Rac­ing Ari­zona

Pinnacle (Singapore) - - JOURNEYS -

Mark Hack­ing ex­pe­ri­ences the ef­fort­less and south­west­erly per­for­mance from Rolls-Royce Wraith.

From the stand­point of sheer nat­u­ral beauty, few places in the con­ti­nen­tal United States can match what Ari­zona has to of­fer. Of course, the Grand Canyon is cen­tral to the state’s unique sell­ing propo­si­tion, but vast, un­bro­ken stretches of the land­scape are beau­ti­ful in their own right.

There are a few pos­si­ble routes that lead one from the con­crete cor­ri­dors of Phoenix to­wards the Grand Canyon, and along these stretches, it is im­por­tant to fo­cus on the jour­ney, and not just the des­ti­na­tion. Last year, I found my­self in these en­vi­rons on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, and the first two en­coun­ters in­volved a dis­cus­sion with the lo­cal con­stab­u­lary.

Here are the is­sues, as I see them: The sur­round­ings are mes­meris­ing and the roads seem to go on for­ever. Also, the traf­fic on said roads in win­ter is dis­arm­ingly light. This sit­u­a­tion in­vari­ably re­sults in Ari­zona state po­lice of­fi­cers with a bit too much time on their hands. So be very wary.You could be ad­mir­ing a vis­ually ar­rest­ing rock for­ma­tion one mo­ment, only to be stopped by an of­fi­cer hid­ing be­hind that very same out­crop­ping. And that is prob­a­bly how Ari­zona can be de­fined – ev­ery­thing ap­pears slow, un­til it is not. Thank­fully, on both oc­ca­sions that I was stopped for be­ing overly fa­mil­iar with the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal, I es­caped any form of pun­ish­ment apart from a stern warn­ing. It was not as if I was set­ting any land-speed records at the time, but the law is the law – and I have a healthy re­spect for it. This is why my third and fi­nal ex­pe­ri­ence with Ari­zona, from be­hind the wheel of the fastest

Rolls-Royce mo­tor car in the 110-year his­tory of the brand, filled me with trep­i­da­tion.

You see, Wraith is a grace­ful monster ca­pa­ble of hit­ting 0-100km/h in a mere 4.6 sec­onds.The twin-tur­bocharged V12 en­gine tucked un­der the hood of this shapely fast­back dis­places 6.6 litres, gen­er­ates 624 horse­power and churns out 800Nm of torque.The car’s top speed is elec­tron­i­cally limited to 250km/h, but if that lim­iter were to be re­moved, you can rest as­sured that this beast is ca­pa­ble of much more.

Out on the open roads, about 30 min­utes north of the town of Scotts­dale, the enor­mous re­serves of power to be found in Wraith were quickly re­vealed.

The car’s per­for­mance is sim­ply ef­fort­less. As soon as the slight­est pres­sure is ap­plied to the weighty ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal, moun­tains are moved. With­out even the slight­est hint that trans­gres­sions are about to oc­cur, the speed limit has van­ished in the rear-view mir­ror like a dim mem­ory. On a two-lane strip of blacktop that wound through Tonto Na­tional For­est en route to Payson, this lat­est Rolls-Royce placed my driver’s li­cence at risk for a third time.

The im­mense power of Wraith is con­trolled by an eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, which utilises GPS track­ing to pre­dict which of the gears is best suited for the im­me­di­ate road ahead. For ex­am­ple, if you hap­pen to be ap­proach­ing a 180-de­gree hair­pin turn, Wraith is way ahead of you – it would have al­ready au­to­mat­i­cally selected the cor­rect gear for that cor­ner.

As would be ex­pected from any mod­ern Rolls-Royce mo­tor car, the ride is su­perb.The air sus­pen­sion sys­tem, in con­cert with elec­tronic vari­able damp­ing, de­liv­ers a driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that is con­trolled and re­ward­ing. An on­board com­puter mon­i­tors the tra­jec­tory and lean an­gle of the car ev­ery 2.5 mil­lisec­onds, trig­ger­ing the air sus­pen­sion sys­tem, brake sys­tem and sta­bil­ity con­trol to keep the car on an even keel at all times.

The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is de­cid­edly serene, and these im­pres­sions are trans­mit­ted to the driver through the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment, which is fab­u­lously lush and ridicu­lously quiet.

The cabin con­fig­u­ra­tion con­sists of four in­di­vid­ual seats cov­ered in the most ex­quis­ite nat­u­ral grain leather, and they deliver an in­spired bal­ance of soft­ness and sup­por t.

All the con­trols in Wraith pos­sess weight and gen­uine drama to them – from the but­tons used to op­er­ate the doors to the metal vent pulls and the Spirit of Ec­stasy ro­tary con­troller used for cli­mate con­trol, au­dio sys­tem and nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem func­tions.

The over­sized steer­ing wheel is typ­i­cal of the lat­est cars in the Rolls-Royce fleet, but here the cush­ion­ing ma­te­rial cov­er­ing the wheel is thicker.The black chrome di­als with or­ange-tipped nee­dles and op­tional head-up dis­play also speak of the car’s dy­namic na­ture, as does the world­fa­mous power-re­serve me­ter. For sheer drama, though, noth­ing about Wraith matches its ex­te­rior styling. The car is, os­ten­si­bly, a grand tour­ing coupé, but this broad clas­si­fi­ca­tion doesn’t even be­gin to scratch the sur­face. Wraith is a fast­back more rem­i­nis­cent of clas­sics from the 1930s than any­thing cur­rently on the mar­ket. When paired with the op­tional two-tone paint scheme that dif­fer­en­ti­ates the hood, roof and trunk from the rest of the car, this com­pelling shape is fur­ther ac­cen­tu­ated.

Such a de­sign threat­ens to over­whelm any­thing in its path – un­less that route hap­pens to lead di­rectly to the Grand Canyon. Per­haps it’s ap­pro­pri­ate, then, to re­fer to Wraith as one of the seven nat­u­ral won­ders of the au­to­mo­tive world.This surely is an au­da­cious state­ment. But when the hand­crafted shoe fits, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to think other­wise.

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01 Ari­zona mes­merises with beau­ti­ful deser t scenery and roads that seem to go on for­ever. 02 A trio of Wraiths await­ing the test-drive.

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