New electric Rolls-Royce Spectre set to be £300,000

► We ride in all-new Spectre EV on road and track in France
► High temperatures and high speeds don’t ruffle super-coupe
► On sale late 2023, with all new Rollers electric by 2030

It’s one of the hottest days on record, but the inside of Rolls-Royce Spectre prototype number 20 is cool, calm… and cosmetically a bit of a mess.

This camouflaged car, which has been pounding the Miramis test track for weeks, as well as using local roads, is far from complete. But thankfully they made sure the climate control was fully functional.

This European heatwave is quite a contrast to the previous testing location, Arjeplog in Sweden. There, as we reported previously, the Spectre notched up about a quarter of its planned total test mileage of 1.6 million miles – equivalent to around 400 years of typical use by owners.

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Now, it’s done about 40 per cent of that distance. There will be many changes to the details between now and the planned launch at the end of 2023, but Rolls is convinced the fundamentals are about right.

So the production Spectre will be a super-coupe – around the same size and shape as the now defunct Phantom Coupe – with all-wheel drive, batteries under the floor, motors front and rear, rear-wheel steering, a new suspension system and more advanced electronics than any Rolls ever before.

What’s it like on track?

We do two laps in the passenger seat of the Spectre at the BMW-owned Miramis test track. Our first impressions – beyond gratitude that the air-con’s working on this scorching hot day – are that it’s quiet but not silent, quick but not crazy, and surprisingly roomy.

Although it looks a bit like a low-slung muscle car, with a squeezed glasshouse and sharply angled roof, that’s quite deceptive. The seats are low, so you actually get a good amount of headroom in what is quite a big car. If it doesn’t look vast in photos, that’s because the Spectre rides on 23-inch wheels, and everything is in proportion. But yes, it’s big.

Our driver isn’t going at full speed, but fast enough to make it clear that there’s not much bodyroll. That’s one of the benefits of Rolls-Royce’s decision that its first EV should be a coupe, not an SUV. That other big benefit is that it can look highly striking, with its mean stance, and the clean sides made possible by having just the two doors, rear-hinged.

CEO Törsten Müller-Ötvos says one of the reasons Rolls went electric with a coupe was because ‘we need to introduce electrification to Rolls-Royce with an emotional product, not a rational product.’

And on the road?

We have a longer ride on French roads, some of them quite bumpy, others freshly surfaced, many of them twisty.

Here the Spectre confirms how good the rear-wheel steering is at appearing to shrink the car’s length, and how effective its electronic roll stabilisation system is. Using data from scanners looking at the road ahead, combined with information from the sat-nav, it decouples the anti-roll bars on straight roads, to allow each wheel to act independently, thus preventing the rocking motion that can occur when one side of the car hits a bump. For bends,it recouples the anti-roll bars, the air suspension stiffens and the four-wheel steering prepares to activate.

The damping has not yet reached its final calibration, feeling slightly too firm in places, but it’s really not far off.

There’s still some debate within Rolls about whether the regenerative braking system should have more than the current two settings – one is conventional, relying on the discs, the other is more of a ‘one pedal’ system, where lifting off the accelerator gives a significant slowing down.

There is also a school of thought within Rolls that customers should be offered some fake cabin noise, switchable according to preference. There’s really no need. We turn the air-con off briefly to see how much other sound there is, and the answer seems to be that it’s already just about right. You can hear some sound from those large tyres, and a little wind rush, both of which increase as speed rises, but it’s never enough to intrude on conversation, and there’s no whine from the e-motors. The sleek aerodynamics must help – a Cd of 0.25 makes this the smoothest Rolls ever – and so does the torsional stiffness of the steel-reinforced aluminium spaceframe.

What there definitely won’t be is a choice of driving modes – Comfort, Sport, etc. The steering and accelerator pedal will leave the Goodwood factory in Rolls’ optimised configurations, and there they’ll stay.

Engineering director Mihiar Ayoubi says: ‘We are teaching the car the first steps to being like a Rolls-Royce. We have objective measures, but we are also working on subjective brake feel, throttle feel, steering feel – and how they interact with each other. The engineers need to teach the car to drive like a Rolls-Royce.

‘The initial parameters set by computer were tested in Sweden. This is the second phase: high temperatures, high-speed manoeuvres. On track you can isolate the effectiveness of any changes. But the most important part of testing happens out on a great variety of roads here. Around the world, we spend a significant amount of time on the road.

‘Our customers are quite demanding. We need a testing programme that exceeds their expectations. This is the most demanding testing programme in Rolls-Royce history.’

What does the boss say?

CEO Törsten Müller-Ötvos tells CAR: ‘The guiding light is Rolls-Royce first, electric second. That’s why we also decided to go with classical Rolls-Royce proportions. It needs to look like a Rolls-Royce: monolithic, great stature, it carries proudly the pantheon grille. It drives like a Rolls-Royce, it accelerates like a Rolls-Royce, it wafts like a Rolls-Royce, it carries lovely features like starlight headlining, it has all the same materials – while being electric.

‘We also made the decision that this car you could not get electric and combustion. The Spectre is only electric. All future Rolls-Royces, new ones, will be only electric, whilst maintaining what Rolls-Royce stands for. This should be the most dynamic RR ever in history. And it is.’

And what’s next?

‘This architecture is the architecture for all future Rolls-Royces. They might see very different technologies, they might see different shapes. That is the charm of spaceframe – it’s easier to build up different body types.’

Although every new Rolls-Royce will be electric, there will be several years of combustion-engined Rolls. ‘I still foresee a very good business for us in future for Cullinans, for Ghosts. They are the pillars of what Rolls-Royce stands for, crowned by Phantom, which is always around 500 units, very stable. Spectre will definitely be another important column in our product portfolio.

‘We are limited in our total capacity, and rightly so. You could even say it’s an in-built guarantee for exclusiveness. We are not entering five-digit numbers. Our intention is to stay highly exclusive. It would also hamper the business model.

‘We are now the best client-driven company by far. We know every client in person – not me personally, but my organisation knows every client worldwide. We have constant contact with them. That business model would suffer if you went up and up in volume.

‘From an historical perspective, Spectre is one of the most important cars since the [1906] Silver Ghost, when the foundation of the brand was laid. Also knowing that we are fulfulling Charles Rolls’ prophecy [that electric vehicles were the future]. I always when I talk about it get goosebumps. Would our founding fathers be proud of us? Would they cherish what we do? Would they say, “It’s great what you are doing here”? I don’t want to over promise, but I’m confident that at the end of 2023 we’ll achieve a level where Sir Henry Royce would say “Unbelievable!” Particularly with him being an electrical engineer. He would say “Wow!”‘

What other work is going on?

It’s not just real-world testing that’s keeping the Rolls team busy. The Spectre will be the most digital Rolls to date, by some margin, so there’s a lot of boffins crouched over laptops.

The Spectre’s electronics involve 141,200 sender-receiver relations, according to Rolls-Royce. It has more than 1000 functions with more than 25,000 sub-functions. To put that in context, the current Phantom has 51,000 sender-receiver relations, 456 functions and 647 sub-functions. And the amount of in-car cabling has gone up from 1.25 miles to more than four miles.

Although there is doubtless some pooling of resources with other parts of the BMW group, Rolls-Royce is keen to stress that the Spectre is pure Rolls, with an aluminium spaceframe not shared with (for instance) the next 7-series.

And of course they’re not just trying to make the thing work: it needs to be incredibly refined and luxurious. The positioning of the batteries is helping to reduce the amount of road noise making it into the car, for instance.

‘Our task is to teach each component and system how to think, behave and communicate like a Rolls-Royce, which sees much of the engineering pivot from workshops into the digital space,’ says engineering director Mihiar Ayoubi. ‘This is a big step forward for our brand, but also for electrification – even though Spectre is in its infancy, I can confirm that the technology is able to contain the Rolls-Royce experience.

Smooth electric powertrains: perfect for stately Rollers?

Müller-Ötvös says Rolls-Royces are already smooth, quiet and torquey, characteristics in line with electric power, so the transition will be far less jarring than it will be for makers who rely on the sound, vibration and visceral excitement of a combustion engine for their appeal. ‘Electric is the future. It will happen. I also think it fits perfectly with the brand. We don’t have any problems with [the end of] roaring engines,’ he tells CAR.

Isn’t range a worry? No. Müller-Ötvös reckons Rolls owners typically live in city centres and use their Rollers for short journeys. ‘If you’re not allowed to enter city centres in a Rolls-Royce, game over. Look around London: those Rolls-Royces are all privately owned. We need to keep building the cars these clients want.’

These individuals have charging facilities at home and at their business, and if they do need to travel long distances, well, they have private jets. They’ve been asking him for an electric Rolls for years, it turns out. ‘The changes in technology have brought about the Spectre, but also a change in our customers,’ says Müller-Ötvös.

He praises Tesla for both its products and its foresight in setting up its own Supercharger network. ‘Infrastructure is not a problem for us,’ said Müller-Ötvös, ‘but the infrastructure for public charging needs to grow massively.’

Although current Rolls-Royces have low mpg and high CO2 figures, Müller-Ötvös points out that 80 per cent of all the Rolls-Royces ever built are still on the road. He also hails the Goodwood factory as a model of sustainability that has cut its energy footprint per car by 29 per cent.

Founders Rolls and Royce were both engineers with an interest in new applications of electricity. While a student at Cambridge, Rolls owned an electric car, a US-built Columbia Electric Carriage. In 1900 he said: ‘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. But for now I do not anticipate that they will be very serviceable – at least for many years to come.’

Goodwood-era Rolls-Royce has been working on EVs for more than a decade. The 2011 102EX was a one-off electric Phantom, with a lithium-ion battery and twin electric motors driving the rear wheels. It was used as a rolling test bed and to gauge reaction. And that reaction was unequivocal: the range was too short, charging too slow and the three-year battery life a nuisance.

2016’s 103EX, with its aerodynamically adventurous retro-futurist design, was also electric, but the focus was more on its autonomous driving capability and the scope for personalisation than powertrains.

We’re expecting power to be around the 600bhp with the equivalent of some 800lb ft from two electric motors providing all-wheel drive. Rolls-Royce engineers are excited by the silky smooth delivery that an electric powertrain brings.

Expect the Spectre to arrive on the market at the end of 2023. Our sources point to a price around £300,000, inflated by the sheer cost of the battery pack required to achieve a comfortable range.


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Adam Regan
Adam Regan
Deputy Editor

Features and account management. 3 years media experience. Previously covered features for online and print editions.


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