Stick Shift: Rolls-Royce Power of Perfection at Thermal Club

 

By: Brandon Randall

Photo via Rolls-Royce

Photo via Rolls-Royce

From 20,000 ft. Palm Springs is an out of place green patch surrounded by brown mountainous desert. Two million some odd people visit Palm Springs annually. I’ve driven by on the I-10 more times than I can count, but never actually stopped to see what all the fuss is about. Maybe it’s the nice weather. Perhaps it’s the people to palm tree ratio. My reason for visiting is much cooler. I’m one of the lucky few to be invited to the Rolls-Royce “Power of Perfection’ driving experience at the Thermal Club race track. Car to be featured… well, it is a race track, so what else but the newest addition to the family, the formidable Wraith. How much comfort and luxury has Rolls-Royce compromised in the pursuit of performance? Never mind the trees and pleasant weather. I’ve come to Palm Springs to answer that very question. 

My trip begins on the curb outside the airport. A glistening white Phantom with the rare extended wheelbase rolls up. I sit shotgun and curse myself the entire 25 miles to the track for not sitting in the back and being properly chauffeured. Arriving in extreme style, I step out onto the hot tarmac, the yellow sun beating down overhead. 

Thermal Club is a private motorsports facility with 4.5 miles of members-only racetrack. Well, it will have 4.5 miles of track when they’re done with it. Right now it’s still largely under construction, but Rolls-Royce had a little section ready for us to lay nice expensive skid marks on. The course consisted of a couple long straights, tight hairpins and medium speed sweepers. So how does a car with the same weight and length of a full sized pickup truck perform on a short circuit racetrack? Getting to the bottom of that was as fun as you’d imagine it to be. I promise.

After a quick debriefing on the car and track, I jumped behind the wheel. Let me begin by saying that the Wraith is not a race car. Nor is Rolls-Royce claiming it to be. Nor are the laws of physics really allowing it to be. Instead of a triple-plated clutch, it has a dynamic, satellite guided transmission. In place of a jungle-gym like roll cage it has a roof liner filled with 1,340 hand cut fiber optic lights creating your very own star-filled sky. There are no rock hard racing buckets squeezing every drop of blood from your thighs. Instead, the seats are wrapped in soft leather sourced from cattle raised in a high altitude part of Europe where there’s no barbed wire in sight and far fewer hungry mosquitos to scratch and bite the cows precious hide. You’ll even find two seats in the back with enough space to comfortably fit two adults.

Powering the Wraith is the most powerful engine ever to make its way into a Rolls-Royce. It’s a massaged version of the twin turbo V12 found in the Ghost, and it churns out an incredible 624 hp. That’s enough to propel you from 0-60 in a mere 4.6 seconds! Punch it and this classy coupes exhaust clears its throat with a dignified ‘ahem’ before throwing you back into your seat. Power comes on silky smooth. The nose predictably and surprisingly tucks into corners with very little body roll or understeer. Steering feedback is just heavy enough and allows you to sense when you’re reaching the cars limits. Given the size of the Wraith, the brakes are necessarily enormous. Thankfully, they do an excellent job of consistently slowing the heavy-weight track champion from high speeds in order to maneuver the tight corners that always followed the long straights. Even the tire squeal was perfectly polite.

As impressive as the Wraith performed on the track, it was always a proper Rolls-Royce first. Wind noise was minimal, even at speeds in excess of 100 mph (which I saw plenty of). The cabin is lavish and unsparing in every way. The ride remains soft and cloud-like despite how planted it was through the corners. After an hour of track abuse I pitted the car to give the brakes a chance to cool down and the tires time to stop smelling like melted rubber. 

After my time with the Wraith, it’s clear what Rolls-Royce has tried to create with this newest addition to the family. With the Wraith you really can have the best of both worlds. You get stellar acceleration and truly impressive maneuverability without compromising the extreme comfort and luxury that have practically become synonyms of Rolls-Royce. It won’t circle a track like a 911, but it’s not meant too. The Wraith is calming and quite in stop and go traffic. It’s the undisputed king cruising along a stretch of open highway. It’s right at home lazily exploring around town, and as I recently discovered, is an absolute blast to drive on a race track! Maybe you can never completely have it all, but the Wraith will get you pretty damn close.  

Image via Rolls-Royce

Image via Rolls-Royce

  

 

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