2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith first drive review Page 2

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Stay calm and pass on the left

When that's all taken hold, it's finally time to absorb the Wraith's performance, the best of any Rolls-Royce. The 6.6-liter twin-turbo V-12 engine opens a torrent of horsepower--624 hp, enough to push the 5,200-pound car to 60 mph in about 4.4 seconds, and to a top speed of 155 mph.

It never feels leaden or strained. A remotely urgent wail wells up from under the hood when it's floored, dissipates off throttle into a serene absence of sound. The Wraith's eight-speed automatic uses satellite data and mapping information to "predict" the road ahead, softening some shifts and triggering others to guarantee effortless driving.

Meanwhile, the combination of air dampers and rear air springs removes all but some light tire slap from the cabin, leaving the Wraith unruffled by any surfaces less than a couple of inches off spec. There's body lean--it's big, yes--and the steering's beyond light, a combination of high levels of assist and a large-diameter steering wheel. But it's wonderfully counterintuitive to push the Wraith into sweeping bends at 80 mph, and have it respond neutrally, with some grip left to give.

It's more a driver's car than any Rolls-Royce we've ever driven, though still several degrees removed from the relative hyperactivity of a Bentley GT.

Taking spirit form

Wraiths are like other modern Rolls-Royces, best seen from the side. The fastback body is a hulking, brooding thing, a comely torpedo from the top three-quarters view.

From the front or rear, it's less heroic. The rectangular grille reads right, but the skinny LED bars that serve as headlights underserve the statement. The tail is bluff, and neatly sculpted, though the bars of chrome and taillamps shapes stand out properly only with two-tone paint schemes.

The Wraith's cabin lives and breathes in a way its German cousins are just beginning to tap. Their influence bubbles up between the hides and marquetry in the form of glowing LCD screens and knob controllers that govern Rolls-Royce's version of iDrive.

Even there, the sense of occasion trumps the transistors. The system's voice-recognition capability does its best to imitate a valet, and the Wraith's knob controller takes handwritten inputs, like a good synthesized manservant should.

The same brand of lane-keeping and direction-giving and climate-controlling overwhelms some lesser executive sedans with a morbid sense of futurism. The same bundles of technology are in place in the Wraith, but they're silenced with an all-out appeal to the senses. 

The Wraith simply buries those buttons and pixels--that artificiality--with brush strokes and lacquer, ebony and leather. With polish.

It's the first modern Rolls-Royce that puts the question, "What is that?" ahead of, "Who is that?"

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