The velvety ride of the Wraith – the most powerful and the only two-door coupé model in the RR range – is beyond amazing in terms of comfort and close to unbelievable in its efficiency.
I had tangible proof of this milliseconds after I drove out of Rome’s Rolls Royce dealership on Via Salaria, then while cruising around the city’s landmarks such as the stunning Via Giulia (an ancient street lined with sumptuous renaissance palaces owned by Roman nobility), and powering through the little alleys that climb from Via di San Teodoro towards the Campidoglio (which offer staggering views of the world-renowned ancient ruins of Julius Caesar’s Rome). The smoothness of the Wraith’s ride becomes even more evident while circumnavigating Piazza Venezia, the iconic square between Teatro Marcello (known as the “Little Colosseum”), the majestic semicircular Forum of Trajan, and Il Foro Romano (the Roman Forum) around which trucks, buses, cars and bikes rattle and shake as if they’re about to fall apart under the attacks of a savagely uneven and ruthlessly bumpy surface. But from inside the Wraith, this infamous “Piazza Venezia test” – which is incidentally also used by Honda to push its SH-150 scooter to its structural limit before being approved for mass production – turned out to be no harsher than driving over a vast sponge cake.
The exceptional ride of the Rolls Royce Wraith, just like any other contemporary model of the Goodwood manufacturer, is courtesy of the symbiotic relationship between top-notch air suspensions and GPS technology that first predicts your imminent coordinates with the precision of a Swiss timepiece, and immediately informs the computer to adapt its response accordingly. So, if the Wraith senses that it’s about to encounter some pot holes, muddy paths or unpaved tarmac, the car will proceed with extra-forgiving delicacy. Conversely, if you’re driving along the highway, the response will be perfectly aligned with smoother road conditions.
“If the Wraith senses that it’s about to encounter some pot holes, muddy paths or unpaved tarmac, the car will proceed with extra-forgiving delicacy. Conversely, if you’re driving along the highway, the response will be perfectly aligned with smoother road conditions.”
And all of this happens – in typical RR fashion – without passengers and driver ever noticing a single thing. Because the very essence of this extraordinary machine lies in emancipating the occupants from any actions that could alter, or distract from, the Wraith experience. Hence there are no ride heights to select, or needlessly complex software options to mingle with. There is no list of engine maps to choose from and no flappy paddles behind the unbelievably smooth steering wheel (I really doubt there is better power steering than this on the market), while the temperature from the superb air-purified A/C system can be chosen by simply rotating the discs towards red for warm and blue for cool. All very simple right? Yes of course, but also non-invasive, discreet, highly sophisticated, elegantly functional, pleasurable to the touch, and pleasing to the sight. Add dynamic capabilities closer to those of a magic carpet than of a road car with a regal – but not ostentatious – environment that cocoons driver and passengers into a world of peaceful, polished excellence, and the result is an otherworldly portrait of automotive magnificence.
The impeccable interiors are lined with Canadel Panelling and piano-black details that could be copied-and-pasted into a Sultan’s palace living room. The first-class leather seats are as supple and smooth as they get, and most of the buttons and knobs are made from crystal. The doors – with their fantastically cool casing for the embedded RR umbrella – open and close at the touch of a button; insulation from external elements is total and unprecedented, while the fluffy lambswool floor mats are far softer than many of the sweaters I have in my wardrobe.
Two words that in my opinion exemplify both the design and performances of the Rolls Royce Wraith – which needs 450 man-hours to be completed – are “effortlessly aristocratic”; the silhouette is classic and refined but with more than a touch of sleek modernity. The car is beautifully assembled with exquisitely precise fittings. The 632-bhp delivery from the monumental 6.6 litre twin-turbo V12 engine is smooth, quiet, progressive, and void from any sense of urgency (despite its ability to go from 0 to 60 in only 4.4 seconds). And at both highway speeds or in slow moving traffic, the Wraith is supremely quiet – or to put it in the right perspective – no louder than an electric car. More than once in fact, while driving within Rome’s Aurelian Walls, I had to gently nudge the horn to alert pedestrians of the Wraith’s presence behind them. And soon after came the guilty pleasure of experiencing the priceless reaction of passersby expecting to turn around and see a small city car, only to suddenly behold the chiseled ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ statuette followed by a 5.3-metre luxury fastback coupé as wide as the road itself, riding on chromed rims the size of the rings of Saturn.
“The Wraith is supremely quiet – or to put it in the right perspective – no louder than an electric car. More than once in fact, while driving within Rome’s Aurelian Walls, I had to gently nudge the horn to alert pedestrians of the Wraith’s presence behind them.”
In Italy, Rolls Royce cars tend to be extremely rare, mostly because tax evasion is something of a national hobby and offenders prefer not to draw the attention of the Guardia di Finanza, and partly because the wealthy tend to go for less-dramatic sedans like the BMW 7 Series or the Mercedes S Class. Consequently, our memorable ride through Rome’s historic centre became an enticing and tantalising catwalk where crowds gathered in awe to see one of the five best cars of the new millennium, juxtaposed against breathtaking classic art and architecture.
With the day receding and twilight setting in, we had one more thing to do: take the wonderful Wraith to Piazza del Quirinale. Possibly the most spectacular and harmonious square of the Eternal City, it is composed by the Quirinale Palace (home to the Presidente Della Repubblica), the Hellenic statues, unobstructed views of Saint Peter’s dome, and the baroque building of “La Consulta”. Difficult, if not impossible, to find a more perfect setting where to end our photo-shoot and test-drive of the Wraith, one of the few private vehicles ever allowed into what is considered by many as one of Italy’s most important and beautiful landmarks. In closing, our gratitude goes out to Rolls Royce Italy and the Communications department of the Presidenza della Repubblica for allowing us to share these unique and unforgettable moments of eternal ecstasy.