A look at the new Rolls-Royce Wraith in Dubai
Wraith rides into a favourite market: Dubai
Amid clouds of snaking dry ice clouds and thudding music filling the intimate auditorium at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, the covers were whipped off the new Rolls-Royce Wraith to the collected coos of approval from the assembled press corps.
Taking its regional bow after a spectacular global unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show, it was the turn of selected journos and customers to get up close and personal with what is being billed as the most dynamic Rolls-Royce to ever roll off the production line.
The company posted record financial figures for the region in 2012, but it is clearly not resting on its laurels. While the likes of Bentley, which also posted good regional figures, is attacking the chauffeur-driven, large luxo-barge market with its new Flying Spur, the Goodwood, UK-based Rolls-Royce is moving in the opposite direction with the Wraith.
"We are trying to invoke the spirit of the classic, coach-built grand tourers to create a proper GT," explains product manager Philip Harnett. "In this, the most powerful and dynamic car we have ever made, we have possibly created the ultimate gentlemen's gran turismo, a car that embodies the adventurous spirit of Charles Stewart Rolls."
With its fastback design and swooping bonnet, which dips slightly at the shrunken Parthenon grille, the Spirit of Ecstasy leans tantalisingly forward, giving the impression of motion while standing still, even with this, the preproduction model; like a powerful broad-shouldered sprinter crouching at the blocks.
Rolls-Royce has not gone down the Bentley Continental GT route to create a bruiser of a two-seater sports coupe. This car is still big, holding the similar proportions of the Ghost and probably weighing in at around a similar 2,800 kilograms. However, Harnett insists that, while none of the Rolls-Royce effortlessness and "waftability" has been lost, the smaller steering wheel, more powerful engine and a highly tuned suspension system that will minimise body roll and discreetly amplify feedback when cornering delivers a "more spirited drive". Equally, a slightly wide rear track, marginally shorter wheelbase and lower roof height, coupled with a heavier steering weight at high speeds and lighter at low speeds, will add to a more involved driving experience.
Then there is the Satellite Aided Transmission (SAT) technology, which uses GPS data to try to anticipate the driver's next move based on location and current driving style to select the most appropriate gear for the terrain ahead. The idea, as Harnett explains, is that as you lift off the accelerator, the SAT, which is attached to the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, can see corners, motorway junctions and roundabouts, and will ensure that you remain in the correct gear to benefit from the necessary power delivery. "It is imperceptible to the driver insofar as the operation of the transmission," notes Harnett. "But they will certainly notice the immediate response and pick-up as they apply the throttle after the turn, bend, junction or whatever."
How well this will work in the GCC, with its constantly changing road systems, is yet to be seen, as many sat-navs have difficulty trying to keep up with the ever-changing routes in the region. Either way, there should be enough power to get the Wraith out of most tricky situations, thanks to its V12 powerplant boasting 624hp and 800Nm of torque, which can be unleashed at the behest of the driver from a standing start to hit 100kph in an adroit 4.4 seconds.
The company's slogan for the Wraith is "And the world stood still"; if the production model lives up to that expectation, from the driver's seat, it will probably seem that way.