Since the birth of civilisation ghosts have scared the religious witless.
But for the spiritually cynical who think that, when you cark it, you have a big nap and get eaten by worms, ghosts are less terrifying than nothing on the TV other than The Bachelor.
Rolls-Royce names its cars after the ghosts and ghouls of people’s nightmares but it’s never really had a car that could properly frighten you. That is, of course, until now – until Wraith.
While there’s not much scary about a Ghost with two doors, a wider rear track and shorter wheelbase, there’s a few startling stats hidden in the spec sheet.
Rolls has taken the Ghost’s 6.6-litre, twin-turbo V12 – related to that in the BMW 760Li – and given it a few extra ’erbs. Power is up from 420kW to 465 and there’s 800Nm to feast upon from (as we’re starting to grow accustomed to in this new turbo era) just 1800rpm.
Then there’s the fee Rolls charges for Australian ownership, $645,000 before any options, designed to frighten off the pretenders and ensure you won’t see many Wraiths on the road – just the way the owners like it.
More rationally-minded readers might argue, if you want something plush and fast with two doors, why not dabble in, for example’s sake, a bit of Mercedes S63 Coupe? It has 430kW and 900Nm and will nail 100km/h in 4.1 seconds. That beats the Wraith’s 4.6sec, and you’ll pocket around $250,000 to boot. You could buy a base 911 with that, or one of Clive Palmer’s cufflinks.
And if you must have a twin-turbo V12, the S65 Coupe is coming with 463kW, 1000Nm and still a $100K saving or thereabouts.
But more rationally-minded readers will have springs and cogs coming out their ears when they pull the Wraith’s door handle and attend the premiere of its interior. Hinged off the B-pillars, the Wraith’s suicide doors – coach doors, sorry – open backwards to reveal a regal interior that’ll make even a sultan feel underdressed.
Once seated, press a button and the door swings shut, concealing you in a tomb-quiet, airy pit of buttery leathers and glossy woodgrains. The seats are firm and cosseting but cushion your backside so tenderly it’s like being wedged in a cloud. And then you look up.
Stitched into the headlining are 1340 fibre-optic LEDs. And they’re not placed at some peasant’s whim: Rolls has reproduced the exact night sky as seen above its Goodwood factory just past midnight on January 1, 2003 – the day the first car rolled out of this factory. Not kidding. It takes someone up to 10 hours to stitch it all together.
Eight cows were martyred for the interior but not any old Daisy would suffice for Rolls. The Wraith’s leather comes from bulls that lived in alpine regions and roaming paddocks free from barbed wire fences that could damage a buttock destined to become a Wraith’s centre console.
Of course, if the fact the Wraith comes in 45,000 colours wasn’t impressive enough, there’s one man who does the pinstriping on every Rolls using paint brushes made from the hair of squirrels. Mark Court has painted the “coach lines” on more than 2000 Rollers and is training his son to succeed him. Each pinstripe takes three hours to paint which means this red car here has spent 12 hours in his company.
But there’s more. On the Wraith the Spirit of Ecstasy is sat further forward than other Rollers and at a unique-for-Wraith angle of attack. Then there are the Rolls-Royce emblems in the centre of the wheels which stay level and don’t rotate.
In the front guards, meanwhile, there are umbrellas stored in special heated compartments. We could go on, but it’s not like Rolls has loaded the Wraith with gimmicky gadgets. They’ve also rummaged through the technology goodie bag at the BMW mothership.
There’s a head-up display, night vision, full 360-degree parking camera, radar cruise control and a sound system that’ll give you more than tinnitus. It doesn’t feel like it’s all been nicked directly from a 5-Series, either – it’s familiar technology dipped in Rolls luxury.
From the driver’s seat, the first thing you notice is the Wraith’s sheer size. You almost feel like you need binoculars to see the Spirit of Ecstasy poking up at the end of the bonnet. Looking through the rear vision mirror you need to squint to see where the car ends. The captain of the Queen Mary 2 would feel at home in the Wraith’s driver’s seat. She’s big.
Having selected drive with the slender column shift stalk, after 30 seconds driving down an Aussie suburban street you are stunned by how quiet it is. At speed, there’s the gentle hum of road noise, but that’s it. You can whisper to your passengers at 120km/h. It’s strikingly silent inside.
The ride, meanwhile, is sublime. For a car with 40-profile tyres on 21-inch wheels, the way the Wraith rides like it’s suspended on a cushion of goose feathers is impressive. It compresses into long undulations like the shocks are each a metre long and filled with caramel. High-tempo bumps are nibbled away.
It’s just as well the government is unaware cars can ride like the Wraith, lest it cancels all funding for road maintenance and forces all new cars to be fitted with Rolls-Royce air suspension.
Given its size, the smooth and serene way it rides, and the regal interior, the word that comes to mind to describe pootling about in the Wraith is majestic. As for the word to describe full throttle, well, we can’t publish that.
With 465kW it doesn’t punch you in the back like a car with launch control. Rather, it’s like getting hit in the boot by a ghostly tsunami, or like the way thrust builds in a jet on take-off. During full throttle the Wraith squats over its rear axle so hard that, at night, the self-levelling headlights have to tilt down so you can see where you’re going.
But the Wraith’s mid-range punch is its party trick. At 80km/h, full throttle is like lighting a pair of afterburners. Through the seamless eight-speed auto (which borrows its personality from BMW, surprise surprise) the thrust is relentless. By the time you hit 110km/h it’s only just starting to boogie. It makes you sad there are no autobahns in Oz.
It also makes you confused about the engine noise. It sounds like a twin-turbo BMW six but with hint of aggro; should a 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 sound so well behaved? There’s turbo whistle if you listen carefully but not much mongrel – anyone who enjoys a playful exhaust note will find the Wraith unsatisfying. But then complaining about the lack of exhaust noise in a Rolls-Royce is perhaps like complaining a V8 Supercar rides poorly.
Having wafted your way to your favourite road (invariably a bumpy back road in the middle of nowhere) you notice the Wraith has no sport button, which means those hovercraft-spec air suspension must handle 2.4 tonnes of cornering car all on its own.
There aren’t any steering wheel gear paddles, either, and just as well, because there isn’t a tacho. Instead, the Wraith comes with something called a Satellite Aided Transmission, which uses the navigation system to read the corner ahead and predict which gear will be most appropriate and hold a gear if it thinks it’ll need it for the next corner.
When given jandal, the Wraith likes its roads flowing and its corners long. In the tighter stuff, with three turns lock-to-lock and a wheelbase as long as the Titanic, it’s not pretty, nor particularly enjoyable. The Wraith, although its brakes look the size of your head, doesn’t like big stops, either – it will pull itself up, but you’re very aware you’re slowing a lot of car. Dumb as it sounds, you wouldn’t enter a Wraith in the local motorkhana.
Although the suspension is unfussed by the bumpiest backroad, on the long, fast stuff the Wraith is immensely satisfying once you find your rhythm of braking hard, settling the car, turning gently, allowing the suspension to load, then getting back into the throttle and blasting to the next corner. You get used to the dive, roll and squat and it’s all easily manageable with nice, slow steering and pedal inputs.
In this way, the Wraith is almost a revelation. It won’t scare you witless with its speed, but it crosses Aussie country so swiftly and capably you’d almost think it was designed for it. The smart sat-nav-aided transmission, too, seems to always know which gear to be in, keeping the 800 newtons fresh for your right foot to feast on.
That said, we can’t help but feel a pair of steering wheel paddles and a classy tacho in the head-up display could turn the Wraith from swift and satisfying to laugh-out-loud fun. But, then again, going fast is a capability of the Wraith – not its point.
The Wraith is an event. It turns heads like it’s covered in feathers and from its passengers draws oohs and ahhs, gasps and laughs like few other cars. The slab-like styling, backwards doors, umbrellas in the front guards, the LED stars in the ceiling: the Wraith has personality.
It’s one of those cars you’ll remember in 50 years’ time. While its performance won’t frighten you speechless, you try going full throttle and counting to 10, then telling us there isn’t a ghost that gives you the willies.
|Body||2-door, 4-seat coupe|
|Engine||6592cc V12, DOHC, 48v, twin-turbo|
|Bore/stroke||89.0 x 88.3mm|
|Power||465kW @ 5600rpm|
|Torque||800Nm @ 1500rpm|
|Top Speed||250km/h (limited)|
|CO2 Emissions||327g/km (claimed)|
|Suspension||A-arms, air dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, air dampers, anti-roll bar (r)|
|Brakes||374mm ventilated discs, fixed calipers (f); 370mm ventilated discs, fixed calipers (r)|
|Wheels||21 x 8.5-inch (f); 21 x 9.5-inch (r)|
|Tyres||255/40 R21 102Y (f); 285/35 R21 105Y (r) Continental ContiSportContact|
|Price as tested||$753,423* *Twin coach line silver; 360-degree camera system; illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy; adaptive headlights; starlight headliner; seat piping in Consort Red; SoE inlays to monitor lid; front ventilated seats; R-R monogram to all headrests in Consort Red; comfort entry|
|Positives||Unparalleled luxury; hairy-chested V12 power; unbelievable ride|
|Negatives||Driver’s Rolls Royce still far off being a ‘driver’s car’|