Early taste of luxury marque’s debut electric model suggests it remains every bit the Roller.
That Rolls-Royce says the development of the Spectre is only 25 per cent complete is testament to just how high its standards are for comfort and isolation, as it already has a ride comfort and noise isolation that many a premium saloon would be proud of after just a few short weeks in testing on the road.
That much is clear from the passenger seat of Spectre test mule number six, where we’re sat alongside Jörg Wunder, head of projects at Rolls-Royce, for a short drive on some of the icy roads on the outskirts of Arjeplog, on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Sweden. Wunder is happy with progress so far. “It has been a successful season, absolutely,” he says. “The car is good for the early stages, with the right DNA.”
From the passenger seat, that DNA seems to be carried over from any other Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royces are the quietest and most comfortable cars out there; it’s a tick in that box based on this early progress. There is also effortless on-demand torque – something that Wunder delights in demonstrating – and safe, predictable handling, which also seems to be the case here as he calmly steers around the slipperiest of corners, the car feeling confident and stable throughout.
Is there the temptation to dial up the handling of the Spectre, given just how much performance is likely offered by the Spectre’s electric drivetrain and the sophistication of its chassis systems?
“It’s a coupe, so we want it to handle, but it needs to be comfortable,” he answers.
“Extremely sporty is not for our clients. We need to lean on comfort, we need to make the steering extremely precise and you should feel safe by driving the car, not the car driving you.”
Testing is of course much more than dynamic set-up; it’s about making sure the car’s complex systems work as they should in all conditions and environments.
“We have a feeling and prognosis of how it will work in hot conditions as well, but we now need to get there and test it,” says Wunder.
A key part of the development team is Martin Christie, senior engineer at Rolls-Royce and a man who has been involved in the development and set-up of every car to come from Goodwood. He says he is “like a child with lots of new toys” now that the firm is making the switch to electric, and the possibilities this opens up for the firm to push even further the boundaries of comfort, quietness and refinement. “It’s almost ludicrous what you can do,” he says.
One of the developments still up for discussion in the development of the Spectre is exactly what noise the car will emit on the outside to alert pedestrians to its presence and just how quiet it will be inside.
Rolls-Royce models are famed for their quiet, calming operation, but the absence of an engine and an exhaust system in the Spectre should help take that to the next level. Indeed, absolute silence was a possibility inside the cabin – but not a totally desirable option.
“Contributing to noise are the exhaust, engine, wind and the tyres,” says director of engineering Mihiar Ayoubi. “This does without the first two of them.
“We could give the customer the option of a noise or silence. We could even get real silence. But the problem with absolute silence is that people can’t stand it forever; you need a minimum amount of noise.”
Of the remaining wind and tyre noise, Rolls-Royce is already developing an aerodynamic package to help reduce the wind noise as much as possible and discussing with tyre suppliers options. Ayoubi jokes that the company’s requirements led to “our suppliers not liking to work with us any more!”
He adds: “We’re demanding. Tyres are the only connection point to the road. They have to do a huge amount: efficiency, acoustic, safety, braking, driving dynamics. And then Rolls-Royce comes along and says they’re not perfect enough.”