Rolls Royce Wraith

Eleanor Thornton. Does the name mean anything to you? I thought it might not, but I can almost guarantee that you, like me, have admired this most elegant of ladies from afar on probably more than just one occasion.

Still not ringing any bells? Allow me to explain.

Eleanor Thornton, or Thorn as she was known to her lover, John Scott-Montagu, second Baron of Montagu of Beaulieu, used to pose for Scott-Montagu’s friend and sculptor Charles Sykes – she was a model after all, as well as Montagu’s secretary. The first of Sykes’s sculptures of Miss Thorn was The Whisperer; she posed pressing her finger to her lips as if to conceal of her and Montague’s secret love affair. 

Soon after a second sculpture was commissioned; only this time Eleanor stood in her nightdress, leaning slightly forward, and with arms stretched out behind her. That second sculpture, which those who knew of the affair rather disparagingly christened Nellie in her Nightie, went on to become known as The Sprit of Ecstasy. It’s now Roll-Royce’s, indeed the automotive world’s, most iconic of emblems.

It was actually Claude Johnson, the then managing director of Rolls-Royce who commissioned Sykes’s second and far more famous statue. His brief was that above all it must convey "the spirit of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace..."  

To cut a long story very short, Eleanor Thornton has graced more or less every Rolls-Royce radiator ever since. And having just spent a weekend with Rolls-Royce’s latest Wraith I’m pretty sure that Johnson’s original ethos very much lives on.

The Wraith is Rolls-Royce’s most sporting (although you get the impression they’d hate you for saying so) motorcar to date. Based on their Ghost, but with a 24mm wider track, a 175mm shorter wheelbase, stiffer springs, and even a thicker rimmed steering wheel, this two-door, 2.3 tonne coupe hides a 6.6 litre twin-turbo V12 under its long, long bonnet. With whopping 624 bhp of “great energy” at its disposal it is by far the most powerful gentleman’s conveyance ever to carry the flying lady. 

It could be considered a little vulgar perhaps, un-couth maybe, to discuss Rolls-Royce performance figures. Rest assured though, if you are of mind to bury your right foot into some of the deepest carpets I’ve ever encountered in a car, whatever it is that is filling the mirrors and blocking the view through Wraiths sloping rear window very, very quickly disappears. Say it quietly: The Wraith does 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds.

Hushed tones too, are all that’s needed once you’ve settled underneath the Wraith’s (optional) fibre-optically lit Starlight headlining and made yourself extremely comfortable inside its un-ashamedly luxurious and sumptuously leather-clad, wood-lined cabin. One press of the discreet button that brings the Wraith’s enormous rear-hinged doors to a close and it’s as if the chaos of the outside world simply ceases to exist. Regardless of the road surface, the surrounding traffic, your chosen speed, or even the rabble of the riff-raff who instantly grab at their camera-phones as you waft by, the Wraith glides gracefully along on its computer –controlled air-suspension ironing out the bumps as if they simply weren’t there.

Despite its size you can guide this most grand of grand-tourers with precision and without drama. Show it a corner and it settles and grips in a way that Royce’s of old could only ever dream of. The gearbox is satellite guided - each of eight ratios are selected prior to what’s coming up ahead – and the changes are seem-less. The only indication of any cog-swapping  is the slight flutter of the dashboard’s power reserve meter - there’s nothing as common as a rev-counter here - as you brake, or power out of a bend. And, even when you’re really in a hurry it’s unlikely that you see less then 60% on that elegant little dial. You’ll notice the fuel needle drop though; the Wraith’s official fuel consumption figure is 20.2 mpg. In the real world you’ll get less, but then if you can stretch to a Roll’s…

Ah, yes, the real world.

Sadly my time with the Wraith, like the life of Miss Thornton was over all too quickly. On 30th December 1915 Eleanor was drowned when the SS Persia, on which she and John Montague were sailing to India, was torpedoed without warning in the Mediterranean by a German U-Boat. Montagu survived, but is said to have never really have got over the loss of his beloved Thorn.

In my case the man from Rolls-Royce turned up on a Monday and politely asked for his car back. Still, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Engine: 6,592cc, 12Cyl, 48V twin-turbo Petrol
Transmission: 8 speed satellite guided auto. Rear Wheel Drive
Power: 624 bhp @ 5600rpm
Torque: 590 lbft @ 1500 rpm
0-62mph: 4.4 sec
Max Speed: 155 mph (electronically limited)
MPG: 20.4 combined.
CO2: 327g/km
VED Band: M
Price: £235,500 (before options)

Many thanks to James and Henry at Rolls-Royce for the loan of the Wraith

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Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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