A magic carpet ride – testing Rolls-Royce’s new All-Electric Spectre
By Fiona Sanderson
Two years ago, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars made an historic announcement, declaring its commitment to electric technology: in 2023, the brand would launch its first-fully electric car, and by the end of 2030, the marque’s entire portfolio of cars will be all-electric.
So it was that I found myself bound for Goodwood, the home of Rolls-Royce, to test drive the all-electric Spectre – the world’s first electric ultra-luxury coupé. Since the marque’s momentous announcement, Spectre has been on quite the journey towards electrification. However, despite its contemporary functionality, I was pleased to see that the car maintains all the quality, craftsmanship and luxury for which Rolls-Royce is world-renowned.
The precedent for using electricity as a way to power vehicles is actually not a new one. Indeed, in the early 1900s, car manufacturers initially considered using electricity as the main means of propulsion. However, electric power was essentially disregarded for two reasons: extremely limited range and the absence of a charging infrastructure. A century later, and these reasons are no longer the barriers to producing electric vehicles that they once were.
In fact, the characteristics that first drew engineers to electric power – silent operation, instant torque and the absence of exhaust fumes – remain highly alluring. It has even been speculated that, if Sir Henry Royce had been able to solve the range and charging issues, he might have chosen electric power alone for his motor cars.
Before setting off for my test drive, I was given a full briefing and a design walkabout of Spectre by Rolls-Royce Project Manager Rhodri Good, who highlighted the features that the electric Spectre now boasts over her petrol-engined predecessors. As a real devotee of the Rolls-Royce Ghost, I was curious to see how the new all-electric Spectre compares to Ghost’s 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine.
Once behind the wheel, however, I was surprised – and pleasantly so – to find that there is little difference between Spectre and Rolls-Royce’s non-electric models. Even the lack of noise didn’t faze me, as I have always found Rolls-Royce cars to be rather quiet vehicles.
Specifically, as the electric model is largely silent, and cleverly understanding that the most discerning of their clients rather enjoy the roar of a combustion engine, Spectre’s design team has even built a button into the car which, when pressed, gives the same sound as a V12. As with the rest of the car, its new seats have been designed with customisation in mind, with interior elements such as the door cards available with optional wood Canadel Panelling. The Spectre’s infotainment system has also seen a complete overhaul, with the new SPIRIT system allowing for new remote functions.
Driving through the countryside in this electric beauty was a real joy, even if – this being England in the Autumn – I had wet roads and windy conditions to contend with. However, I found Spectre to be sturdy and smooth, giving me a real sense of total control and precision. I even managed to experience her really fast-acceleration on the open roads.
Although still wide, its manoeuvrability is easy, and it really does feel like a magic carpet ride. Meanwhile, the interior design and seating make you feel that you are cocooned in the ultimate comfort, pushing refinement and luxury to another level.
On route, we stopped for a welcome lunch at Heckfield Place, a luxury hotel which was originally a Georgian family home, set in the heart of Hampshire. The setting could have come straight from out of a Jane Austen novel.
The culinary direction at Heckfield comes from Skye Gyngell, and the philosophy is very much “farm to fork.” Produce is grown in the estate’s gardens, with dishes inspired by the seasons and the menus led by nature’s larder. All of which made for an utterly delicious, flavourful experience.
Before long, I was back out on the road again, determined to get as much driving time as I could before the heavens opened once more. Some may feel Rolls-Royce is making a bold move with their decision to go all-electric, but for a marque that has built its reputation on pioneering luxury, I wouldn’t be so quick to bet against them. Now, when will the Ghost be available as an electric model?