Electric Cars Reviewed

Rolls-Royce Spectre review

In 1900 Charles Rolls declared that electric power was the perfect solution for the automobile, so does Rolls-Royce’s first EV prove him right?

In a magazine article written four years before he began collaborating with Henry Royce, Rolls said: “The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean. There is no smell or vibration. They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.”

Well, it may have taken more than 100 years but the marque that bears Rolls’s name has finally embraced his vision and built its first electric car, with plans to be all-electric by 2030.

The brand insists that the Spectre is a “Rolls-Royce first, and an electric car second” but, frankly, the two are so well suited to each other that it’s a moot point. The silent and smooth progress offered by electric power couldn’t find a better partner than the purveyor of some of the world’s quietest, smoothest cars.

The Spectre is based on the same scalable architecture as the Ghost and Cullinan, which was developed with future electric powertrains in mind. That means there are no compromises in space or packaging to accommodate the massive 102kWh battery or front and rear motors. The battery is incorporated between the sills, giving a completely flat floor and adding structural rigidity, while the rest of the car has been designed with one eye on creating luxurious space and another on maximising efficiency.

The Spectre is the most aerodynamic Rolls-Royce ever and its shape has borrowed from the simple, smooth lines of racing yachts in pursuit of better energy efficiency. Odd as it sounds, the 5.5-metre-long Spectre embraces the idea of less is more in its styling. Yes, there’s the giant illuminated Pantheon grille, topped by a new, more aerodynamic Spirit of Ecstasy. And yes, the bonnet is as long as a football field. But the car’s lines are simple and clean, with no unnecessary embellishments. And it exhibits a classic Rolls-Royce shape that flows from the vertical bow line and split headlights right back to the seamless tail, which sweeps in and up to aid air flow.

Rolls-Royce Spectre
The Rolls-Royce Spectre has undeniable presence

Cleverly, the Spectre features a glossy black “plinth” beneath the doors, which adds definition to the massive flanks and hides the deep floor containing the battery, while the body panels tuck into the underside of the car to reduce its visual bulk.

In developing the car, Rolls-Royce dug into how its customers would use it and says it has exceeded their expectations with a WLTP range of 329 miles. In the real world, that translates to a reliable 250-260 miles between charges. Those can be taken care of at up to 195kW, taking the Spectre from 10-80% in 34 minutes.

The massive battery provides power to two motors – a 190kW unit at the front and 360kW at the rear. Combined, these provide 577bhp and 664lb ft, and bring new levels of refinement and urgency to an already impressive line-up.

No-one has ever accused Rolls-Royce’s mighty 6.75-litre V12 of being noisy but at full throttle, a Ghost or Cullinan has a distant but distinct bellow. Not so in the Spectre. It delivers even more startling pace than a Ghost Black Badge – 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds – but does so in almost complete silence. Push up to motorway speeds and there’s a whisper of wind noise around the wing mirrors but nothing that could be classed as intrusive.

If you want a little aural drama, you can engage Rolls-Royce sound – a synthesised “engine” tone. At lower speeds and part throttle this creates an almost musical note like a rising choral voice. At fuller throttle, this is overlaid with an almost mechanical rumble that’s evocative but never overbearing.

Whether you turn that on or off, there’s no doubting the potency of this powertrain. A heavy right foot will pin you and your passengers back in the luxuriously upholstered seats as the motors direct their energy to all four wheels. At any speed there is an instant response from the throttle but one that’s beautifully modulated so it’s never harsh.

Rolls-Royce Spectre rear-hinged doors
Even getting into the Spectre feels dramatic

The pace is impressive enough for a near three-tonne vehicle and you could cross Europe on the autoroutes and autobahn at huge speeds in virtual silence. But what is truly remarkable about the Spectre is how well it copes on smaller roads and even urban environments.

Thanks to the genius of four-wheel-steering, this 5.5-metre long, 2m wide coupe feels no more unwieldy than a mid-size SUV. Don’t get me wrong, this is no sports car and you’re aware of its width on narrow roads. But the willingness with which the back end tucks around corners is startling. There’s a responsiveness and neatness to the Spectre’s handling that means it can be threaded along a rural B-road with impressive ease and accuracy.

That’s just as true around town, where the precisely weighted steering lets you manoeuvre something the length of a Transit van without worry. The flip side of the system is that it also helps improve stability and control at higher speeds.

The Spectre is equipped with adaptive air suspension and the Flagbearer forward camera system that helps prime against potholes and surface changes. The result is a ride quality that is unparalleled. Even fitted with 23-inch wheels (yes, 23!), the Spectre glides across the worst of the UK’s crumbling roads, soaking up everything and remaining totally unruffled. Clever technology that can decouple and recouple the car’s anti-roll bars in an instant ensures the car remains stable and composed at any speed and on any surface without going to pieces in corners.

In combination with the kilos of sound deadening and the double-glazed windows, the imperious ride insulates all those on board from the unpleasantness of the outside world. That leaves passengers free to revel in the luxury and detail of the Spectre’s interior.

In keeping with the “Rolls-Royce first, EV second” philosophy, the Spectre feels very traditional inside. There has been no attempt to reflect the high-tech powertrain in a cutting-edge interior. In fact, most of the Spectre’s key controls will be familiar to anyone who has sat in a Ghost, Phantom or Cullinan. From the circular chromed air vents with their organ stop controls to the beautifully damped heating sliders and the column-mounted drive selector, the Spectre mimics those other models. The dashboard is finished in wonderfully tactile open-pore wood, and wrapped in the same beautifully soft leather as the door cards and deep, cosseting seats.

In front of the passenger, the Spectre name is picked out on the fascia, surrounded by a galaxy of 5,500 lights. Those are echoed in the famous Starlight headliner where fibre optics create a night sky effect above your head, complete with shooting stars.

Rolls-Royce Spectre interior
The Spectre’s interior is the height of opulence

There are, however, small differences. For the first time that Starlight feature can be extended into the doors to create a cocoon of soft light. In front of the driver, the speedometer needle has a halo of digital sparkles as it sweeps around, and you can colour-code the dials to the car’s exterior. There’s a new and improved interface and functionality for the central touchscreen, too.

There is also the not-so-small matter of the doors. These 1.5-metre-long units are rear-hinged for more graceful ingress and egress. They are also powered, so a pull on the release lever opens the door and guides you by the hand out of your seat. A press on the exterior button sweeps it closed again behind you.

Although it’s a two-door coupe, the Spectre is a full four-seater rather than a 2+2. Even the tallest occupants will be comfortable in the front, and there’s reasonable space in the rear. As long as you’re all roughly average sized, four people could travel the length of the continent in serene comfort, enjoying the heated and cooled seats and individual climate control, plus the imperious bespoke sound system.

Rolls-Royce prides itself on giving customers what they want, so if the glorious purple-on-cream finish of our car isn’t to your liking, just pick from another of the scores of available combinations, or come up with your own chosen shade. Likewise, you can personalise the exterior with different levels of two-tone paint, bespoke coachline finishes, and a host of different wheels and centres. And, of course, you can have the key fob colour matched to your car, along with the handles of the built-in umbrellas. But you’d expect nothing less from a car that starts in the region of £330,000 and can easily be specced up to more than £400,000. There’s no denying that’s a lot, but you pay for brilliance.

As Charles Rolls said all those years ago, electric power is ideal for passenger cars. It is noiseless and clean with no smell or vibration, and nothing epitomises that better than the Spectre. It takes all the usual Rolls-Royce qualities and elevates them to another level, creating a completely unrivalled automotive experience.

Rolls-Royce Spectre Spirit of Ecstasy
The Spirit of Ecstasy was redesigned to be more aerodynamic for Spectre

Rolls-Royce Spectre

  • Price: From £330,000
  • Motor: Front synchronous 190kW, rear synchronous 360kW
  • Battery: 102kWh usable
  • Power: 577bhp
  • Torque: 664lb ft
  • Transmission: Single-speed, all-wheel-drive
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • 0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
  • Range: 329 miles
  • Consumption: 2.6-2.8m/kWh
  • Charging: up to 195kW
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Matt Allan

Matt is Editor of EV Powered. He has worked in journalism for more than 20 years and been an automotive journalist for the last decade, covering every aspect of the industry, from new model reveals and reviews to consumer and driving advice. The former motoring editor of inews.co.uk, The Scotsman and National World, Matt has watched the EV landscape transform beyond recognition over the last 10 years and developed a passion for electric vehicles and what they mean for the future of transport - from the smallest city cars to the biggest battery-powered trucks. When he’s not driving or writing about electric cars, he’s figuring out how to convert his classic VW camper to electric power.