Engine: N74B66 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12
Transmission: 8-speed ZF satellite-aided auto
How many?: You probably won’t see many…
What is it?: Hand-built uber-luxury super-coupe with 623hp
The ultimate exercise in absolute luxury and ostentatious opulence, and with a BMW heart, no less
These Oddballs pieces have been getting more and more premium of late, have you noticed? The Wiesmann, the Morgan, the Ascari… seems that a lot of high-end manufacturers are choosing to entrust their thrust delivery to the dependable whitecoated experts at BMW. And they don’t get a lot more high-end than Rolls-Royce.
The car you’re looking at here is the Wraith – the bad boy of the R-R range, the playboy’s street-racer, the plutocrat’s hot rod. It’s a sumptuously-trimmed four-seater coupé with suicide doors (but don’t let Rolls-Royce hear you calling them that, it says ‘coach doors’ in the brochure), as opulently appointed within as you’d hope for such a car. The wool carpet is a couple of inches deep, the vast wood veneers are millimetrically perfect and precisely mirrored from one side to the other, the Power Reserve gauge incites all manner of naughtiness. But the real crowd-puller is the performance.
In the olden days, the company wouldn’t dream of doing something so vulgar as to publish official performance figures – power was ‘sufficient’, that was all you needed to know. But we’re deep into the 21st century now; if someone’s going to drop £230,000 on a super-coupé, they might fancy sticking it on a rolling road and then tweeting the results. So R-R have contemporised, and started boasting about the numbers. Getting their retaliation in first. As well they might: we’re talking 623hp, and 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds, all in something that’s far more beautifully furnished than most houses.
And yes, it’s a BMW engine. Well, kind of. (But that makes sense really, given that R-R are owned by BMW…) The basic architecture lies in the venerable N74 V12 motor – something that you may recognise in 6.0-litre guise in the BMW 760i, where it delivers 540hp. This particular variant, the N74B66, is the product of a total stripdown by Rolls-Royce’s engineers, who then sent it back to BMW with a list of necessary changes. What returned was a 6.6-litre unit with angrier twin turbos, but rather than being a brawny, shouty race engine, it somehow manages to be almost silent. It really is quite incredible. The unit runs twin alternators, water-cooled to minimise noise, with one dedicated just to the starting battery. It’s mated to a sealed-for-life ZF 8-speed autobox that’s satellite-aided to monitor the road ahead and select the appropriate gear (how clever is that?!), and it develops whacking great gobs of power while somehow making you feel ever so relaxed. Trust me, I tried it. And it was astonishing.
Sure, the Wraith’s a fairly bulky thing – it weighs in at around 2.4 tonnes – but this just makes the performance and handling all the more surprising. It hunkers down eagerly through tight corners, takes sweeping curves completely flat, and best of all, that colossus of an engine provides immediate, brain-scrambling acceleration whenever you fancy it – whatever speed you’re doing, whatever gear you’re in, just bury the throttle into that deep, deep carpet and you’ll find the numbers on the head-up display whirling around like the rollers on a fruit machine. It’s pretty bonkers. And you’ll find the engine family all across the contemporary Rolls-Royce range too – the imposing Phantom turns the swank up to eleven with its luxurious, drawing-room-like interior, and that has a nat-asp 6.75-litre N73 (the N74’s quite-similar predecessor) up front, and the hair-raising Ghost has an ever-so-slightly detuned version of the Wraith motor, rocking 592hp. It’s the Wraith that’s the rebel of the range though, and that’s why we love it. It’s just so brilliantly outrageous.