The writing has been on the wall for 122 years. Struck by his first ride in a vintage electric vehicle in 1900, Charles Rolls enthused saying that “the electric vehicle is perfectly quiet and clean. There is no smell or vibration, and they should come in very handy when Fixed charging stations can be set up.” What better time than the 21st century for his eponymous luxury brand to go inevitable conclusion?
Spectre, Rolls-Royce’s first fully electrified production vehiclewon’t be ready for prime time until late 2023. But the automaker has granted MotorTrend unprecedented early access to a development vehicle, lifting the lid on what the automaker says is the company’s most important milestone since Charles Rolls met Henry Royce in 1904. Building on the process of d cold-weather testing of the vehicle in Arjeplog, Sweden, an industry winter evaluation playground at the edge of the Arctic Circle – we got a taste of the brand’s first-ever electrified production car , a change so monumental that it has been dubbed “Rolls-Royce 3.0”. Here’s what we found.
It’s a GigaCoupe
In the flesh, Spectrum is a barge, even in the face of the immensity of this austere environment. Walk up to the big coupe, and it’s hard not to be intimidated by the hulking shape. This author is five foot and eleven inches tall, and the roofline comes almost to my neck, the waistline to my elbows. The gaping arches will be filled with 23-inch wheels, the largest fitted to a coupe since the monstrous 1926 Bugatti Royale, although our example sat on smaller 22s due to winter tire fitments.
Although Rolls has experimented an exploratory concept 102EX EV (after that the autonomous 103EX), Specter was named the spiritual successor to the ultra-rare 2009 V-12 powered Phantom coupe. Even rarer than the shortened Phantom was this the inspiration of the car, the unique 100EX. The 2004 concept was an über-big statement, powered by a 9.0 liters V-16. If you feel like Specter is positioned as something bigger than an electrified Wraith, take advantage of these bonus points: this sucker is like a sleeker Phantom Coupe, with C-pillars that extend to the tail but feel a bit more statuesque than the Wraith’s arched rump.
Unsurprisingly, Specter is considered the most aerodynamic skate ever. A preliminary drag coefficient of 0.26 is aided by a redesigned Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament that squats slightly lower in the interest of gliding through the air more efficiently. An engineer estimates the aero work to be 85% complete, just needs some gap closures and a few minor tweaks here and there. Also contributing to the slipperiness (although to a less sexy effect) are the emaciated tires whose 255mm section width makes the chunky coupé appear lean when viewed from behind. Whatever the mileage gains of the razor-thin rubber, we’d gladly trade some range for a meatier shoe.
Even the spirit of ecstasy goes aero
Open the giant rear-hinged doors and the familiar Rolls-Royce cabin proportions emerge: a high sill, vertical architectural scale dashboard and massive front thrones. Hold a switch on the center console and the door closes on its own with an oh-so-plutocratic sweep. Hermetically sealed in the cabin, it’s hard not to feel invincible in this multi-ton machine. Front-seat occupants are enveloped by the high door sills – I instinctively raised my seat so I could see better over the dash – and the rear perches are roomy enough to accommodate grown adults. Even at their highest elevation, it’s easy to feel overshadowed by the car’s proportions.
Interestingly, the Spirit of Ecstasy sits low enough to require a notched neck to see the upper part of the carriage’s interior, away from the imperious ladies perched on the Parthenon railings of yore. The dashboard of this particular tester was covered in a protective blanket, though it’s fair to say that we spotted copious strips of wood and ducked under the blanket. While Rolls-Royce is inimitably linked to soft leather surfaces, CEO Thorsten Müller-Ötvös revealed to MotorTrend that the automaker is working on vegan alternatives, including a potential silk-like material that it describes as more delicate than conventional animal skins.
We were warned several times that the prototype was only “25% complete” before embarking on our test. Since Rolls doesn’t commit to nearly every aspect of the Spectre’s specs, from battery wording to storage capacity and estimated range, we’ve relied on the seat of our pants for impressions. . We were told, however, that this prototype is powered by four electric motors, two of which drive the front axle and another pair spins the rear.
The few touchpoints we engaged with – door handles, window switches and center console buttons for the starters – had familiar Rolls-Royce origins. However, this prototype rolls down the road with more primary and secondary driving feedback than we’ve seen from the ultraluxury brand. Since suspension tuning is still in progress, damping rates are likely nowhere near where they will end up when the chassis is activated. We expect Spectre’s active roll stabilization and four-wheel steering system to offer a bit more variability in terms of smoothness and agility, the latter of which is noticeable in pronounced yaw movements during low-speed maneuvers. .
Quiet, syrupy speed
That said, the prototype cruises through space in much the same way as its internal combustion predecessors: with an eerily fluid sense of forward motion that’s unimpeded by the constraints of gear changes or power differences. The instant torque feeling is unmistakable and perhaps a little stronger than you might expect when accelerating. The power surge is also deep, drawing from massive batteries that are said to weigh 1,500 pounds. While the acceleration could be called “majestic”, it transitions to “intoxicating” above 40 mph; at around 70mph, Specter feels like it’s just getting started, as if it’s tapping into an endless honeyed source of electrons – an unusual feeling, given that most EVs deliver a punchy off-line response that fades at higher speeds. And while there’s certainly more road noise and random creaking than there will be on the final car, the prototype feels fully capable of delivering an effortless degree of hustle that would make Henry and Charles very satisfied.
With plenty of miles still to go in the development process – Rolls estimates there are a million and a half clicks to go, which includes hot weather and high speed testing – there will no doubt be significant improvements to the package. As it stands, this quarter-complete Specter is a seriously capable prototype that feels quick, isolated and solid in its driver-to-road relationship. We still don’t know if Specter will have a driver-adjustable brake regen setting, or how long it will float before it needs a charge; Rolls-Royce is still working on many of these details. As the marque’s range heads towards full electrification by 2030, one thing is certain: battery power makes Rolls-Royce’s long-standing goal of fast, quiet movement more achievable than never.
This seems good! More details?