The Wraith transports Rolls-Royce to another realm, where the best seat in the house is in front
Spirit Having Flown PHOTO: TORQUE

The word "wraith" means "ghost" in Scottish - and it's an apt name for this Ghost-based two-door fastback. But the car is quite different from
the Ghost, having been profoundly altered to make it quicker, more dynamic and more involving.

The wheelbase has been shortened to give the Wraith a neater turn-in, its tracks widened to lend it greater stability, and its engine tuned up to give the two-door Roller more oomph. The latter isn't hard to do, given that we’re talking about a large 6.6-litre, direct-injection turbocharged
12-cylinder unit with so much reserve, itcould be cranked up to make 1000bhp without much fuss.

For the Wraith, Rolls-Royce stopped at 624bhp and 800Nm, with the latter available from 1500rpm to 5500rpm. The result is still pretty stupendous, with its zero-to-100km/h sprint executed in 4.6
seconds - 0.3 of a second faster than what the Ghost clocks. From 100km/h, the Wraith continues to pile on speed, almost uneventfully. It gets to 200km/h quite easily, and heads for its electronically limited top velocity of 250km/h without much ado.

Of course, a Rolls-Royce is never about out-and-out sportiness. Thus, the Wraith's immense power is geared towards effortless motoring in every conceivable situation. Enhancing this is a world-first technology:
satellite-aided transmission (SAT), inspired by something the defunct BMW Formula One team was working on.

Using the car's satellite navigation system, SAT "sees" the road ahead, and sets up the right gear on the Wraith's 8-speed autobox to tackle whatever gearchange that would usually require driver input. On the winding mountain roads leading from Vienna to the alpine town of
Mariazell, it's hard to notice the system working.

The car is never found wanting, pulling out of corners with aplomb and dismantling hairpins on an incline without missing a beat. Of course, this could well be the result of that massive engine and its innately intelligent gearbox.

The Wraith is easily the most engaging Roller in recent years. For a car its size and weight, it is also incredibly well behaved. With so much output going to the big, fat rear tyres, it is surprisingly calm and unbelievably balanced. Compared to the all-wheel-drive Bentley Flying Spur, a four-door with about the same performance parameters, the flying Roller is clearly more driveable in the dry and better controlled in the wet. It is also lighter than the Bentley. Of course, the Wraith is still a huge carriage
over 5.2m in length, and this is most apparent in the city.

Even if the Roller’s steering is woolly at low speeds, and requires more than three turns lock to lock, it becomes a lot meatier, confident and responsive at high speeds. The steering wheel is also thicker-rimmed
than the Ghost's. At over 230km/h, the coupe feels perfectly composed. It is only when you apply the brakes that its first minor failing surfaces – brake judder is rather obvious at that speed.

While we're on the topic, its other flaws include a reflective rear windscreen (especially obvious with light-coloured upholstery), a glitchy
glovebox handle, and clumsy alignment between the car's two-tone
paintwork and chrome window frame. Said misalignment isn't obvious on cars with monotone paint jobs, while the crusty handle could very well turn out to be a pre-production oversight.

In spite of all that, the Wraith is a lovely motorcar. You get Roller treatment like thick lush carpeting and motorised doors, plus lots of wood, chrome and soft leather. The hi-fi system is awesome, with the
sound engineered to emanate at "ear level" rather than chest or waist level.

And this Roller has self-release parking brakes, at last. With air suspension, the ride is beyond reproach. Noise insulation is excellent, although Rolls-Royce has allowed some engine roar to permeate.
This is a good move, since the V12 is creamy and stirring – it would have been a waste if it was all filtered out.

The car is regal, yet sporty. Its fastback design looks much better in the metal than in photos. And it is said to be attracting far younger buyers than before, with some customers merely in their twenties. The Wraith order books are filled till the first quarter of next year, and the model is
likely to propel Rolls-Royce to another record year, with global sales expected to breach the 4,000-mark in 2014.

It makes me wonder, then, why the company still deems it necessary to have an international test-drive programme. According to a spokesman, the event in Vienna is the biggest launch that Rolls- Royce has undertaken. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

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This article first appeared in the November 2013 issue of Torque.

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