Our first up-close encounter with the Rolls-Royce Spectre was at the 2023 Goodwood Festival of Speed; the one made famous by the atrocious weather leading to the historic cancellation of the Saturday activities. That Friday, in the torrential rain, the most impressive of all the cars launching off the start line was a powerful electric car that used its high-torque e-motors and all-wheel drive to catapult up the famous hillclimb course while most other vehicles bogged down in a flurry of unseemly wheelspin. But it wasn’t a new piece of exotica from Lotus, Rimac or Pininfarina — this was a Rolls-Royce.
Call it home advantage if you will — Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is based within a flawless rock’s throw of Goodwood House — but it was an ominous moment for the internal combustion engine.
The march towards electrification is gathering pace and Rolls-Royce is arguably better suited to the benefits of electric power than most other marques. It has always aimed to produce engines that deliver effortless-yet-hushed performance for its ultra-luxury vehicles, and this is a task that is well suited to the electric motor.
With the might of BMW behind it, the British company has been able to get to market with its first EV in relatively quick time, too. But there’s much more to the Rolls-Royce Spectre coupé than its zero-emissions running gear.
It’s based on the rather haughtily titled “Architecture of Luxury”, Rolls’s own vehicle platform already underpinning the Phantom and Cullinan SUV. However, for the Spectre, all traces of internal combustion are eliminated in favour of a 102kWh battery and two electric motors that produce a combined 576bhp and 664lb ft of torque — more power and exactly the same twisting force as the V12s that go into the Phantom and Ghost, though readily available from zero revs.
But while electric drive is a major talking point, it’s not the only thing that the Spectre has going for it. Indeed, this car has managed to redefine Rolls-Royce luxury in such a way that it makes the rest of the company’s line-up seem out of date.
Road presence like nothing else
From the outside, the Spectre is simply stunning. It doesn’t need a gaudy paint colour to make its presence felt as it’s every inch the Rolls-Royce and, while the large “Pantheon” grille is the widest yet fitted to a Rolls, its vanes are flush. There’s a distinct rising curve where the bonnet meets it, to help smooth airflow over the car’s nose.
Of course, a traditional Spirit of Ecstasy graces the front end, but even this has been subject to enhancement for the electric age. According to Rolls-Royce, it more faithfully represents the original drawings of the mascot’s creator, Charles Sykes, so is shorter and more swept back than before, resulting in improved aerodynamics. Naturally, the buyer can choose to have it illuminated.
Combined with a sleeker overall shape that features distinctive coachlines and “monotone” rear lights (designed to suit any colour that a prospective buyer wants their car in, even purple), the result is a drag coefficient of just 0.25, making the Spectre the slipperiest Rolls ever built.
This helps to extend the car’s driving range per recharge, and also enhance refinement as it reduces wind noise due to air crashing over the surfaces of the vehicle. An overall length edging close to 5.5 metres means the Spectre is longer than most limousines — and even the gargantuan Land Rover Defender 130, while the vast rear-hinged doors are the largest that have ever been fitted to a Rolls-Royce. It doesn’t look cartoonish in its proportions, though, thanks partly to wheels that start at 22 inches in diameter and go up from there.
Effortless in more than motion
Thanks to its sheer size, there’s enough space in the front and rear seats for occupants to stretch out, in spite of the coupé body style. The “Effortless Doors” measure 1.5 metres in length, but as the name suggests they don’t require the driver to lift a finger (literally); simply press on the brake pedal and the door will soft-close itself.
Every Spectre built will be personalised by its owner, so you can expect no two cars to be alike, but even our press car gives a clear impression of how special the Spectre will be.
The upholstery design is said to be inspired by traditional British tailoring while the dashboard is a mix of the current and classic, with organ-stop air vents, metal switchgear and bespoke finishes sitting side-by-side with a digital driver’s display and central touchscreen.
There’s a bespoke Rolls-Royce smartphone app, called Whispers, which synchronises with the on-board tech, while buyers can specify a range of LED interior lighting packages, including a starfield for the headlining and more LED stars for the doors.
Of course, this all comes at a cost and, as usual with a Rolls, if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it.
Makes a Rolls-Royce V12 seem uncouth
Pull away in the Spectre and there’s not a whisper from the car’s electric powertrain. There’s little in the way of wind noise, too, courtesy of that slippery bodywork, and road noise is also kept in check despite the fitment of massive tyres.
This civility allows you to enjoy some of the more intricate sounds found in the Spectre’s cabin, such as the clink of the indicators, reminiscent of ice hitting the side of a glass tumbler we’re told. It’s this level of detail that really brings home what you’re paying for when buying an ultra-luxury car such as this. Silence also means that any creaks or rattles would be much more noticeable — not a hint of it here, of course.
Officially, the Spectre has a range of 323 miles between recharges, but buyers aren’t going to be troubled by such a figure because the typical owner will have at least seven other cars at their disposal, possibly even a helicopter or boat, too.
The company’s engineers have done wonders with the car’s chassis and powertrain. There is air suspension at all four corners, while Rolls-Royce’s “PlanarSystem” uses cameras to read the road ahead, decoupling the anti-roll bars for straight-line comfort, but reactivating them and firming up the adaptive dampers for faster cornering.
Rear-wheel steering turns in the opposite direction to boost agility in corners and manoeuvrability at low speeds, while they turn in line with the fronts at higher speeds to aid stability.
And yet there’s performance when you need it. The dual motors and four-wheel drive means the Spectre can sprint from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, which is two tenths quicker than a VW Golf R and pretty fast even for an EV, especially one weighing the best part of three tonnes. We’re sure it’s more than adequate for the typical Rolls-Royce buyer, even if they find themselves at the bottom of the Goodwood hill.
On wet roads during our time with the car, it was clear that slippery surfaces wouldn’t prevent this kind of pace, either. Some owners may even see the Spectre as an opportunity to show the odd upstart supercar a thing or two.
The Spectre is a fantastic car, but it’s not just about the electric powertrain. In reality it redefines what Rolls-Royce can do in terms of luxury vehicles; it just happens to be powered by electric motors. The refinement, luxury and sheer opulence take the British firm to another level, and instantly makes its other cars feel like they’re from a bygone era.
- If you were interested in the Rolls-Royce Spectre, you might like to read about the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy being redesigned for electric car age
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