Rolls-Royce says that the unveiling this week of its new all-electric Spectre “super coupé” is as significant a milestone in its 119-year history as the moment its two founders, Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, first met. Not only is this the first electric Rolls-Royce—a means of propulsion which will replace its V-12 engines entirely within just eight years—but it’s also the first full EV from any of the super-luxury marques, save for electric hypercars like the Rimac Nevera.
This isn’t a concept. Spectre can be ordered now with deliveries starting late next year, and a “significant” number of serial Rolls-Royce customers who have previously been shown the car in secret have already done just that. Spectre is effectively the new Phantom coupe and will be priced between the Cullinan and Phantom models but, as the Wraith and Dawn are no longer in the current model lineup stateside, Spectre is now the sole choice for those wanting a two-door Rolls-Royce. And it will be popular: The company estimates that in its first full year of production, Spectre will account for a fifth of all the manufacturer’s sales.
Going electric poses less of a risk for Rolls-Royce, which has always focused more on near-silent, seamless performance, compared to a more sporting carmaker like Bentley, for which a burbling engine note is part of the appeal. Spectre’s engineers mentioned that the main challenge seems to have been making this a Rolls-Royce first and an EV second, and not over-indulging on the possibilities an EV power train opens up.
Despite the ability of electric motors to produce neck-snapping acceleration, Spectre’s 576 hp output—from motors on each axle—enables the car to cover zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, almost identical to the Black Badge Ghost, with peak acceleration tuned to be imperious rather than violent. Rolls-Royce’s V-12 engine is extremely refined, and without it, early Spectre prototypes were disconcertingly silent. Because of that, the cabin has now been developed to admit just enough noise to reassure you that you’re moving.
A conscious decision was also made not to chase range for its own sake. Spectre could have driven more than 300 miles on a single charge, but Rolls-Royce judged that a likely EPA range of 260 miles was sufficient for its customers, who, on average, cover fewer than 6,000 miles each year in their cars. The weight saved on batteries means Spectre can offer the same array of amenities and options as a gas car, which is more important to buyers.
“If our customers really need to go further in a day without stopping to fast-charge, they have a lot of other cars to choose from, or a jet,” Dr. Mihiar Ayoubi, Rolls-Royce’s director of engineering, tells Robb Report. Battery statistics have not been officially released, but we understand that the pack will have a capacity of approximately 110 kwh and a peak charging rate of around 195 kw. And the estimated time to bring the vehicle from a 10 per cent charge to 80 per cent is around 34 minutes on a 150 kw charger.
Robb Report was given a preview of Spectre in advance of its launch, and the styling does exactly what it should: give the model a look sufficiently different to the existing cars in the lineup to communicate that you’re driving the electric-only Rolls, yet not so different that customers have to accept a major change in both design and propulsion. It’s very handsome, with a strong, deep, rising shoulder line that gives Spectre a more overtly sporting stance than its forebears. It’s also the most aerodynamic Rolls-Royce ever, with the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament alone receiving 830 hours of wind-tunnel honing. It’s just as attractive and original inside, but very consciously a Rolls-Royce rather than an iPad on wheels.
The Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls, co-founder of the automaker, tried an early EV in 1900. “The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean,” he said. “There is no smell or vibration. They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.” The potential he saw is finally being realised by the marque that bears his name: It’s just taken rather longer than he might have anticipated.
Previously published on Robb Report.