gravity nearer the road, thanks to a reduction in height of 50mm.
The car’s suspension has been tuned to minimise body roll and discreetly amplify feedback when cornering; while steering weight is heavier at high speeds and lighter at low speeds adding to the spirited drive.
A combination of double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension, which work with an intelligent, four-cornered, air-suspension system and electronic variable damping, maintain the hallmark "magic carpet ride". The refinement is extraordinary; the smallest of changes can be detected by the air suspension and body roll is minimised through bends accordingly.
While advances in mechanical and electrical technology deliver systems like head-up display, adaptive headlights and Wraith’s keyless opening boot, improvements in connectivity have taken the human-machine interface to a new level of sophistication.
Voice activated navigation starts with a one-touch call button. Located on the steering wheel, this allows navigation, telephone and other commands to be directed straight into Wraith's on-board computer. The car's response is then displayed on a 10.25-inch high definition screen – rich in depth and colour – located in the dashboard.
Should any hold-up occur en route, Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI) is summoned to minimise inconvenience.
Effortless navigation is extended to searches with a mobile device when away from Wraith, once the free Rolls-Royce Connect App has been downloaded.
In 2013, the Spirit of Ecstasy figurine celebrates her 102nd birthday. More than any other symbol of luxury, the flying lady stands as a genuine icon, one whose beautiful image continues to adorn the grille, but is now also reproduced within Wraith’s cabin, gently rotating on-screen when the engine is started. It is also depicted within the crystal glass surface of the new rotary controller.
This Spirit of Ecstasy Rotary Controller presents a touch pad (rather than a touch screen which might leave unsightly fingerprints at driver and passenger eye level), with the ability to "write" characters by finger, as well as the ability to scroll through function menus by turning the chrome dial and pressing down to select its functions.
The Rotary Controller’s touch pad also allows "pull and pinch" features, replicating intuitive smart phone functionality. These help occupants pinpoint chosen areas on the screen or help to make them larger.
Voice activation commands can also be used to send emails and text messages, safely, conveniently and directly from the car.
Wraith’s on-board hard drive holds 20.5 GB of storage, meaning it can host approximately 5,700 items of music downloaded via the USB port located within the centre console or glove compartment; iPod and iPad connection allows the importation of music, but also podcast and audio book downloads. Bluetooth audio streaming is an option too, from one of two phones that can be paired with equal functionality.
The fully active 18-channel amplifier delivers surround sound through 18 speakers. This includes two central bass speakers located in the boot, seven tweeters, seven mid-range and two ‘exciter’ speakers in the headliner bringing the sound sensation to ear level. Maximum power output is 1,300W.
SAFETY AND TECHNOLOGY
The Advanced Crash Management system (ACSM) utilises sensors placed around the car to make 2,000 measurements per second. This data ensures the car deploys the correct safety features in the event of an accident.
A combination of seat belts with force limiters and smart airbags help protect occupants in the event of a severe impact. Those in the front seats have the reassurance of knee airbags and intelligent front airbags which feature graduated output and adaptive vents ensuring that the strength of bag deployment directly responds to the severity of a collision.
In the event of a lateral collision, an integrated head airbag system, whose curtain extends to cover the side window areas in their entirety, protect against an impact with the vehicle structure, as well as from glass splinters. Side airbags in the front seat offer further extended protection.
Night vision technology now includes warning messages, as well as automatic brake preparation to support evasive action should an accident be imminent. Infrared cameras located in the upper corner of the grille are used to project a thermal image on-screen, an image which highlights warm objects, but which also identifies specific hazards on the road between 15m and 200m ahead.
Wraith also comes with a groundbreaking third brake light, located above the rear windscreen. A first in the motor industry, this feature incorporates two LEDs at either end of a light bar and prism technology to deliver an unbroken, clear red light across its length. This illuminates more quickly and presents a brighter warning for drivers of following vehicles.
Effortless cruising in the city and on the open road is delivered by Wraith’s Active Cruise Control (ACC) system. Radar-camera sensors monitor the car ahead, increasing or decreasing speed to maintain the perfect gap. New to Wraith, ACC now also reacts to static vehicles, assisting in urban driving conditions.
The iBrake 6 function uses information from the radar sensor and front camera to help the driver stop quickly and with maximum efficiency should an emergency situation arise. Working with the early or late crash warning system, the pedal reacts to the force applied to it, pre-filling the brake pedal and reducing the amount of pressure required to brake suddenly.
The system also alerts the driver with a series of warnings, urging action via the heads-up display and on-screen.
Effortless motoring in both the city and on the open road is augmented by a sophisticated series of cameras discreetly placed around the car. Rear, front and 360-degree top view cameras ensure total ease of manoeuvrability.
Wraith is indeed a joy to drive. It's like riding on a bed of air, with ease of manoeuvrability. You can hardly find fault with this beauty. The amount of safety features available is simply mind-boggling. The combination of powerful engine and sophisticated transmission leads to immediate power delivery, delivered smoothly and without a huff.
However, those who are used to be chauffeured around may have to get used to getting in and out of this two-door version of the Ghost. This is after all the gentleman's ultimate gran turismo, with all the trappings of luxury and 624hp on tap without the ruckus of a high-octane supercar.
If we have to gripe, it's the maze of electronically connected buttons that you have to acquaint yourself with. Take note, Wraith is here to haunt the likes of the Bentley Continental GT and Mercedes-Benz CL600.
* Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Kuala Lumpur is the authorised distributor of Rolls-Royce vehicles in Malaysia. It is located at Ground Floor, Quill 9, 112 Jalan Semangat, 46300 Petaling Jaya. Tel: +603 7960 2333. Fax: +603 7960 2072.
Specifications of the Rolls-Royce Wraith
Engine: 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12, 48 valves, direct petrol injection
Max power: 624hp @ 5,600rpm
Max torque: 800Nm @ 1,500-5,500rpm
Fuel type: Super unleaded
Top speed: 250km/h (governed)
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 4.6 sec
Fuel consumption (combined): 14 litres/100km
CO2 emissions: 327g/km
Dimensions: 5,269mm (length), 1,947mm (width), 1,507mm (height)
Boot volume: 470 litres
Weight (unladen): 2,360kg
Safety features: Front, side, knee and integrated head airbags, ACSM, infrared night vision, ACC, iBrake 6, anti-roll stabilisation, dynamic stability control, dynamic traction control, cornering brake control, dynamic brake control
Price: From £245,000 (RM1.3 million) in Europe. Expected to cost more than RM2 million in Malaysia.