Rolls-Royce’s first all-electric car, Spectre, has finally hit the road and is already attracting a new breed of super-rich young owners who want greener luxury.
Prices start at about £330,000, but most buyers will get handy with the options list and spend far more than that.
So, what will they get for all that money – and can the electric Roller measure up to its petrol-powered super-luxury cars of the past? Ray Massey headed to California to become one of the first to drive it.
Rolls-Royce’s first all-electric car, Spectre, has finally hit the road and is already attracting a new breed of super-rich young owners who want greener luxury
Spectre: Millions of miles in the making
The production version of Spectre follows millions of miles of intense testing around the globe.
And bosses stressed: ‘Crucially, it is a Rolls-Royce first and an electric car second’.
It also marks the end of an era for the British super-luxury carmaker which announced: ’Rolls-Royce will never again produce a new model with an internal combustion engine.’
The existing petrol-engined Rolls-Royce line-up will be the last and forthcoming designs will be all-electric.
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Ray Massey flew half way round the world to California to become one of the first to drive the £330,000 green limo
The test route took place more than 5,000 miles from where Spectre is built by engineers and craftsmen and women at the firm’s hi-tech boutique factory in Goodwood, West Sussex
Preliminary orders for Spectre show it has helped bring down the average age of Rolls-Royce customers from 56 to 43. Many of them are young entrepreneurs in tech and finance
Spectre is powered by a mighty 584 horsepower (430kW) electric motor and battery configuration which propels the near 3 tonne (2,890kg) vehicle from 0 to 62mph in 4.5 seconds an up to a top speed limited to 155mph.
But it also has a significant full-charge range of up to 329 miles – enough to drive from London to just North of Newcastle.
So, how does the first Rolls-Royce of the future measure up?
Before even the first customer has driven or taken delivery of the sleek, zero emission fast-back coupe, I took a trip to the west coast of the US – Rolls-Royce’s biggest market – to test drive the finished article.
Our test miles took place more than 5,000 miles from where Spectre is built by engineers and craftsmen and women at the firm’s hi-tech boutique factory in Goodwood, West Sussex, which employs 2,500 people.
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Spectre is powered by a mighty 584 horsepower (430kW) electric motor and battery configuration which propels the near 3 tonne (2,890kg) vehicle from 0 to 62mph in 4.5 seconds an up to a top speed limited to 155mph
They call the overall pre-production process the Rolls-Royce ‘finishing school’. This meant that the new Spectre was taught how to become a true Rolls-Royce, with refined manners and ‘waftable’ acceleration.
As well as gruelling all-weather testing in extremes of freezing Arctic cold and burning African heat, engineering bosses ensured it met one other important challenge: the ‘champagne test’.
This insists that however rough the roads, the ride must be so smooth that a passenger sipping champagne does not spill one drop from their glass.
I tried it and it seems to work.
Although it should be noted that due to California driving laws this was strictly done with a non-alcoholic champagne substitute.
While it may pass the champagne test, the two-door Spectre fits into the bracket of a driver’s Rolls-Royce rather than one you would be chauffeured in.
Preliminary orders for Spectre show it has helped bring down the average age of Rolls-Royce customers from 56 to 43.
Many of them are young entrepreneurs in tech and finance with at least seven cars, who are nevertheless keen to display eco-friendly credentials as well as their wealth – with 40 per cent of them new to the brand and never having owned a Rolls-Royce before.
Prices for the new Spectre start at around £330,000 but few customers will pay that. Instead, the high level of bespoke options so beloved of Rolls-Royce customers means the batting average outlay is likely to be closer to £500,000.
The ‘hero’ spec of Chartreuse and black two tone will come in at around £450,000. Spectre has ‘near infinite bespoke possibilities,’ says Rolls-Royce.
Stretching to nearly 5.5 meters and weighing nearly three tonnes, the low-riding Spectre is electrifying and has real road presence
First impressions are of a sweeping aerodynamic two-door four-seater fastback, with a streamlined Spirit of Ecstasy Flying Lady at its prow
Thanks to clever design and the slightly lie-back positioning of the seats, being driven is more enjoyable than taking to the wheel
What’s Spectre like?
Spectre is Rolls-Royce’s most aerodynamic motor car ever and has a presence and size similar to that of the earlier petrol-powered Phantom Coupe – and is described as its spiritual successor.
Cruising around the vineyards of the sunshine state’s Napa Valley wine region, I was privileged to be among the first of a select group of motoring journalists from around the world to be allowed behind the wheel before even the first paying customers.
The champagne test
To see if it really works, I tried out the out the champagne test for myself – with the help of Rolls-Royce executive Georgina Cox.
To comply with California law regarding alcohol in cars (it’s illegal unless the passenger is being driven by a legally licensed chauffeur) we replaced champagne with a sparkling non-alcohol substitute.
Sitting in the rear I was driven down a rough vineyard track – and so smooth was the suspension that not a drop from my glass was spilled and the surface of my drink remained absolutely level throughout.
We then swapped places, and I did the driving with pace while Georgina sat in the back holding the champagne flute.
Again, not a drop spilled as the suspension compensated for and levelled out the bumps in the road and the liquid within remained as calm as a millpond.
Champagne test duly passed. Non-alcoholic cheers all round.
This wasn’t California dreaming but it certainly felt like it.
Stretching to nearly 5.5 meters and weighing nearly three tonnes, the low-riding Spectre is electrifying and has real road presence.
First impressions are of a sweeping aerodynamic two-door four-seater fastback, with a streamlined Spirit of Ecstasy Flying Lady at its prow.
Close up you realise it is surprisingly big for such a sleek looking car. Thanks to clever design, it’s wearing cunningly designed clothing making it look slimmer and lighter than it actually is.
The firm says that design takes inspiration from modernist sculpture, nautical design, haute-couture fashion, tailoring and contemporary art.
The fun begins the moment you step through one of the two rear-hinged doors and into the low-slung cabin.
Spectre customers will most likely be driving themselves so there’s no attendant or chauffeur to open that door for you. At around 1.5m these laser-welded aluminium doors are the largest pillarless coach doors ever fitted to a Rolls-Royce.
Normally there is a button for the driver to press, so the door closes automatically. But with Spectre you simply press your foot on the brake, and the door silently and elegantly swings shut and seals you in. Pure genius.
The snug cockpit with its smart digital dashboard is sophisticated, simple, relaxing, restrained and sedate without the need for whizz-bang flashing lights or sci-fi styling to proclaim its electric car credentials. First and foremost, it’s a Rolls-Royce.
In the driving seat Spectre feels cosseting, low and sporty. Yet there’s also a surprising amount of room for two passengers in the rear, thanks to clever design and the slightly lie-back positioning of the seats, as I found to my own surprise and delight when being driven.
Acceleration is phenomenal – but also seamlessly smooth and controlled. You will not feel your neck snap back, despite its awesome power
What’s Spectre like to drive?
Switch on the ignition and there’s a calm almost silent but faintly perceptible tone as the motors spring to life. Rolls-Royce even used the strains of a professional harpist to create just the right ambience.
Driving Spectre is the easiest thing in the world. There’s no clutter of dials and buttons. The car does most of the work for you leaving you to enjoy the experience.
Spectre is sure-footed, nimble, and amazingly responsive. Rolls-Royce always aims to produce in its cars a magic carpet ride, and with Spectre it has electrified that.
Acceleration is phenomenal – but also seamlessly smooth and controlled. You will not feel your neck snap back, despite its awesome power.
One thing owners will need to take care about is watching their speed if they want to keep their licence. Exceptionally fast can seem rather relaxed.
Spectre’s handling feels remarkably intuitive and even the slightest touch on the tiller feeds instantaneously into the wheels.
It goes exactly where you are looking, as if you and the car are joined. And it is fun. You won’t get bored driving this car. After a long drive in this electric grand tourer, you’ll probably arrive feeling fresher than when you started.
The snug cockpit with its smart digital dashboard is sophisticated, simple, relaxing, restrained and sedate without the need for whizz-bang flashing lights or sci-fi styling to proclaim its electric car credentials
If you want to increase the driving resistance – and generate some more charge – you simply press the ‘B’ button on the column-shifter to activate ‘brake mode’.
I liked this as you can reduce your reliance on the brakes and let Spectre take the strain with so-called single-pedal driving which can even bring the car to a complete stop. But everything is seamless. Not at all forced, or jerky. It all feels so natural and smooth.
Spectre looks, drives, and cossets you just like you would expect any Roll-Royce to do.
At no time did I think: ’This is an electric car.’ I needed to make no compromises or allowances. The company insists it is making a Rolls-Royce first, and in that respect it has fully succeeded.
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