Rolls-Royce Wraith uses GPS to guide your gear changes

Rolls-Royce's Dr Philip Harnett explains how the Wraith's satellite-aided transmission predicts what gear you'll need for the road ahead
Rolls-Royce Wraith

Rolls-Royce Wraith

The new Rolls-Royce Wraith knows the road better than you do.

You'd be hard pushed to call Rolls-Royce's coupé "sporty," but it's the most powerful car that Rolls-Royce has ever built – and, it claims, the most dynamic. With a twin-turbocharged V12 engine pumping out 624hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, it's certainly not wanting for grunt under the bonnet – but then, it does have to push 2435kg of car around.

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Rolls-Royce Wraith

It's also, Rolls-Royce claims, the most technologically advanced car in the company's history. It's based on the BMW 7-series' architecture, with a steel monocoque construction. Inside, there's a 10.3in multimedia display with fingertip handwriting recognition for scrawling in your destination, and – should you choose – Rolls-Royce's signature "Starlight" headliner, with 1340 fiber optic nodes mimicking the night sky.

But the car's party piece is its satellite-aided transmission – a GPS system that reads the curves in the road ahead and smooths gear changes accordingly. BMW's ActiveHybrid 5 uses a similar technology to track topography and improve fuel economy; in the Rolls, it's more of a digital chauffeur.

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Formula One tech

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Rolls-Royce Wraith

Stuff spoke to Dr Philip Harnett, Product Manager for Wraith, to get the inside track on the satellite-aided transmission system. "We wanted to produce something people weren’t expecting, that they didn’t know they wanted," he explains. "That’s why we introduced the satellite-aided transmission.

"My background is in Formula One, with the old BMW F1 team. It’s easy in a way – you have a racetrack and you have the track mapped out. You know where it is, you know the distance, you know exactly where the car is on the track. So you can set up things like engine braking, traction control and you can pre-load things. You can set up the car before you even enter the corner – but then the driver still has control.

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