‘You need to go to Germany‘ came the call from a colleague. ‘You’re going to need to carry some equipment, too, so get a suitable car’ followed the initial cry. ‘How about a Wraith?’ one of our number proffered. Aside from one mildly amused yet slightly dismissive chuckle the suggestion didn’t receive any recognition.
It’s not that the Wraith isn’t an exceedingly alluring motor car and one that we, like most, would have been very glad to use. It’s just that we were thinking more along the lines of an Audi RS6 Avant or such like: a recognised, atomic powered load-lugger which could cover serious amounts of ground in little time and in considerable comfort. As such a Wraith fitted the bill, but just wasn’t what we had in mind. Maybe it was the size or the weight, or perhaps just that we somehow didn’t think that one could be an exciting experience…
A short time later and a chance conversation with Rolls-Royce ended with an almost throwaway ‘oh and by the way, is there any chance we could take a Wraith on a trip to Germany?’ It was one of those serendipitous moments: Rolls-Royce had recently added a Wraith to its press fleet and our enquiry just happened to coincide with the car’s need ‘to have a few miles put on it.’ Suddenly and despite an almost embarrassing lack of planning, we were to be furnished with a brand new Rolls-Royce Wraith for our journey.
Although founded in 1906 in Manchester, today Rolls-Royce is based a mere Olympic-standard javelin throw from the Goodwood circuit. As such, we accepted the offer to go to the factory to collect our car. Besides, we’ll accept any chance to wind along the serene pathway to the factory and loiter in the immaculate reception area for a few minutes. As we’d hoped, the black and white car with the new 21 inch rims parked outside in the peaceful setting of Rolls-Royce’s front-of-house courtyard had our name on it. As we engaged ‘drive’ and allowed the Wraith to proceed off the premises and onto the open road, any misgivings about taking such a car on a pan-European cruise-o-thon began to subside. It is barely one quarter of a mile from Rolls-Royce to the Goodwood circuit, which was time enough for the car to begin to get to work on us. Over the next few days, the Royce was to complete its task in spectacular fashion …
Our run down to the Eurotunnel terminal began to reveal the car’s character, with the ride quality making the biggest impact. Road imperfections (of which there are many between Goodwood and Folkestone) fail to bother either the car or its inhabitants, even though we were rolling on the larger 21 inch rims (and of course run-flat tyres) which surely were working more against the suspension than with it. Despite this the electronically-controlled dampers seemed dismissive of the Highways Agency’s most self-evident shortcomings. However, we’ve come to expect this of just about every Rolls-Royce ever made. What stunned us the most was how the car behaved when we pointed it at roundabouts and more twisty sections of blacktop, in that it could go around corners properly. Certainly it’s no Lotus Exige. There is simply no way (yet) of building a car that weighs 2,440 kilos bone dry which rides sublimely and which is also corners like a sports car. But the body control and overall cornering capability of the Wraith will leave jaws agape until one’s attention is commandeered by another of its many party pieces.
With its paws now on French soil, we pointed the car towards Germany and settled into a proper stint. This was where we felt that it really began to show us what it was made of. Of great interest was the observation that the car was, seemingly universally, loved. Having had the pleasure of driving many a fast and luxurious motor car, it came as something of a shock to discover that everybody on the road who encountered the Wraith loved it and wasn’t afraid of offering their thoughts. Smiles and thumbs up were undoubtedly the order of the day for Europeans gazing at the Royce as it wafted its way past. Exactly what it could be about the car that engenders such positive reaction we don’t really know. It isn’t a subtle car, nor does it come at a modest price, so by that measure if it were also low-slung and from Italy or Germany we’d expect to experience a degree of distaste amongst the adulation, but not with the Wraith which was always met with approval in one form or another. Even at busy junctions it was often a case of ‘after you…’
By the time we hit Germany and an unrestricted section of autobahn we were dizzy with anticipation of what the Wraith would do and how it would behave when we reached the kind of speeds that would likely see us imprisoned if caught in the UK. But there was nothing to report. Nothing at all. The reason being that, save for the Spirit of Ecstacy being hoisted a couple of inches higher as the rear of the car squatted down in reaction to a sustained period of full throttle, we were simply unaware that in very little time indeed the speedo’ was indicating 158mph when the limiter subtly decreed that we were to go no faster. The car was quite literally as happy at 158 as it had been at a wafty 85: utterly planted on the road and never once bothering its occupants. Wind noise was up just a tad but that was about it. At speed the turbos on the 6.6 litre V12 were doing as good a job of dumbing down intake and exhaust resonance as they were delivering the shattering power and torque.
Bear in mind also that this is the most powerful and hardest-accelerating Rolls-Royce ever made. Never mind it being fast for a car of its size, it’s just plain fast. No qualification needed. But its the manner in which it delivers its oomph that makes an even greater impression. A maximum torque figure of 590lb-ft in itself is very high, not phenomenal. But then again torque is so often misunderstood. The headline here isn’t the figure, but the fact that it’s all available from 1,500rpm. The merest flexing of one’s big toe against the throttle results in the biggest of imaginary hands gently shifting the car down the road at indecent pace, but it’s all so very civilised. No revs, no barking exhaust, no drama, just seemingly unlimited progress. Oh and if you’re in the mood to hypermile the Wraith, we measured a maximum of 27mpg at a sustained 70 mph.
With a few hundred more miles slung beneath the Royce’s handsome wheels we were intoxicated. Our initial reservations about taking such a car on this journey in favour of a faster uber-estate were forgotten about altogether. We could speak of each of the car’s facets at length and still somehow manage to miss the point, which is that the Wraith does more than merely fulfil its manufacturer’s wishes. It is simply greater than the sum of its parts, and that’s what makes so many great cars, be they affordable superminis, lightweight sports cars or even high-dollar luxurious experiences. In a way the Wraith is brutal: it mercilessly bludgeons you into exquisite submission with a massive overdose of the very finest grand touring afforded by a contemporary motor car. At its helm, piloting it across a considerable section of Europe, we found that thoughts of exotic supercars or even sportier GT cars just melted away. ‘Yes, but this car is faster and that car handles better etc …’ is precisely the kind of thing we were saying at the outset of our journey. But the Wraith is subtle in its inevitably persuasive powers to make you see things its way. Discount the car as a supreme driving experience without sampling one if you must, but experience one and it will win. It will convince you that this is how motoring should be done and that anything else is a compromise.
At the journey’s outset we asked ourselves what else rivals the Wraith. Of course there isn’t anything like it, although we singled out the Ferrari FF as being in a similar ball park in terms of price. But, by the end of our trip as we swung back into the gates at the Goodwood circuit we were adamant: If we had the means to consider anything in the Wraith’s price range, it isn’t just one of the available choices. It’s the only choice. Seriously, it’s that good. Grand Touring at its most grand.
It was around midnight when we arrived back at Gooders after a full day’s drive back from Germany. Including the tunnel crossing we’d been in the saddle for the best part of 12 hours. But the Wraith had worked its way under our skin and we were powerless to deny it. Never before has this reviewer encountered a car which begged so hard to be driven – not the traditional twisty-road, elbows-out kind of driving, but just to let the car do its thing. Like a magnificent beast your natural instinct is to allow it to venture out and survey its kingdom. It has a prodigious and insatiable appetite for the road and, sat in a deserted Goodwood paddock in the darkness it wanted more. To park it up felt criminal and who were we to deny it? A swift ‘phone call to relatives in the North West secured accommodation and within minutes, having driven back to Goodwood from deepest Germany in a day, we were on our way to the car’s spiritual home in Manchester, which meant about another four hours on the road at that time. That just about sums up the magic of the Wraith. More perhaps than any other, you don’t run away with it; it runs away with you.
Photography: Tom Shaxson