By Mark Ewing
Possessing the first of anything rare and wondrous is an irresistible temptation. Taking delivery of a Rolls-Royce Spectre in late 2023 will be like having an iPhone in your pocket in June of 2007. Wherever you go, conversations will start.
Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Muller-Ötvös, known to many as TMO, will be spending most of his waking hours this fall, winter and next spring presenting Spectre to both long-time Rolls-Royce clients and potential newcomers.
Early results are in, and oddly enough, most clients are not demanding exhaustive details on the battery-electric powertrain, apparently assuming that Rolls-Royce and the BMW Group have this technology sorted out.
TMO can throw down a 122-year-old quote from Charles Rolls, who funded Henry Royce’s engineering and creation of the company: “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.”
More than a century later, base-load power generation and the grids in North America and Europe do not exist for widespread mainstream adoption of battery-electric vehicles and will not until we have rational politicians in the West who are willing to listen to their engineering corps. But for the lucky few who have advanced charging systems installed at home and live in beautiful bubbles, Spectre holds enormous appeal, guaranteed to gather admirers.
Spectre is a Rolls-Royce, not a reskinned BMW i7, though Spectre could not be possible without access to the BMW Group’s expanding battery-electric technology. Rolls-Royce modified its dedicated alloy spaceframe architecture—shared with the Phantom, Ghost, and Cullinan—to accept the 1500-pound battery pack, electric motors, and attendant plumbing.
Rolls claims that Spectre’s variant of the spaceframe is 30 percent stiffer than in any of its half-brothers thanks to alloy extrusions that secure the supporting battery framework as a stressed member, a reinforcing member. So, Spectre has good bones and should achieve phenomenal results in federal crash testing.
Next, there’s considerable heft. Spectre weighs 6559 lbs., about 1000 pounds more than the V12 Black Badge Ghost I drove a few months ago. Yes, add driver and three slim passengers and Spectre is more than three and a half tons. The massive battery pack—half-again as weighty as the skateboard in other 4-door battery-electric cars—is not only a structural member, but will function as a “sound deadening” element.
Which leads to an engineering challenge faced by all “legacy” companies adapting their understanding of vehicle architecture to battery-electric: when the music of 12 pistons, whirring turbos, a beefy ZF transmission and all those shafts and couplings rotating on their way to the wheels are eliminated, the rumbling noise of tire treads and jouncing suspension arms becomes much more distinct. And V12 music has been supplanted by that signature ringing of electric motors.
Spectre has plenty of sound insulation, with dense blankets and formed inserts, adding further weight, just like in any Roller. Rolls invited a few journalists to cold-weather testing earlier this year—better them than me—but no one other than Rolls engineers have driven a Spectre in its native environment, places like South Florida or my native Los Angeles and the bubble enclaves of coastal California. We won’t have confirmation of Rolls-Royce serenity until Spectre is turned loose in the wild. Not until I have my overly sensitive Lovely Attorney in the passenger seat, and the little ones in child boosters out back. Trust, but verify.
To deliver waftability, Rolls faced another challenge: how to perfectly meter intense, instant-on torque at each wheel to ensure the car never, ever bobs and weaves over rough road surfaces. For that, careful metering of the torque delivered to the wheels, electrically adjustable anti-roll bars, and dampers (shock absorbers) that are also adjusting as the car wafts along.
Spectre’s powertrain produces 664 lb. ft. or torque, identical to the rating of the V12-powered Ghost, and the electric equivalent of 577 horsepower, just shy of the Ghost’s 591. In any luxury car, it’s creamy torque that matters most, ensuring effortless acceleration around town and onto highways. Rolls claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds, one-tenth quicker than a Black Badge Ghost, and quick enough to dust off plebes crowding those lovely flanks to have a look. Considering the car’s considerable weight, that sprinting figure is impressive, a tribute to electric torque and the calibration engineers.
The digitally rendered interior shown here might be a bit much for anyone other than a San Francisco 49er fan—with all that gold perforated leather, the only thing missing is a gold lamé throw pillow—but the images also confirm Spectre will have a Rolls-Royce interior. Note that the seats are as deep and robust as any in a Phantom. A few cars have seats as nice as a Rolls, and no car offers a better chair. For the long-legged and robust like myself, a Rolls is as comfortable as any car on earth.
And size. The limited specifications Rolls-Royce provided had me thinking of the 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe I keep in the warehouse, the car that defined fastback. The wheelbase and overall length are within millimeters of my gorgeous septuagenarian. It is best to think of Spectre as a Phantom Coupe and not a successor to the Wraith.
Rolls-Royce has not yet arranged a Spectre test drive, but based on early information it should prove spectacular in that ever so hushed and effortless Rolls-Royce fashion. We shall see.