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.
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.