Rolls-Royce four-seat electric model will launch next year with bold design and tech.
The new Rolls-Royce Spectre will be launched next year as the British luxury brand’s first electric production car, promising refinement and performance on a par with – if not superior to – today’s combustion-powered models while introducing bold new design cues and advanced technical capabilities.
Based on Rolls-Royce’s aluminium Architecture of Luxury platform – and thus unrelated to parent company BMW’s range-topping EVs – the Spectre arrives as part of a rapid-fire electrification initiative that will result in the West Sussex firm phasing out its V12 engine and selling only electric cars from 2030.
Company CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös told Automotive Daily Network partner Autocar that, in this sense, the Spectre is as important as the 1906 Silver Ghost – Rolls-Royce’s first production effort, hailed by Autocar’s contemporary road testers as “the best car in the world”.
Available to order now, it will be, he says, “the third pillar” of Rolls-Royce’s line-up in volume terms, slotting in price-wise between the best-selling Cullinan SUV and Ghost to fill the gap left by the now-retired Dawn and Wraith two-door duo. A basic starting price of around $500,000 is expected, but Müller-Ötvös noted that the average transaction price of one of his firm’s cars is closer to $1 million.
The Spectre arrives 11 years after the one-off 102EX, an electric prototype based on the Phantom VII that previewed the attributes of future Rolls-Royce EVs. Compared with that concept’s experimental underpinnings, though, the Spectre represents a significant leap in performance and usability.
Rolls-Royce will release official homologated figures once testing ends in the second quarter of 2023, but it predicts a range of 520km between charges – far higher than that of the 102EX – courtesy of a 120kWh battery (one of the largest of any production EV) that is capable of charging at speeds of up to 195kW.
Meanwhile, with 430kW and 900Nm on tap, the Spectre is well placed to take on today’s most potent road-going EVs, with a promised 0-100km/h time in the region of 4.5sec.
Although the Spectre is described as a spiritual successor to the two-door Rolls Royce Phantom Coupé, which bowed out in 2016, it is otherwise unrelated to that car, because all Rolls-Royce EVs will be totally new propositions, rather than electrified re-workings of existing combustion cars.
Müller-Ötvös said: “It would have been easy to go with a converted Ghost or whatever, but we never intended any conversions. We always wanted to build a real electric Rolls-Royce, designed from the very beginning to be an electric Rolls-Royce and not a compromised conversion car.”
He strongly hinted that the Cullinan and Ghost – the firm’s two most popular models – will return in “series two” form (Rolls-Royce parlance for facelifted), keeping the petrol V12, but the electric equivalents to these two cars, due on sale by 2030, will be fundamentally different products.
Despite its radically different underpinnings – and its alleged billing as the first “ultra-luxury super-coupé” on the market – the Spectre is unmistakably a Rolls-Royce, from its expansive, illuminated chrome grille (the widest that the firm has yet installed) to its rear-hinged doors, slim LED headlights and imposing, cab-back silhouette.
However, the electric powertrain has necessitated an enhanced focus on aerodynamic efficiency, hence the slightly more rounded front end and boat-style rear. Rolls-Royce claims a drag coefficient of 0.25 Cd, the same as a Tesla Model X. The Spirit of Ecstasy – mascot for the brand since 1911 – has even been subtly redesigned to minimise its impact on airflow over the leading edge of the bonnet.
Rolls-Royce also highlights the way the Spectre’s bodywork curves inwards along the sills, which reflects the road passing underneath to give “an uncomplicated sense of motion” similar to the hull of a racing yacht, and sweeps upwards towards the front end of the car to give the impression of an accelerating boat.
“In going electric, we wanted to go with a truly emotional car. That’s the reason we decided on a fastback coupé,” MüllerÖtvös said of the Spectre’s bodystyle, which is unlike any other car currently on sale.
Tipping the scales at 2975kg, the Spectre is comfortably Rolls-Royce’s heaviest car yet, but extensive re-engineering for electrification means it is also the stiffest – and has the firm’s most advanced suspension system to date.
The Spectre’s EV-specific chassis represents what the company calls ‘Rolls-Royce 3.0’ – the third iteration of its bespoke architecture since launching the previous-gen Phantom in 2003. The priority for this structure was to offer a “continuity of experience from its current portfolio”, meaning refinement and dynamic capability on a par with the Ghost, Phantom and Cullinan.
The use of extruded aluminium sections and integrating the battery into the vehicle structure results in a 30% boost in stiffness, according to the company. The added benefits of an under-floor battery also include a totally flat cabin floor, low seating position and “almost 700kg of sound deadening” between the occupants and the road.
“The way waftability is delivered in a Spectre is different from what you would experience in a Ghost or a Cullinan,” said Müller-Ötvös. “You’re not going into any Tesla-style ‘Ludicrous’ modes or whatever, but the car wafts in an unexperienced way: spectacular.”
An intrinsic part of the car’s bespoke make-up is its Planar Suspension, adapted from that of the Ghost, which uses a suite of high-speed processors to monitor road conditions and driver inputs to deliver Rolls-Royce’s trademark ‘magic carpet’ ride quality. It can automatically disconnect the roll bars to allow each wheel to act independently – thereby preventing rocking over uneven surfaces – and when a corner is approaching, it stiffens the dampers, reconnects the roll bars and primes the rear-wheel steering system for “effortless entry and exit”.
“There is no greater luxury than space,” says Rolls-Royce, touting the expansive and decadently appointed Spectre’s cabin as testament to the brand’s inherent readiness for electrification.
Despite the lack of rear doors, the Rolls Royce Spectre is, said Müller-Ötvös, categorically a four-seater rather than a 2+2, “and for that reason I would say very capable in transporting even more than just two: you can take your friends with you”.
At 5453mm long and with a wheelbase of 3210mm, the Spectre is slightly longer than the Wraith and the lack of a transmission tunnel should enable a tangible increase in cabin space.
Continuing a theme common to recent special-edition RollsRoyce models, the Spectre’s interior is strikingly decorated with a raft of intricate and technologically complex motifs inspired by the night sky. The optional Starlight door panels, for example, contain 5876 miniature LED lights representing stars, while the interactive dashboard panel in front of the passenger seat displays the car’s name surrounded by a cluster of more than 5500 star icons when the car is stationary – a function engineers spent more than 10,000 hours developing.
But more significant are the advances in functionality promised by Rolls-Royce’s new-generation infotainment platform, called Spirit. Compatible with a dedicated Whispers smartphone app, Spirit allows Spectre owners to control various functions remotely, access live journey and vehicle data and “extend their bespoke commission beyond the physical world and into the digital architecture that underpins Spirit”. This hints at the growing importance of digital personalisation opportunities for Rolls-Royce buyers.
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Essentially, Spirit is based on BMW’s eighth-generation iDrive platform, as found in the iX and i7, with a bespoke Rolls-Royce interface applied. However, Müller-Ötvös emphasised that the Spectre is only very loosely linked to its German cousins: “I would call it the sense of our founding father Henry Royce, who said: ‘Take the best that exists and make it even better.’ I think that’s exactly the way we engineer Rolls-Royces in cooperation with the BMW Group. One thing is for sure: this is a Rolls-Royce, not an amended BMW at all.
“Our clients have technical understandings that they can clearly differentiate between what is a mass-manufactured car and what is a true and authentic Rolls-Royce. And for that reason, we clearly decided to go a very, very different route to the BMW Group with their bodies and technology.”
Every future Rolls Royce “will be built in Goodwood”
Rolls-Royce remains ardently committed to its Sussex-based staff and production operations, pledging to stay true to its British roots – even as it ushers in radically different technologies and caters to soaring global demand.
The firm’s Goodwood site employs more than 2000 people and is set to expand further as it nudges the upper limits of its production capacity, with a record-breaking 5586 cars leaving the gates in 2021. But Goodwood and its staff will remain central to any expansion plans, according to CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös.
“I would never give this up,” he said, referring to the firm’s ‘Britishness’, “and I can tell you our clients love that we are based in West Sussex.” After the pandemic, he said, there was huge demand from clients to visit Goodwood, reinforcing the brand’s position as a “crown jewel of the British industry”.
“So there is no plan to build cars in China – or somewhere else in the world,” said Müller-Ötvös. “Rolls-Royces will be built in Goodwood. 100 per cent. That’s it. And with British craftspeople. And I can tell you I’m very proud about it.”
Having announced its electrification plans a few years ago, Rolls-Royce “had ample time” to “re-engineer the skill base” of its existing workforce, particularly with a focus on software, data analytics and EV powertrain integration. Training up staff was important, said MüllerÖtvös, because Rolls-Royce will be in a ‘transformative phase’ until 2030, with a dual focus on ICE and EV power.
He also said the firm has a stable and secure supply chain in place, feeding its Goodwood production lines.