Test drive the first Rolls-Royce EV

A Rolls-Royce rarely needs much introduction, and the new Specter requires even fewer words. It’s the first electric Roller, and that’s really all you need to know.

For most other manufacturers, this groundbreaking development would require a deep technology dive into battery capacity, charging speed, system voltage and perhaps a diagram of a permanently energized synchronous electric motor. But a Specter buyer doesn’t have to worry about that. Instead, all they need to know is this: Because it’s electric, this Rolls-Royce is quieter and smoother – and therefore more of a Rolls-Royce – than any other.

That is it. That’s the sales pitch. Follow-up questions? Well, because it’s electric, you’re also quick off the track, but not combative. The massive battery and pair of electric motors produce the kind of torque I imagine an aircraft carrier might be capable of, and with the extension of your toe you’ll soon feel a similar amount of momentum. For a two-door car, the Specter is truly enormous. The 102 kWh battery pack is heavier than some entire cars; the doors each take up a large portion of an additional parking space when fully opened.

There’s an edge to it, though, despite the scale. It clearly belongs to today’s RR family, but the shallower headlights and revised grille inject a dose of fresh DNA into the mix. The Specter is nicely proportioned, at least to my eyes, and pulls off that clever car design trick of being suitable for a huge range of colors and specifications. The main image of this article is the car I was driving, with its peach morganite bodywork contrasted with a gray hood, roof and C-pillars. It’s a striking color scheme without being vulgar, but more discreet buyers will be happy to know that the Specter looks just as good in plain old green, as pictured below.

Prices start at around $420,000, but you can easily trade the four for a five if you indulge in the kind of customization Rolls-Royce is known for.

Those gigantic doors hinge backwards, as is Rolls-Royce tradition, and make it easy enough for the rear passengers to clamber aboard – and they can be full-fledged passengers too, while looking like the kind of 2+2 sports car the rear seats are only best for under-12s, the Specter’s scale belies its styling and there’s plenty of room in the back. However, you would never ask your driver to drive the Specter. That’s what the Phantom is for, so basically it’s an electric family car, or a zero-emissions way to get to the golf club.

Press the brake pedal to close the electric door and you’re greeted with an interior that’s almost exactly the same as every other car Rolls-Royce currently sells. From the massive metal door handles to the perfectly damped organ-stop style ventilation controls, the delicate gear lever lever, the central volume knob and the Rolls-branded BMW iDrive infotainment system, it’s all very familiar. That’s not a bad thing, though, because Rolls-Royce interiors are beautiful places to be – and yes, the thick wool floor mats and branded umbrellas deployed from the front fenders are present and correct. You’d think the switchgear would feel outdated by now, but somehow it still feels just right.

The only difference in the cabin is how the analogue dials have been replaced with a digital display. The user interface is beautiful and partially mimics physical gauges, but also looks modern enough for a new EV. There’s a speedometer front and center, flanked by a dial showing battery percentage and range on one side. On the other side is an electric power reserve meter, whose pointer moves down from 100 to zero when the driver accelerates, or goes past 100 while coasting, using regenerative braking and pushing energy back into the battery.

I start my day with the Specter at Rolls-Royce’s newly renovated Sunningdale dealership, a short drive west of London and close to affluent Ascot and the private Wentworth estate. I steer the nose out of the parking lot, led by Spirit of Ecstasy’s famous hood ornament, Eleanor, who on the Specter is sleeker than other models, crouched lower, seemingly braced against a bigger headwind.

As with all modern Rolls, the Spectre’s enormous presence quickly disappears once you get behind the wheel. I don’t know how, but Rolls-Royces always do this; the intimidation disappears as soon as you leave. It’s a big car – a frighteningly expensive one at that – but it’s agile, it makes you look comfortable and it’s on your side. Just try to avoid London’s limited width, which in some cases is squeezed in by restrictive barriers to a dangerous 6 feet, and you’ll be fine.

Once your brain has adjusted to the proportions (something this Mazda Miata driver can do for a few miles), it is the silence that takes center stage. All Rolls-Royces are quiet – you’ve probably heard the old advertisements that say the dashboard clock makes the loudest noise at 60mph – but the Specter is almost eerie. I’m driving on a pretty horrible February day. The roads, which already resemble a potholed and broken moonscape due to the freezing and thawing of winter, are covered in deep puddles, with the rainfall and the slope creating rivers that flow over the road. Yet the Specter and I hardly notice.

The enormous weight helps with this, making the car feel stable and as if it can simply push aside large bodies of water in a Biblical way. With a driver on board, it tips the scales at almost 6,600 pounds, or almost three tons. There’s always a sense of weight and momentum, but the 577 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque help obscure the bulk, as does the mass of effortless thrust produced by electric motors in most EVs. The Specter will sprint to 62mph in 4.2 seconds if you really want it to, and on winding country roads it’s surprisingly enjoyable, but at a motorway cruise it feels much more comfortable. Here the silence is all-consuming, the sound system is world-class, the leather is buttery (smells wonderful too) and the ride comfort is second to none. The famous ‘starlight’ LEDs twinkle above me and the occasional shooting star streaks across the headliner.

It’s the kind of car you can drive in comfort all day, but concerns about electric range remain. The Specter I drove started the day with a 100 percent charge and a stated range of 420 kilometers – slightly less than the claimed 321 kilometers according to the WLTP test cycle used here in Europe, but right on the 420 kilometers of the more stringent EPA cycle used in Europe. The United States.

Maximum charging power is a decent 195 kW and a 10 to 80 percent top-up would take between 30 and 40 minutes. A long car journey with well-planned stops at high-speed chargers is therefore perfectly possible, but I can imagine that most Specter drivers charge at home and only drive to known locations that are within easy reach. The golf club, the country club, your Hamptons holiday home, the children’s school or a trusted hotel with facilities at an overnight price. Those kind of things.

It’s not a hyper-miling range king built to go further than any other. But spending an hour or two in a Spectre’s sanctuary, with the cozy welcome of a private members club at the end, feels like a wonderful way to start driving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *