In 1971, Don McLean penned the lyrics to Vincent. Inspired by a book he read, it is a haunting melody that is a tribute to the life of Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh. The opening line ‘Starry Starry Night’ (the relevance of this I’ll get to soon) refers to the oil on canvas Van Gogh painted in 1889 depicting his view from the east-facing window of his room in the asylum at Saint-Remy-de-Provence, while ‘flaming flowers, weathered faces and paint your palette blue and grey’ refer to the Sunflower Series, the Potato Eaters and of course his art; respectively.
In my personal opinion, there is a multitude of synergies between many of the world’s most beautiful cars and some of the finest works of art. The way the lines flow, the style and the colour schemes (to name but a few), all come together to make desirable and often collectible pieces. But when it comes to Vincent Van Gogh work; the Rolls-Royce Wraith has taken it one step further…
The original Rolls-Royce Wraith was built in 1938. It was a 6 cylinder, 4.257cc stately looking sedan with coiled suspension and adjustable hydraulic dampers that led the way in the automotive world. However; this is not the Wraith I want to talk about. The Rolls-Royce Wraith that I had the keys to was the new Coupe, Grand Tourer version, a different proposition altogether.
From the very first glance, you can see that it’s a modern and yet unmistakably classic Rolls-Royce. It has a forthright bonnet, which is perfectly shaped and grooved; with a chrome trim line down the centre that leads towards the Spirit of Ecstasy and the proud Roll-Royce grille that lies beneath. Its sleek headlights are nestled into the car’s substantial but tapering wings; while sculpted air ducts adorn the Wraith’s lower facial features. Two rear-hinged coach doors open towards the coupes long overhang that extends way past its 20” rear wheels, while its staunch rear arches give off a formidable sight especially when viewed from the front. The overall form and style of the Wraith is as dramatic as a gestural painting, with lines as expressive as the artists that created it.
Its heart is a 6.6 Litre V12 stalwart that produces 465kW of power and a mammoth 800Nm of torque and although it has a governed top speed of 250km/h, it has a reported 0-100 time of 4.6 seconds. In truth, you are blissfully unaware of most of these figures as the double glazing keeps tedious things like engine noise (or the outside world in general) at bay and in turn the speed only becomes relevant when you look at where the needle points on the instrument dial – in short; your comfort belies the exterior momentum.
Unlike many modern vehicles (with paddles or driving modes), the Wraith’s 8 Speed automatic gearbox is a simple case of set and forget. A gentle pull on the paintbrush thin stalk that lives on the steering column engages drive and from a driver’s point of view, that is all she wrote. Aside from the regular shifts that happen in conjunction with brake and acceleration, the GPS tracking system will read the road ahead and predicts the ideal gear to keep both the driver and any passengers in sublime comfort.
Sixty pairs of hands go into creating a Rolls-Royce Wraith and their craftsmanship is evident inside and out, from the five coats of paint on the bodyshell to the diligently hand stitched leatherwork on the dash and furnishings that lie within.
The interior of the Wraith is as elegant as you’d hope for but with a hint more cosseting in terms of space. While you relax in the serenity that only comes from arguably the world’s finest leather vehicle seats, the visage that surrounds you is a sea of practical decadence. It is, of course, all completely personalizable (after all a Rolls-Royce is commissioned not constructed) however the edition I was within had been hand finished with polished chromes and high gloss woods. The ‘piano stop’ controls for ventilation outlets are elaborate but completely in tune with their surroundings and the sound system that had been uniquely fitted to that particular Wraith was unfaltering at ear bleeding levels, even with my choice of music.
Then comes the roof lining. Look up and the night’s sky smiles right back at you. The scattered array of LED’s that have been fitted to the Wraith’s ceiling; give off a ‘Starry Night’ effect that is good during the day but really excels at night. I swear if you look long enough you’ll spot some of your favourite constellations. It’s totally unnecessary and yet totally
At nearly 5.3m long and 1.95m wide, the Wraith has quite the presence on the road, but rather than it feeling cumbersome or even imposing, both the road and its users seem to make way for you. It’s hard to explain specifically but I thought I’d be more nervous of my surroundings than I actually was. People do stare in admiration though and I wondered if they had me pegged as a Rich executive, a Royal or a Rap artist.
I took the Wraith to the Hamptons, it seemed fitting in the title (even if it was the racetrack rather than the neighbourhood of the extremely wealthy) but it did give me the chance to stretch her legs on a relatively long run. Needless to say, on the open road it glides over the asphalt as adroitly as impasto applied to canvas – even with an unskilled artist such as myself behind the wheel. Both motorway straights and rural curves, the Wraith appeared to enjoy the ride as much as I did.
With a smile of satisfaction, I pulled the Wraith to a halt on my driveway. There is a reason it sports the Rolls-Royce badge. The V12 engine never missed a beat, the handling didn’t set a foot out of place and there wasn’t a modicum of mass production squeak anywhere. The resulting confidence it instills is simply; pure artistry.
For those that didn’t know, Wraith is an old Scottish word for Ghost or Spirit, and I have to say that the way the coupe painted effortlessly over the tarmac’d canvas of New Zealand roads, its independent styling, the fact that it had people staring at its beauty and of course the ‘starry’ roof, I do believe it must be channeling the spirit of Vincent himself.
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