Rolls Royce debuts all-new Wraith with GPS-controlled transmission

The new Rolls Royce Wraith on display at the Geneva Car Show.
(Sebastien Feval / AFP/Getty Images)

What’s the most intriguing aspect of the all-new Rolls Royce Wraith coupe that debuted this week at the Geneva Motor Show?

It’s not that it’s the fastest, most powerful car Rolls Royce has ever made. It’s not the roughly $320,000 asking price. It’s not the two automatically closing, rear-hinged doors.

It’s the transmission.

PHOTOS: Rolls Royce Wraith debuts in Geneva

Specifically, it’s how the Wraith’s eight-speed automatic transmission is linked to a GPS receiver. The car uses satellites to constantly determine what road you’re driving on and in what conditions. It then uses this data to anticipate how and when to shift gears.

For example, if this Satellite Aided Transmission (SAT) determines you’re on a twisty road in Malibu and you’re coming into a turn, it knows to hold the gear you’re in, rather than upshift as it might if you were going straight.

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This is either incredibly cool or rather creepy, depending on your proclivity for technology.

The rest of the Wraith’s features are what you would expect from a sport-oriented coupe from Rolls Royce

The car is loosely based on the four-door Rolls Royce Ghost, which itself is a smaller, (relatively) cheaper alternative to the monarchical Phantom.

The Wraith’s power comes from a direct-injected, twin-turbocharged V-12 engine. It makes 624 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Despite the coupe weighing an elephantine 5,203 pounds, Rolls Royce says the rear-wheel-drive car will do zero-60 mph in 4.4 seconds.

The car seats four, and offers amenities like a headliner full of 1,340 fiber optic lights to simulate the night sky, a one-touch valet button for all hands-free functions, and a touch-sensitive pad used to control the 10-inch infotainment screen. The Wraith’s navigation system also gathers and compiles anonymously real-time traffic data from cellphones in commercial vehicles and taxis. It then uses this data to update the travel route every three minutes.

When the car goes on sale in fall 2013, the Wraith will give Rolls Royce -- and parent company BMW -- another way to boost global sales. 2012 was a banner year for the ultra-premium automaker, as the 3,575 cars it sold around the world was a record for Rolls Royce.


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