The motoring world’s attention has very much been directed in recent times towards the magnificent Rolls-Royce Spectre all-electric coupé and there’s absolutely no question that this is a landmark car in every respect.

Words Tony Whitney

The motoring world’s attention has very much been directed in recent times towards the magnificent Rolls-Royce Spectre all-electric coupé and there’s absolutely no question that this is a landmark car in every respect.

Words Tony Whitney

Publisher’s Note: We bid a sad farewell to Tony Whitney, who has moved on to a better place. After many years of contributing to the motoring column for essential, he will be sorely missed in these pages.

It’s interesting to contemplate that the very first car from the fabled UK ultra-luxury car builder back in 1904 could just as easily have used electricity instead of petrol. Back in the early part of the 20th century electric cars were hugely popular, topping 38 per cent of all cars sold in the US. When the Hon. Charles Rolls and Henry (later Sir Henry) Royce were toiling over their first model, electric cars had been around for over a decade so it’s not difficult to imagine the two great men having a friendly argument regarding ‘petrol or electric’ back in those pioneering days. It is recorded that Rolls did predict the success of electric cars before he even met Royce, but only “when fixed charging stations can be arranged.”

Whatever history records, it’s taken Rolls-Royce a very long time to build a fully electric production car but connoisseurs of the marque will find that the wait has been very much worthwhile. From a basic engineering standpoint the big luxury coupé is based on the current Phantom and the Cullinan SUV.

The bodywork could be described as ‘fastback’ and the configuration is coupé rather than saloon. The car looks a lot like a Rolls-Royce Wraith and, in fact, will replace that model which is being discontinued. It’s a big vehicle for a two-door but the overall appearance is stunning, though with the conservative, rather aristocratic touches expected of a Rolls. It has the rear-hinged ‘suicide’ doors of some other Rolls-Royce models and inside the door, you’ll find a rather fine umbrella cunningly stowed. One detail that’s changed is the famed Spirit of Ecstasy badge atop what for decades was a radiator grille. It’s lowered and more streamlined this time around and according to Rolls-Royce, is closer to the drawings penned during the earliest days of the company.

Technically, the Spectre draws on well-proven EV expertise from parent company BMW, which is no bad thing. Famous Rolls-Royce may be, but it remains a very small company operating at low volume and could never develop the needed EV technology all on its own. Power is supplied by a pair of BMW’s eDrive synchronous electric motors that develop a combined 576-horsepower. Despite the power, the car rides almost silently, which is what Rolls buyers have always sought.

The interior is all it should be and more, incorporating the kind of opulence and seriously luxurious ambiance that this maker has always done so well. There are just four seats with no attempt to provide a cramped central seat in the rear. The quality of the leather and carpeting is almost beyond belief, indicating that a large part of the substantial price tag was devoted to the interior. Naturally, the car has all the expected infotainment and electronic safety aids and most functions are taken care of with a large touch screen at the centre of the dash.

There are some gimmicky features in the cabin like a ‘stars at night’ effect in some of the trim that won’t win much praise from Rolls purists, but for the most part it’s tastefully opulent.

The Spectre represents a new era for Rolls-Royce and there’s little doubt that the production of petrol-engined cars will soon tail off at the long-lived carmaker. The Spectre may not end up being the best super-luxury EV, but for many people, that Rolls-Royce emblem up front will always give it the edge when it comes to sheer prestige.

ENGINE Two BMW eDrive synchronous electric motors.
TRANSMISSION Direct drive.
ACCELERATION Zero to 100 km/h in 4.5-secs.
TOP SPEED 250-km/h.
RANGE around 420-km to 520-km.
I LIKED Unmatched prestige, the ultimate status symbol. Superlative levels of luxury. Impressive performance. Excellent range (if substantiated). Uncannily silent operation.
I DIDN’T LIKE Substantial weight and size. Monstrous price.
MARKET ALTERNATIVES Some buyers in this class will save their money and buy a Mercedes-Benz EQS saloon but the Spectre has no serious competition.
WHO DRIVES ONE? Obviously those with the wherewithal to indulge their tastes at the highest level of the auto industry. Long-time Rolls enthusiasts who will certainly want to give an electric Rolls-Royce a try. Buyers who want a state-of-the-art EV with unmatched prestige.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY Available soon at €380.000.