New Rolls-Royce Spectre: British brand’s first EV unveiled

First-ever electric Rolls-Royce is a two-door coupe with all the usual luxury that’s expected to cost more than £300,000

Rolls-Royce Spectre

The all-new Rolls-Royce Spectre: a car its makers hope will successfully transition the British brand into the electric age. The world’s first “ultra-luxury electric super coupé” and a “spiritual successor to the Phantom Coupé”, the Spectre is a sleek, two-door EV that’ll arrive in 2023 and could cost more than £300,000.

Rolls-Royce says the Spectre’s all-electric powertrain “will only enhance the Rolls-Royce experience” – the car’s instant torque, silent running and single-gear have “defined the characteristics of an extraordinary canon of product” dating back to 1904, according to the British car manufacturer.

CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös said: “Spectre possesses all the qualities that have secured the Rolls-Royce legend. This incredible motor car, conceived from the very beginning as our first fully-electric model, is silent, powerful and demonstrates how perfectly Rolls-Royce is suited to electrification.”

Visually, the Spectre’s design is a clear evolution of the now-discontinued Wraith coupe, with a tidier front end, and split headlights with slim LED daytime running lights. The distinctive Pantheon grille is wider than ever, and helps direct air flow around the front of the car. The iconic Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet ornament has also been updated for the Spectre to be more aerodynamic.

Aerodynamics plays a big part in the Spectre’s design, in fact; a drag coefficient of 0.25cd makes this the slipperiest Rolls-Royce ever. It’s also 30% stiffer than any model that has gone before it.

In profile, you’ll notice the Spectre’s 23-inch wheels – the largest on any Rolls ever – as well as the high beltline and long, sweeping roofline. The car in these images shows a two-tone bootlid, with the dark rear screen matching the contrasting black roof.

At 5,453mm long and weighing in at 2,975kg, the Spectre is longer and heavier than the company’s Cullinan SUV. Though, four-wheel steering helps reduce the Spectre’s turning circle to just 12.7 metres – slightly more than a Jaguar I-Pace

The Spectre’s powertrain produces 577bhp and 900Nm of torque in all, which allows it to hit 62mph in 4.5 seconds. The car’s official WLTP range hasn’t been confirmed yet, but it’s expected to be in the region of 320 miles, while preliminary efficiency data of 2.9mi/kWh suggests a battery size of at least 111kWh. Charging speeds remain under wraps, too.

Opening the Rolls-Royce’s rear-hinged coach doors reveals a four-seat interior with what the maker claims features the “most technologically advanced Bespoke features yet”. The optional Starlight doors incorporate 5,876 softly illuminated stars; owners can specify another 5,500 on the dashboard, plus more in the roof. “As with all Rolls-Royce motor cars, Spectre’s interior suite offers clients near-infinite Bespoke possibilities” the company says.

The fully-digital dashboard features the very latest infotainment technology and “digital architecture” that Rolls-Royce has dubbed SPIRIT. It controls all of the car’s main functions, and even the Spectre’s ‘Whispers’ smartphone app which gives the user access to things like cabin conditioning and charging information.

Rolls-Royce has confirmed that by 2030 its entire range will be fully electric, with Müller-Ötvös commenting: “Spectre’s all-electric powertrain will assure the marque’s sustained success and relevance while dramatically increasing the definition of each characteristic that makes a Rolls-Royce a Rolls-Royce.”

The Spectre will be built at the company’s factory in Goodwood, UK. Production will start next year, with the first cars due to roll off the line in Q4 2023.

Rolls-Royce Spectre prototype ride

While there was a wealth of black fabric concealing the design of the cabin, with the two coach doors closed, you feel cocooned in your seat. And then, once on the move, it’s the silence that you notice first and foremost; not even a distant whine from the front axle’s electric motor is able to penetrate the serenity of the Spectre’s cabin. Approaching 80mph and there’s merely a faint whoosh from somewhere around the A-pillar, which Rolls-Royce’s engineers have already found a fix for.

There’s also a slight noise that Rolls calls the ‘motion sensation’, added on purpose by channels that allow air to flow between the battery pack and the side sills. This controlled amount of ‘motion sensation’ is inaudible when you’re pulling away, but at higher speeds, it’s perhaps the only thing preventing the driver from having no sense of speed – that’s the level of refinement we’re talking about in the Spectre.

Unlike your average EV, the Spectre won’t have multiple settings for the regenerative braking system. Instead the car will use multiple parameters, including data from the GPS on the road type to the radar looking at the traffic ahead, and adjust the strength of the regen accordingly.

David Monks, production project leader on the Spectre, explained: “We don’t think the clients would want to have to flick between settings for this, and we’re optimistic that they won’t really notice much change between those situations. The overall goal is to not give them any nasty surprises.” Although, there will be one-pedal mode, accessed via a stalk on the steering-column stalk that’s normally used to force the marque’s combustion-engined models into first gear.

A brief ride on the test track revealed that Spectre, however many tonnes it may weigh, does a good job of disguising it. The Spectre isn’t capable of reorganising your internal organs like the fastest Porsche Taycan or Tesla Model S can, but the electric super coupe picks up well off the line, and there’s plenty of shove mid-corner; it feels like it’ll deliver the effortless performance we expect from a Rolls-Royce.

Out on the road, closer to what you could call an everyday driving situation – for a Rolls-Royce at least – the Spectre is exceptionally refined, and looks relaxing to drive for a car of this size. It even corners surprisingly flat. All of the engineers seemed convinced that the ride in our prototype is still a touch too firm, but Jörg Wunder, the engineer leading the project, is confident that an upcoming change in damper spec will bring this car closer to the ‘magic carpet ride’ Rolls-Royce is known for. Though from the passenger seat, it feels tantalisingly close to it as is.

Rolls-Royce’s history with EVs

Rolls-Royce has some form when it comes to battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), given the company founders' passion for electric cars. Sir Henry Royce supposedly considered fitting an electric powertrain in its first cars – although elected not to due to range and charging issues at the time. Charles Rolls acknowledged the advantages of an electric powertrain in 1900, saying: “The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean. There is no smell or vibration, and they should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.”

In addition, Rolls-Royce has dipped a toe in these waters before: 10 years ago, the brand took the wraps off the 102EX (pictured above), also known as the Phantom EE (Experimental Electric): a prototype zero-emissions version of what was then its flagship limousine.

In place of the 6.75-litre V12 found in the petrol-powered Phantom at the time was a 71kWh battery and two electric motors powering the rear wheels, producing 389bhp and 800Nm of torque. But while the electric Phantom prototype was an impressive concept at a time when many brands were yet to jump on the EV bandwagon, it could only cover 124 miles on a charge and the battery had a lifespan of just three years.

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