Rolls-Royce Wraith – Review
by Liam Bird
Eleanor Thornton. Does the name mean anything to you? I had a feeling it might not. But, I can almost guarantee that you, like me, will have admired this most elegant of ladies from afar on probably more than just one occasion.
Still not ringing any bells? Allow me to explain.
Eleanor Thornton, or Thorn as she was known to her lover, John Scott-Montagu, second Baron of Montagu of Beaulieu, used to pose for Scott-Montagu’s friend, the sculptor Charles Sykes – she was a model after all, as well as being Montagu’s secretary. Sykes’s first sculpture of Miss Thorn is called ‘The Whisperer’; he had Eleanor pose pressing a finger to her lips as if to suggest she was concealing her and Montague’s secret love affair.
Soon after a second sculpture is commissioned. Only this time Miss Thornton stands in her nightdress, leaning slightly forward, and with her arms out behind her. It’s that second sculpture, which those who know of the Montague and Thornton affair rather disparagingly christen ‘Nellie in her Nightie’, that you’ll recognise more instantly. It goes on to become known as The Sprit of Ecstasy. It’s Rolls-Royce’s, indeed the automotive world’s, most iconic of emblems.
It was actually Claude Johnson, the then managing director of Rolls-Royce who commissioned Sykes’s second and far more famous statue. His brief stated that above all it must convey “the spirit of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace…”
To cut a long story very short, Eleanor Thornton has graced more or less every Rolls-Royce radiator ever since. And, having just spent a weekend with Rolls-Royce’s latest Wraith I’m pretty sure that original ethos of Mr Johnson’s very much lives on.
The Wraith is Rolls-Royce’s most sporting (although you get the impression they’d hate you for saying so) motorcar to date. Based on their Ghost, but with a 24mm wider track, a 175mm shorter wheelbase, stiffer springs, and even a thicker rimmed steering wheel, this two-door, 2.3 tonne coupe hides a 6.6 litre twin-turbo V12 under its vast bonnet. With whopping 624 bhp of ‘great energy’ at its disposal it is by far the most powerful gentleman’s conveyance ever to carry the flying lady.
“Outside world ceases to exist”
Now, it could be considered a little vulgar perhaps, or uncouth by some elements of society maybe, to discuss Rolls-Royce performance figures. Rest assured though, if you are of a mind to bury your right foot into some of the deepest carpets I’ve ever encountered in a car, whatever it is that has been filling the mirrors, or blocking the view through the Wraith’s sloping rear window, will effortlessly and very quickly disappear. Say it quietly: The Wraith does 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds.
Hushed tones too, are all that’s needed after you settle underneath the Wraith’s (optional) fibre-optically lit Starlight headlining and make yourself comfortable inside its unashamedly luxurious and sumptuous leather-clad and wood-line cabin. One press of the discreet button that brings the Wraith’s enormous rear-hinge doors to a close and it’s as if the chaos of the outside world simply ceases to exist. Regardless of the road surface, the surrounding traffic, your chosen speed, or even the rabble of the riff-raff who instantly reach for their camera-phones as you waft by, the Wraith glides gracefully along on its computer–controlled air-suspension ironing out the bumps as if they simply are not there.
“Changes are seamless”
Despite its size you can guide this most grand of grand-tourers with precision, and without drama. Show it a corner and it settles and grips in a way that Royce’s of old could only ever dream of. The gearbox is satellite guided – each of eight ratios are selected prior to what’s coming up ahead – and the changes are seamless.
The only indication of any cog-swapping is the slight flutter of the dashboard’s power reserve meter – there’s nothing as common as a rev-counter here – as you brake, or power out of a bend. And, even when you’re really in a hurry, such are the engine’s reserves of both power and torque, you’re unlikely ever to see less than 60% displayed on that elegant little dial. You’ll notice the fuel needle drop though; the Wraith’s official fuel consumption figure is 20.2 mpg. In the real world you’ll get less. But then, if you can stretch to a Rolls…
“Better to have loved and lost”
Ah, yes, the real world.
Sadly my time with the Wraith, like the life of Miss Thornton was over all too quickly. On December 30, 1915, Eleanor is drowned when the SS Persia, on which she and John Montague are sailing to India, is torpedoed, without warning, in the Mediterranean by a German U-Boat. Montagu survives, but he never gets over the loss of his beloved Thorn.
I lost “my” Eleanor when the man from Rolls-Royce turned up on a Monday morning and politely asked for his car back.
Still, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Engine: 6,592cc, 12Cyl, 48V twin-turbo Petrol
Transmission: 8 speed satellite guided auto. Rear Wheel Drive
Power: 624 bhp @ 5600rpm
Torque: 590 lbft @ 1500 rpm
0-62mph: 4.4 sec
Max Speed: 155 mph (electronically limited)
MPG: 20.4 combined
VED Band: M
Price: £235,500 (before options)