The Luxury of Silence
In 1900, Rolls-Royce co-founder Charles Rolls, was already thinking about electric cars. Having acquired an electric vehicle named The Columbia Electric Carriage, he saw its suitability as a clean, noiseless alternative to the internal combustion engine – providing there was sufficient infrastructure to support it. Today, more than 120 years later, Rolls-Royce is fulfilling the prophecy of its founding father, by introducing its first all-electric ultra-luxury car.
The Rolls-Royce Spectre is a two-door coupe, probably the most luxurious two-door available in the world, and it’s a statement piece from the brand. A large luxury SUV powered by electricity would probably sell in bigger numbers, but Rolls-Royce set out to make its first electric vehicle an exclusive exclamation point for the brand. Because the Spectre may be the first fully-electric Rolls, but it won’t be the last; the company has confirmed that by the end of 2030 its entire product portfolio will be fully-electric.
While other high-end brands have struggled with electrification, it’s a perfect fit for Rolls-Royce. Other ultra-expensive coupes from sportier brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini trade on their exciting engine sounds, but Rolls-Royce has always been about smooth, silent running. So not only is moving to electric power seamless, it’s also an enhancement to the traditional Rolls-Royce experience. Drivers will be instantly comforted by the Spectre’s instant torque, silent power and the sense of one imperceptible gear – characteristics that have defined company’s products dating back to the very first Rolls-Royce, the 1904 10 H.P.
Is Ultra-Luxury Compatible with Sustainability?
Designers drew their inspiration from worlds far beyond automotive, including haute couture, modernist sculpture, nautical design, tailoring and contemporary art. The profile of the Spectre is informed by modern yacht concepts. At the front, Spectre’s split LED headlight treatment is intersected by the widest grille ever on a Rolls-Royce. The illuminated vanes of the classic Pantheon grille are smoother and designed to help guide the air around front. It’s topped with a brand-new, aerodynamically-tuned Spirit of Ecstasy mascot. While it’s enormous, the Spectre is also Rolls-Royce’s most aerodynamic car ever, thanks to its dramatic fastback shape.
Inside, Spectre effortlessly combines old-school luxury and the latest technology. It is simple and elegant in design, with all of its tech blending seamlessly into the timeless “furniture.” As with all Rolls-Royce models, the Spectre’s interior offers clients near-infinite possibilities for custom tailoring in colors and materials. For example, the front seat design has been inspired by British tailoring, with lapel sections that can be made in contrasting or matching colours to the main base. Custom stitching, embroidery and intricate piping are just the start of the customization possibilities.
Spectre is also equipped with a completely new digital architecture, which the company calls SPIRIT. SPIRIT manages the car’s functions, and is seamlessly integrated with a smartphone app, allowing clients to interact with their car remotely, and receive live information. Clients are also able to extend their customization beyond the physical world of leather and wood, and into the digital realm. They can also customize the color of the dials to complement their tastes.
The most impressive feature is only seen at night. For the first time, Spectre is available with Starlight Doors, which incorporate 4,796 softly illuminated “stars” in the upholstery. The night-time theme continues with Spectre’s illuminated fascia, which incorporates the Spectre nameplate surrounded by a cluster of over 5,500 stars. Located on the passenger side of the dashboard, the illuminations are completely invisible when the Spectre is not in operation.
The Spectre’s size and features – it’s longer than most luxury cars and as tall as some crossovers, and its interior is slathered in cow hides – pose the question of whether this level of luxury is compatible with its zero-emissions drivetrain. The reality is, however, that even the ultra-rich want to do their part to reduce emissions, and many of them live in urban centers in Europe that will soon ban internal combustion engines. So within that context, the Spectre is necessary for Rolls-Royce’s survival as a brand – and you can’t say they haven’t done an impressive job inside and out.
Spectre is built on Rolls-Royce’s “Architecture of Luxury” – a highly flexible all-aluminum spaceframe architecture that can accommodate gasoline or electric drive. By designing electric into the architecture from the start, the brand’s engineers ensured the continuity of experience for clients from its current portfolio.
For Spectre, Rolls-Royce engineers have further refined the architecture. The integration of the battery into its structure enable Spectre to be 30% stiffer than any previous Rolls-Royce. The size and flexibility of the architecture has also allowed engineers to place the floor halfway between the sill structures. This has allowed a channel for wiring and climate-control pipes between the battery and the floor, with the battery mounted underneath. This creates a low seating position and enveloping cabin, but also enables the battery to act as a massive sound-deadening device to improve cabin silence.
A new “planar suspension” orchestrates a multitude of systems to deliver the brand’s trademark magic-carpet ride. It can decouple the car’s anti-roll bars, allowing each wheel to act independently to prevent the rocking motion that occurs when one side of a vehicle hits an undulation in the road. Once the system senses the car coming up to a corner, it the suspension recouples the components and stiffens the dampers and activates the four-wheel steering system to ensure effortless entry and exit.
320 Miles of Range
The first Spectre models will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2023 – still more than a year away – and Rolls-Royce continues to refine its final power output and specifications. However, the company says that this massive 6,500-pound coupe will waft to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and will deliver an estimated 320 miles of range on the European testing cycle. Expect the EPA rating to be somewhat lower than that number. Expect pricing to exceed $400,000 MSRP, which will make it ineligible for any government incentives.