Rolls-Royce pulled the covers off the Spectre in 2022, wafting onto electric avenue to fulfil the ambition its co-founder, Charles Rolls, had over a century ago. That ambition was to produce an electric car that in his words would be “perfectly noiseless and clean”.
It was something the luxury British carmaker sought to achieve throughout its more than 100-year history. It certainly came close to providing a noiseless carriage with its internal combustion engine, but zero emissions had to wait until the modern battery-electric era.
The Spectre embraces the changes happening globally, and begins a journey that will see Rolls-Royce produce only electric vehicles (EVs) in 2030. Notably, it also means it has beaten major rival Bentley to this milestone, with its former sister brand planning to launch its first electric model in 2026.
We were given the opportunity to drive the new model in the south of England, heading off from one of the first Rolls-Royce dealerships to receive the brand’s latest corporate identity. Not surprisingly, this means highly upmarket finishes, a room dedicated to replicating the ordering experience of visiting the head office at Goodwood and the latest in technology.
Technology is a key part of the Spectre, too, and as we set off on the roads around Ascot, it was clear that this is a different kind of Rolls-Royce. There is familiarity though, from its vast dimensions that made it feel enormous on narrow British country roads, to the design that marks an evolution from models that have come before it.
It features the widest pantheon grille in the company’s history, the largest doors at 1.5m wide and huge 23-inch wheels. The waft line in the side profile adds a feeling of movement to the car and accentuates its vast presence on the road. There’s also the coupe profile, which appears to blend almost seamlessly into the tail.
Open those large coach doors and you are greeted by the ultimate in luxury materials, including hand-stitched leather and open pore wood. The metal finishes and buttons feel cold to the touch and have a solidity that continues age-old traditions. There is modernity, of course, in the starlight headlining on the door trims and the dashboard panel ahead of the front passenger that also bears the Spectre name. The touchscreen infotainment system nestles in the top of the centre console, and again there is familiarity, because it is straight out of the BMW parts department, albeit with some unique Rolls-Royce design attention.
BMW also supplies the motor and battery pack, all of which provide the Spectre with an impressive 430kW and 900Nm, courtesy of a 102kWh usable battery and electric motors on the front and rear axles. The combination allows this electric Roller to reach 100km/h in just 4.5 seconds and it does so with such little fuss that you’ll be beyond legal speeds faster than your passengers can sip their champagne.
They are unlikely to spill a drop either because it rides on a suspension that has been engineered to absorb every undulation in the road. The 23-inch wheels do thump over the occasional bump, but generally the ride is all very luxurious, and very Rolls-Royce. Even when you push hard on the brakes, the Chauffeur Stop brings all 2.7 tonnes to a stop without the elegant Spirit of Ecstasy lowering her head.
Like the Ghost and the Wraith, the Spectre is a car that is as much about the driver as those who choose to relax in the sumptuous back seats. It’s impossible not to feel slightly intimidated by its size though, something that is not helped by the large steering wheel that detracts from any attempt to enjoy an enthusiastic drive. But that is not what it’s all about: the Spectre is a car to waft about in, enjoying the silent ride and feeling good about producing no emissions. You can switch on some sound, one created by engineers, but it’s best left off. Other sounds that you can switch off include the annoying bonging noise to say you are approaching a speed limit change, another if you exceed it.
Settle in on a nice piece of road or highway and the miles simply disappear faster than your cash in a Monte Carlo casino. The Spectre can cruise for up to 520km before it needs to be plugged in. Fortunately, it is capable of charging at speeds as high as 195kW, so you won’t have to hang around with the less wealthy in Audi, BMW or Mercedes EVs for long if you are forced to use a public charger.
Admittedly all this luxury and clean driving is going to set you back serious money. If you add in some bespoke options you will probably end up at a number north of R10m. Buying a Rolls has never been about affordability though, it’s about the experience and status of owning what is undeniably the most luxurious car in the world. In the Spectre, that experience becomes electric and in doing so fulfils the vision of the company’s founder all those years ago.