Rolls-Royce debuts all-electric Spectre, a ghost of EV past & future
As much premonition as apparition, the all-new star-spangled Spectre fulfills a prophecy from Rolls-Royce's distant past while kicking off its future. The ultra-premium marque's first EV debuts as one of the world's most luxurious, fit for what Rolls-Royce identifies as the most demanding customer in all the world. Far from a detriment, electric power will be leveraged toward improving the Rolls-Royce experience, offering a clean, quiet ride with the immediate torque necessary for seamless acceleration and timely point-to-point navigation.
Given its history of unapologetically bloated, luxury-weighted behemoths requiring equally massive V12 engines just to lumber inefficiently from A to B, Rolls-Royce once seemed a good guess for the question "Which automaker will be dead last to electrification?" But today the automaker tries to paint full electrification as its ultimate destiny, declaring itself a prescient force that was contemplating electrics long before the contemporary push.
As Rolls-Royce tells it, company cofounder Charles Rolls identified the advantages of electric vehicle design after acquiring a car named The Columbia Electric Carriage. The year was 1900, and the automobile itself was but a babe.
"The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean," Charles Rolls is quoted. "There is no smell or vibration. They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged."
Those fixed charging stations continue to be arranged, and Rolls-Royce has now taken the first visible step toward fulfilling Charles Rolls' turn-of-that-century prophecy. The new Spectre also makes good on current CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös' promise to bring an electric RR to market within the decade. In fact, Rolls-Royce now finds itself in the position to declare plans to make its entire product portfolio fully electric by 2030.
Perhaps to add illustration to the story that Rolls-Royce and electric powertrains have always gone together like eggs and bacon (or champagne and caviar, we suppose), Rolls' design team avoids blowing up the company's design language and rewriting a new EV language from the rubble. It's described as an "ultra-luxury electric super coupé," but the 215-in (545-cm) Spectre looks like it could easily be the latest V12-powered Rolls-Royce, sharing much in common with current ICE models.
That's not to say nothing's changed. The huge, bold grille – Rolls-Royce's widest ever, in fact – still occupies a large chunk of face below the sculptural "Spirit of Ecstasy." But this time, that grille is a more solid design with smooth vanes meant to push air around the front. The pencil-like headlights that flank the grille have been slimmed down to the point they are barely visible once a little distance exists between car and camera.
That's not just any old ecstatic spirit ready for takeoff on the pinnacle of the thick grille upper. Rolls spent no fewer than 830 hours carefully modeling, re-sculpting and wind tunnel testing the statuesque hood ornament for aerodynamic performance, helping the car achieve a Rolls-Royce-best 0.25 drag coefficient.
Once Spectre passengers have fully maneuvered the counterintuitive coach door/2+2 setup to get seated, they'll find themselves immersed in a dazzling display of night sky mimicry. The Rolls starry headliner we've seen for years is joined by the series production launch of "Starlight Doors" and a starry passenger-side "Spectre" panel on the dashboard. Rolls-Royce says it uses more than 10,000 stars for the doors and dash alone, before even factoring in the sparkling canvas overhead.
The Spectre's digital cockpit runs on a new "Spirit" software architecture extended into the field via a "Whispers" mobile app. Not only does the app provide remote monitoring and control of specific Spectre systems and features, it also entitles the owner to "live information curated by the marque’s luxury intelligence specialists" – so take that, Joneses.
Rolls-Royce has a ways to go before finalizing powertrain or performance specs, but it estimates an electric drive output of up to 577 hp (430 kW) and 664 lb-ft (900-Nm) of torque. An estimated WLTP range of 323 miles (520 km) and consumption of 2.9 miles/kWh put battery pack size around 111 kWh, lending to a preliminary curb weight of 6,560 lb (2,975-kg). Rolls also estimates a 0-60-mph time of 4.4 seconds and 0-100 km/h of 4.5 seconds.
Rolls-Royce has opened up the Spectre commission books but won't begin deliveries until Q4 2023. Between now and then, it will continue an exhaustive testing regimen set to put 2.5 million kilometers on pre-production Spectre cars.