Noise, Vi­bra­tion & Harsh­ness

Automobile - - Contents - By Jamie Kit­man

Rolling down to spring train­ing in a proper Bri­tish mo­tor­car.

SPRING IS SURELY meant to have sprung by now. But as I write, New York has just been treated—freak­ishly, fiendishly—to its sec­ond April snow­storm. So I needn’t dwell on why it al­ready seemed like a good idea back in blowy March to drive all the way down to Florida with my spring­break­ing 9-year-old son to catch some spring train­ing Pitts­burgh Pi­rates games in the hot sun.

Rolls-Royce loaned us its vast coupe, the Wraith, for the 2,000-mile drive, which, be­gin­ning in New York City, would burn through sev­eral states then take in parts of the Caroli­nas and Ge­or­gia be­fore hit­ting the Gulf Coast. Trav­el­ing great dis­tances is the best test of a hy­per-lux­ury au­to­mo­bile’s abil­ity to cos­set you. Long stints on the in­ter­state are where big, fancy cars re­ally ought to shine. It’s where you get to over­look your lux­ury car’s di­men­sional im­men­sity and fo­cus not just on its cli­mate-con­trolled op­u­lence but also on its road man­ners, which should be both stately and sporty, en­gag­ing you in your drive yet spar­ing you from its worst el­e­ments. Driv­ing joy is the great dif­fer­en­tia­tor among all cars, and it’s the job in build­ing a hy­per-lux­ury car that I most care be done right.

The rar­efied ve­hi­cle’s other in­evitable task—en­gen­der­ing a queasy ad­mix­ture of de­sire and jeal­ousy among those not able to af­ford such grand con­veyance—is easy to ob­serve but prone on oc­ca­sion to mak­ing one feel un­com­fort­able. Such is the price of sci­en­tific in­quiry, I re­called, the mo­ment I re­al­ized I was the only one driv­ing a $401,925 Rolls through the de­cay­ing streets of Peters­burg, Vir­ginia. The bur­ble of the car’s 624-horse­power 6.6-liter all-alu­minum V-12 en­gine, Black Di­a­mond over Deep Emer­ald fin­ish with seashell hides, and $76,575 worth of op­tions did lit­tle to bring it down to earth among the pro­fu­sion of beater Pon­ti­acs, boarded-up food mar­kets, and pay­day loan out­fits. Along with my son Milo and col­lege buddy Richard Hart, I ap­pre­ci­ated the field­work.

The Wraith looks hand­some from some an­gles and odd from oth­ers, but it’s im­pos­ing from all. Our first day’s drive brought us to the woods of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Along the way, the 5,500-pound coupe in­stilled an abid­ing sense of seren­ity, its plus-sized length (more than 20 feet) and girth shrink­ing away as I grew com­fort­able at its con­trols. Rolls-Royce’s be­spoke in­te­rior touches al­ways con­spire to charm, sep­a­rat­ing the car, along with unique body­work, fur­ther from its BMW re­la­tions. Mean­while, light steer­ing aside, its ca­pa­ble chas­sis, pre­pared for big speed, re­minded us that the Ger­man con­nec­tion pays div­i­dends best en­joyed while hus­tling. A de­gree of body move­ment is ev­i­dent in abrupt tran­si­tions, but over­all weight is well con­trolled, es­pe­cially at speed. Huge wheels and tires do make for more fuss over low-speed bumps than I pre­fer; how­ever, these days, what is the choice?

A few hun­dred miles down the road, a planned lunch stop took us to Sul­li­van’s Is­land, South Carolina. Matt Lee, writer (with brother Ted) of South­ern cook­books and co-pro­pri­etor of a lo­cal spe­cialty food mail-or­der busi­ness, would join us here for the trip’s most mem­o­rable meal, a seafood feast at The Ob­sti­nate Daugh­ter.

Here, Lee ex­plained how the is­land in Charleston Har­bor, a bridge ride from the city, had long ago served as a land­ing sta­tion for ar­riv­ing Africans, an El­lis Is­land of sorts for as many as 360,000 peo­ple who didn’t choose to come to Amer­ica, but came in chains. It was a sober­ing thought as we piled back into our sparkly Wraith af­ter lunch and sum­moned the huge, rear-hinged doors. Elec­tri­cally con­trolled by a but­ton near the big coupe’s mighty A-pil­lar, they close with a so­phis­ti­cated thud, shut­ting out the world but not the past.

We spent a night in Florida’s Long­boat Key af­ter an af­ter­noon watch­ing the Pi­rates go down in flames to the hap­less Phillies. The city plays host to the Pi­rates’ Grape­fruit League home field, LECOM Park. The for­mer McKech­nie Field, it dates back to 1923.

In 2017 it was re­named af­ter the Lake Erie Col­lege of Os­teo­pathic Medicine. Why does a school of os­teopa­thy ac­quire nam­ing rights at a small base­ball park? Musta been aw­fully cheap.

Look­ing on the bright side, there’s noth­ing this year’s Pi­rates team lacks that mightn’t be reme­died by im­prove­ment in the ar­eas of pitch­ing, hit­ting, and field­ing. The Rolls-Royce Wraith, on the other hand, al­ready has all the tools it needs to suc­ceed. AM

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