Quiet and restrained, these are two of the adjectives most commonly used in describing one of the most luxurious carmakers in the world. Ever since it introduced its first model in 1904, the company has always been synonymous with wealth and comfort. It takes pride in its car models that boast of speed with silence and without the vibration usually associated with vehicles.
Royce Meets Rolls
The company can trace its roots to 1884, when a man named Henry Royce opened an electrical and mechanical business. A couple of decades later, he was able to finish the development of a two-cylinder car in his factory in Manchester in England. He called it the Royce 10 and it was good enough to impress a car dealer named Charles Rolls.
Rolls was the owner of a dealership in Fulham called the C.S. Rolls & Co. Though he personally preferred cars with at least three cylinders, the car that Royce built was deemed sufficient enough that Rolls offered to take in all the cars that Royce would build. The cars would be exclusively distributed by the dealership and would be called the Rolls-Royce.
The first model was the Rolls-Royce 10 hp that was introduced in 1904 during the Paris Salon. Two years later, Rolls-Royce Limited was established with a factory site in Derby. The new company eventually bought out the car dealership of Rolls.
There were four models sold, namely the two-cylinder 10 hp, the three-cylinder 15 hp, the four-cylinder 20 hp, and the six-cylinder 30 hp. All these models were dropped in 1908, however, after the development of a six-cylinder car with 40/50 hp. It became known as the Silver Ghost and it helped build the company’s reputation. Eventually, the company crossed the pond and in 1921, a factory plant was set up in Springfield in Massachusetts.
The Original Wraith
In 1938, the company manufactured a new model that featured an inline six-cylinder overhead valve with 4,257 cc engine. It was based on the 25/30, though this one had a cross-flow cylinder head. It had a gearbox with four speeds, with synchromesh on the second to fourth speeds.
Only 492 units of this model were produced. The car had a top speed of 85 miles per hour and could accelerate from zero to 50 miles per hour in a then-astonishing 16.4 seconds. It had an independent coil-sprung front suspension based on the Packard 120. It also had semi-elliptical leaf springs on the rear axle. It was considered to be at par with the Phantom III because of the front hydraulic dampers with damping rate controlled and varied by the speed of the vehicle.
The car also had a separate chassis that was fully welded, a departure from the traditional riveted construction. Mechanical servo-assisted drum brakes were also included, with 17-inch wire wheels and spokes covered by removable discs. There was also a hydraulic jacking system beneath the passenger seat and operated by a lever.
After 75 Years
A full seven and a half decades after the first Wraith, Rolls-Royce has come out with the all-new Wraith. Pavle Trpinac, a car designer from Serbia, was tasked to create the model’s new look. The result was a car that would indulge one’s innovation, engineering and adventure. It is supposedly the fastest and most luxurious vehicle ever built by Rolls-Royce, making it the car that Charles Rolls would want to own and drive.
The car was inaugurated during the 2013 Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland last March. The four-seat coupe would roll out onto the market six months later.
The car has an FR layout and a 6.6-liter, or 6,592 cc, twin turbo V12 engine mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission system. It has a wheelbase of 3.11 meters, length of 5.27 meters and width of 1.95 meters. Its kerb weight is approximately 2.36 tons. The transmission is aided by satellite and makes use of GPS data in order to ensure that the car remains on the right gear.
Performance is top-notch, with the car having a limited top speed of 155 miles per hour and capability to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 4.4 seconds. At a relaxed speed of 40 miles per hour, the car is as quiet as any car that is in production. If you step on the gas and press the pedal to the metal, the response is immediate and with no discernible lag from its turbos. Plus, safety is guaranteed because of the aforementioned satellite-influenced gearbox.
The simple design only emphasizes the massive and imposing design of the vehicle. The Wraith has frameless windows, wide hips and swollen arches to cover a wide track. It sweeps and creases flow smoothly from one surface to another.
The car maintains the traditional coach doors that Rolls-Royce is known for. However, while the Spirit of Ecstasy figurine remains, its design has been modified a bit such that it is now leaning even further forward on a deeply recessed grille.
The interiors of the car are also just as impressive. The leather seats are soft and smooth and the carpets are very deep. There is a wrap around belt of open-grained wood, which is book matched across the entire vehicle. All the modern amenities brought about by advanced technology are in full display, with a wireless hotspot, touchpad controller, huge multi media accessories and a head-up display.
Much of the systems are borrowed from BMW because just like the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Wraith’s architecture takes off freely from the BMW 7 Series. Still, there are a lot of bespoken stuff from Rolls-Royce that make it unique, even with seemingly minor trivial items like the vent and heater controls.
The seats are padded generously and are sized with more than ample room. It also has a high position that helps in visibility, something that should come in handy especially in a car as large as this.
Some may say that the Wraith is too big and too simple, but once they experience it, they start to sing a different tune.
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