This is wrong. This is so wrong. Nothing this big should be allowed to be so quick. By the time the thought has come up, the head up display shows we are far up above triple digit speeds. And before I have time to take it all in, the next corner is here. Brake, brake, brake! I can feel the strain of over two tonnes travelling at over 100kmph trying to tear the brakes apart. But they persist. I can feel the tyres working overtime to find traction. And more than all that, I can feel the G-forces wanting to smash my face up against the windscreen. I can feel so many things all at the same time. I can feel equal amounts of thrill and fear. Sensory overload!
I come around the corner and see a short straight stretch of road with a clear sight line. Muhahahaha! My right foot makes contact with the soft lambswool floor mats. The cabin, that was so silent that you could hear a smurf fart, is suddenly filled with the throaty rumble of the 6.6-litre, twin-turbocharged, V12 coming to life. The rumble spreads throughout the cabin, reverberating through the canadel panelling. After a moment’s hesitation the 8-speed transmission kicks down a gear or two and starts picking up pace with a lack of drama akin to Kristen Stewart’s face. The 800Nm of torque propels the massive automobile to triple digits speeds in such a ridiculously short time that your brain almost doesn’t have enough time to process it. All you can do is get pushed back into the soft leather seats and get your bum and back massaged as your pupils dilate in fear and respect.
And respect is something that the Rolls-Royce Wraith demands. Because despite the near two and a half tonne weight, this is one car that you can actually subject to some serious high speed action. But before you get all squeaky and excited about it, let me clarify that if you expect this car to give some Mclarens and Ferraris a run for their money, I’m pretty sure that a certain Mr Harnett will fly down from England to personally slap you across the face. Because that is not what this car was designed and built for. It was built for crossing continents. Not for mountain road shenanigans. A fact that the car will happily display the moment you come in too hot into a corner. You can immediately see flashing lights that tell you that the electronics are working overtime to find you traction. And if you are lead footed and a tad too early on the throttle, then the lights will go off again as the electronics struggle once again to keep 624 horses worth of power from snapping the tail away and sending you powersliding into a oversteer induced meeting with the Armco. But this is not to say that the Wraith is a bad handler. It is in fact a very good handling car. In comparison to the Phantom (on which it is based) the engineers have given the Wraith tons more dynamic ability. The car is quick to turn in and body roll is minimal for a car this big. And if you follow the philosophy of slow in, fast out to attack your corners, you can see some impressive speeds even on dodgy mountain roads.
But if you actually use the Wraith to cross continents (as so many of these RR guys keep telling me it is meant for) then you will find that it is a lot like sitting in a lazy boy strapped to a J-class yacht that is powered by a nuclear reactor that makes enough power to make a small country happy. Everything about the Wraith is top-spec and then some. The leather is softer than the softest. The paint is shinier than the shiniest. In fact I’ll even say that the Starlight headliner is even better than the actual night time sky in most parts of India. Everything is better than the best. Even the transmission is smoother than the smoothest gearboxes that man has ever made.
Before you bring out the encyclopedias to prove me wrong, let me explain why this is so. Even though one of the core ideas behind that Wraith has been performance, there was no way that Rolls-Royce would move away from their mission of making motor cars that are the ultimate in luxury. And we all know that luxury cars do not snap their occupants’ necks when they accelerate. That is a task reserved especially for the supercar. So they had to create something that mated earth shattering performance to unmatched luxury. Impossible you say? Well, Rolls-Royce seems to have found a solution. After all, Sir Henry Royce did say that if something does not exist, then it must be designed into existence (or something along those lines). And this is exactly what Rolls-Royce did. They engineered an 8-speed transmission so smooth that only those with a keen sense of hearing will be able to tell when gear changes are being made. And if you are waiting for that sudden lurch as the next gear is selected, then you’ll just be kept waiting. The Wraith’s gearbox has the smoothest gearshifts on the planet. Step on the throttle and it is a seamless and ceaseless sensation of sheer force that will take you to 100kmph in a mere 4.6 seconds and then onwards to an electronically limited 250kmph. And that’s not where it ends. The gearbox is satellite aided. This means that the gearbox uses map data from GPS satellites to study the layout of the road. This way in case you are taking your foot off the throttle in anticipation of a corner, the Wraith will not upshift. It will instead hold the gear and wait for you to get back on the power. Similarly, if there are two continuous corners coming up, the Wraith will select the best gearshift pattern to give you optimum acceleration out of the corner. So much technology, no? But wait, there is more.
Aside from all the new knick knacks that have surfaced in the Wraith, there are also all the goodies that previously featured on the Phantom and the Ghost. The continuously adjusting air suspension for example. The electronic gadgetry attached to the suspension keeps recalculating damping settings from variables collected from various sensors all over the car. Accordingly, the system makes several hundred adjustments to the suspension every minute. This is what gives the Wraith its signature “magic carpet ride”. Even the worst that European roads had to throw at us, the Wraith dismissed the way Hulk dismissed Loki. Hulk smash! Even the rare broken stretch of road went by with just a mere thud and nothing more. There were no forces transferred into the cabin and on to the occupants. And judging by our 300km drive, the Wraith should be able to handle everything but the worst Indian roads can throw at it. But then if you are planning on taking the Wraith off road, then perhaps you do need Mr Harnett to fly down and give you a smack on the face.
The Wraith is a very special car. Everything about it is special. The fastback styling. The coach doors. The deep recessed grille. The Spirit of Ecstasy that sits on the grille (only, on the Wraith the little figurine leans back a few extra degrees as if it was blown back by the car’s sheer velocity). The menacing front end. The sweeping rear. The self centering RR logo on the wheels. The epic two tone colours. The myriad options to make your Wraith more unique than it already is. It is as bespoke as bespoke can be. Everybody who sees it knows it is special. People stopping to let you pass, pedestrians walking into telephone poles, drivers not noticing the traffic light has turned green, all become a familiar occurrence in the Wraith.
Then there is the most important feature that makes the Wraith so special. Its price. In India, if you wanted to buy a Wraith, you are looking at upwards of Rs 4.6 crore (ex-showroom Delhi). And every time you add that must-have option, the price just keeps going up and up.
But for those who would actually buy a Rolls-Royce, it is a small price to pay for something so unique. And it is not just unique as an automobile; it is unique as a Rolls-Royce. It is something that is so unlike anything that has come out of Goodwood. But then again, it is everything that Rolls-Royce stands for. It is so wrong. Yet it is so right…