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The Wraith is helped by its revised suspension and steering relative to the Ghost, whose platform it shares. It also has a fatter rear track and a 7in chunk removed from its wheelbase. That makes it shorter, wider and lower in door count than a Ghost.
Yet this is still a sumptuous and wonderful place to spend the time, even if you’re tall and forced to sit in the back. Rolls says there’s more room than in the back of either a Ferrari FF or an Aston Rapide, and having set the front seat for my 6ft 4in frame and then sat quite comfortably behind. It is a place of real luxury: the leather is Rolls’s finest, hitherto available only on the flagship Phantom; the wood is called Canadel panelling after the cove in the south of France where Sir Henry Royce used to spend the winter.
But the car’s most interesting feature, more interesting even than the 1,340 fibre-optic lights woven into the roof lining, cannot be seen. For the first time in any road car, the satellite navigation can talk to the gearbox. You might think two such different components would struggle for conversation, but you’d be wrong. For instance, if the nav knows there’s a roundabout coming up at a time when the eight-speed transmission would normally be about to change up, it’ll send a message and the gearbox will retain the lower ratio.
Likewise, if the road is winding and the car is being driven in a sporting fashion, the two will collude to make sure the car’s not changing up when road conditions dictate it should change down. It doesn’t work in 3D yet, so it can’t see hills, but Rolls-Royce’s parent company, BMW, is working on it. The effect is subtle, so subtle you need to drive the same road in another Wraith with the software disabled to know there was a difference.
Overall, the Wraith puts in an impressive performance on the road. It would feel more at home on the Grande Corniche outside Nice than on tight English B-roads but its admired the way it managed its considerable bulk, and enjoyed its ability to dismiss traffic contemptuously, with no more than a flexing of your toes. Of course this is exactly the kind of connection you seek in a sports car, but in a Rolls?
This is the paradox the Wraith presents. It’s a Rolls-Royce that wants to be a sports car, a combination as appetising as mint sauce on Dover sole.
The Wraith remains a product of the highest workmanship and craft, of which its creators are right to be proud. I’d do little with the Wraith’s additional performance and would value more the Ghost’s extra space, its better looks and its world-class ride quality.
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