HomeBusinessWe take an exclusive first passenger ride in Rolls-Royce's Spectre EV

We take an exclusive first passenger ride in Rolls-Royce’s Spectre EV


With stunningly powerful but controlled acceleration I was whooshing silently, smoothly and at high speed across a remote ice and snow-bound landscape within just 34 miles of the Arctic Circle.

As surrounding trees flashed by, the constantly active suspension and clever on-board electronics ironed out creases and bumps in the slippery surface beneath to create a surprisingly seamless drive amid the beautiful lakes and forests of the farthest reaches of Northern Sweden.

It was an exhilarating drive in an extreme climate where temperatures can drop to below minus 26C, and where cars are even tested in special refrigeration units at minus 40C in this amazing yet little known automotive ‘Ice Station Zebra’ called Arjeplog.

Rolling in the deep… snow: This is Rolls-Royce’s first electric car that won’t be delivered to customers for another 12 months. Ray Massey has travelled to within just 34 miles of the Arctic Circle to have a ride in a pre-production prototype model

But this was no ordinary car.

I had just become the very first journalist – and the first ‘civilian’ outside of Rolls-Royce – to experience first-hand an exclusive ride in the new green all-electric Rolls-Royce Spectre – the first zero-emissions battery-powered limousine from the world’s most luxurious car-maker, before it reaches well-heeled customers in the final quarter of next year priced at around £400,000.

I was riding shot-gun in the passenger seat of an early test prototype – and only the sixth car built – of what the British luxury car-maker calls its new ‘electric super-coupe’ as it came to the end of its extensive winter testing programme before the hot-weather trials get fully underway. 

In total it is undergoing more than 1.5 million miles (2.5million kilometres) of testing to simulate the equivalent of 400 years of use.

A small exclusive party of just six media had made the special three hour charter flight and hour-long drive to the tiny village of Arjeplog in Swedish Lapland where Rolls-Royce and parent company BMW have a dedicated testing facility for their cars, including the next electric Mini.

But mine was the very first posterior on the Spectre’s leather hide as it tore elegantly through the near arctic landscape. And it is an especially significant experience as Rolls-Royce says its entire range will be battery powered by 2030 as each new model comes on stream. 

The test car is an early prototype ¿ and only the sixth built - of what the British luxury car-maker calls its new 'electric super-coupe' as it came to the end of its extensive winter testing programme before the hot-weather trials get fully underway

The test car is an early prototype – and only the sixth built – of what the British luxury car-maker calls its new ‘electric super-coupe’ as it came to the end of its extensive winter testing programme before the hot-weather trials get fully underway

In total it is undergoing more than 1.5 million miles (2.5million kilometres) of testing to simulate the equivalent of 400 years of use

In total it is undergoing more than 1.5 million miles (2.5million kilometres) of testing to simulate the equivalent of 400 years of use

A light camouflage on the bodywork ¿ using quotes from founders the Honourable Charles Rolls and engineering genius Sir Henry Royce who began his career as an electrical engineer ¿ do not disguise the silhouette

A light camouflage on the bodywork – using quotes from founders the Honourable Charles Rolls and engineering genius Sir Henry Royce who began his career as an electrical engineer – do not disguise the silhouette

What’s it like being chauffeured in the new all-electric Rolls-Royce Spectre? 

Although at first blush it resembles a Wraith, it’s being pitched as a spiritual successor to the stylish Phantom Coupe – and with similar proportions. It has a very commanding presence with rakish fastback and surprisingly low slung look.

Rolls-Royce Spectre: Will it fit in my garage? 

Built: Goodwood, near Chichester, England

On test: Now with more than 1.5 million miles (2.5m kilometres) to simulate the equivalent of 400 years of use

First customer deliveries: Last quarter 2023

Price: circa £400,000

Style: Fastback ‘super coupe’  that will be the spiritual successor to Phantom Coupe

Length: 5.6metres (estimate)

Width: 1.9metres (estimate

Height: 1.5metres (estimate)

Weight: 2.7 tonnes (est)

Propulsion: Two electric motors – one driving each axle

Battery: Sits on the underside of the car’s frame giving it a low centre of gravity and contributes towards 700kg of sound-deadening to reduce noise coming up from the road

0 to 62mph: circa 5 seconds (est)

Top speed: Limited to 155mph (expected)

Wheels: 23 inch (largest on a coupe since the 1926 Bugatti Royale)   

A light camouflage on the bodywork – using quotes from founders the Honourable Charles Rolls and engineering genius Sir Henry Royce who began his career as an electrical engineer – do not disguise the silhouette. 

Beneath the tape are ‘split’ headlamps.

The two-door fastback features rear-hinged doors that open outwards. 

From the front seat of the enveloping and cocooning cabin it’s like sitting in a luxurious cockpit with a rakishly low windscreen and seating position, and forward leaning stance.

Some of the interior detailing was covered but enough poked through the deep dashboard for me to know you can expect the highest quality of trim. 

And there was a surprising amount of space in the rear. 

My driver for the trip was jovial Spectre project leader Juerg Wunder – ‘Mr Wonder’ – who said: ‘You’re the very first civilian outside of Rolls-Royce to experience this’.

And we were off.

Powered by two electric motors –-one on each axle giving all-wheel drive – acceleration is powerful but smooth, controlled and refined, not at all jerky. It’s sporty without being sports-car.

As we nudged 80mph on the icy roads, it felt firm and secure. Very comfortable and relaxing. And amazingly quiet. 

The Spectre is almost silent. Not totally so – this is a prototype and there are still adjustments to be made.

But for a battery-powered electric fastback weighing nearly three tonnes swishing elegantly from rest to 60mph in not many seconds (Rolls-Royce are keeping tight lipped on that) it’s quite an engineering achievement. Especially when filling boots as big as a gargantuan but silky smooth V12 petrol engine. 

Our behind-the-scenes exclusive access means we've had a first-hand experience of the new car being put through gruelling assessments

Our behind-the-scenes exclusive access means we’ve had a first-hand experience of the new car being put through gruelling assessments

The prototype already has the newly designed - and more aerodynamically tuned - 'Spirit of Ecstasy' flying lady at its prow

The prototype already has the newly designed – and more aerodynamically tuned – ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ flying lady at its prow

This might be the dirtiest Rolls-Royce you've ever seen. While its cars belonging to the ultra-wealthy are usually kept glistening, there's not time for soap and suds for the test mules we've been riding in

This might be the dirtiest Rolls-Royce you’ve ever seen. While its cars belonging to the ultra-wealthy are usually kept glistening, there’s not time for soap and suds for the test mules we’ve been riding in

We are among the first journalists ¿ and the first 'civilians' outside of Rolls-Royce ¿ to experience first-hand an exclusive ride in the electric Rolls-Royce Spectre ¿ the first zero-emissions battery-powered limo from the world's most luxurious car firm

We are among the first journalists – and the first ‘civilians’ outside of Rolls-Royce – to experience first-hand an exclusive ride in the electric Rolls-Royce Spectre – the first zero-emissions battery-powered limo from the world’s most luxurious car firm

How far can it go on a full charge? 

Rolls-Royce have been coy about its range. 

Owners won’t want to do a 400-mile run from London to Edinburgh on one charge. And they are unlikely to recharge en route – they’ll fly, says the firm. 

But I’m assured it’ll be sufficient to allow owners to move around urban areas and cities, to the airport and back, and from central London up to their country retreats in the Cotswolds, or from Munich down to the lakes. Most charging will be done at home or at the office.

Performance figures aren’t yet available. 

It is still an work-in progress test model. But based on my experience they’ll be more than adequate. 

Top speed is likely to be capped at 155mph but I’d guess spirited but smooth 0-62mph acceleration at around five seconds.

And of course zero emissions. 

The Spectre name follows the pattern of ethereal Rolls-Royce names ¿ like Phantom, Ghost and Wraith ¿ though its announcement cheekily coincided with the screening of the latest James Bond movie 'No Time to Die' ¿ in which 007's criminal nemesis group is also called 'Spectre'

The Spectre name follows the pattern of ethereal Rolls-Royce names – like Phantom, Ghost and Wraith – though its announcement cheekily coincided with the screening of the latest James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ – in which 007’s criminal nemesis group is also called ‘Spectre’

There's no questioning that the Rolls-Royce Spectre is suitably imposing. It looks and feels like a proper Roller

There’s no questioning that the Rolls-Royce Spectre is suitably imposing. It looks and feels like a proper Roller

How does switching to electric change the form of an iconic Roller?

Spectre will also be the first Rolls-Royce coupé since the 1926 Bugatti Royale to be equipped with 23-inch wheels, though the Winter tyres on mine were 22-inch.

Being electric, there is no vast petrol engine taking up space the elongated bonnet in front. But the liberated volume is being used to host key electrics and wiring – there will be no ‘frunk’ or ‘front trunk’ for extra storage. Not Rolls-Royce style.

However, it does have the newly designed and more aerodynamically tuned ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ flying lady at its prow. And if the standard version of the Spectre is not racy enough, there will be a bespoke Black Badge version too, Rolls-Royce confirmed.

The Spectre name follows the pattern of ethereal Rolls-Royce names – like Phantom, Ghost and Wraith – though its announcement cheekily coincided with the screening of the latest James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ – in which 007’s criminal nemesis group is also called ‘Spectre’.

Its new flexible aluminium ‘space-frame’ chassis allows for a remodelling of the traditional architecture. Batteries under the floor – made up of groups cassette-like cells in trays – don’t just provide rechargeable power. 

Their presence helps lower the centre of gravity of the car making it stable. But they also contribute to some 700kg of sound-deadening to reduce noise coming up from the road. I’ve been to the BMW factory in Dingolfing which makes them, as well as for the iX SUV and i4 coupe.

Despite its imposing physical and dynamic presence, Rolls-Royce say the Spectre is still in its infancy. 

Although all the key engineering is complete, it now has to be ‘taught’ to ‘think and behave’ like a proper Rolls-Royce – and that means carefully finessing and tweaking myriad physical and increasingly digital components. With its education only around a quarter complete, it’s now attending ‘finishing school’ – with some behavioural therapy thrown in – to bring it fully up to muster, they say.

Describing how they were educating Spectre, Rolls-Royce engineering director Mihiar Ayoubi said: ‘We are teaching our new Spectre how to become a Rolls-Royce. It’s still learning to walk. It’s in its infancy.

‘Our task is to teach each component and system how to think, behave and communicate like a Rolls-Royce, which sees much of the engineering pivot from workshops into the digital space.

‘Here in Arjeplog we have built a significant foundation on which we will create a true Rolls-Royce.

‘I think our co-founder Henry Royce would be proud.’

Testing takes place not only on snow and ice-bound roads, but also on frozen lakes - and there's a particular reason for this...

Testing takes place not only on snow and ice-bound roads, but also on frozen lakes – and there’s a particular reason for this…

Rolls-Royce explains: 'When the first prototypes are built, engineers perform very basic tests in extreme conditions to ensure that each system is operational and functions at a basic level in a cold weather environment'

Rolls-Royce explains: ‘When the first prototypes are built, engineers perform very basic tests in extreme conditions to ensure that each system is operational and functions at a basic level in a cold weather environment’

Why did we venture all the way to the Article Circle to ride in one? 

Testing takes place not only on snow and ice-bound roads, but also on frozen lakes. But why test on ice?

Rolls-Royce explains: ‘When the first prototypes are built, engineers perform very basic tests in extreme conditions to ensure that each system is operational and functions at a basic level in a cold weather environment. This test is combined with the beginnings of the refinement process – the first ‘lessons’ in a finishing school.’

This includes noise, vibration and harshness tests, the efficiency of the motor car’s heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling systems.

But driving on ice can also slow down or ‘de-escalate time’ says the luxury firm: ‘By driving on low traction surfaces such as snow and ice and wilfully destabilising Spectre, the engineers can create dynamic circumstances at low speeds that would ordinarily occur at high speeds.’

By driving on low traction surfaces such as snow and ice and wilfully destabilising Spectre, the engineers can create dynamic circumstances at low speeds that would ordinarily occur at high speeds, Rolls-Royce says

By driving on low traction surfaces such as snow and ice and wilfully destabilising Spectre, the engineers can create dynamic circumstances at low speeds that would ordinarily occur at high speeds, Rolls-Royce says

Rolls-Royce say Spectre is their most significant car since founders Rolls and Royce agreed on May 4 1904 to create 'the best car in the world'

Rolls-Royce say Spectre is their most significant car since founders Rolls and Royce agreed on May 4 1904 to create ‘the best car in the world’

Ray Massey pictured with the test mule he road shotgun in recently with the cars being used in freezing conditions

Ray Massey pictured with the test mule he road shotgun in recently with the cars being used in freezing conditions

This can be reviewed in slow motion to ‘finesse’ cold-weather vehicle performance in areas such as chassis control, handling, stability, predictability, powertrain management, electronics, and the near indefinable ‘waftability’. 

Silence is a science too. Neither Rolls-Royce nor its customers will not wear distracting noise. But make it perfectly silent and it can feel disorienting. Drivers and occupants need some feedback. So there’s a fine balance to be struck.

As a cutting edge car of the 21st century, Spectre is also highly digitised and the most ‘connected’ Rolls-Royce ever, packed with ‘intelligent’ components. Its electronic nervous system has more than 141,200 links. 

There are 1,000 electronic functions and 25,000 subsidiary functions. That means nearly 4.5 miles (7 kilometres) of wiring, compared to 1.25 miles (2 kilometres) in petrol driven Rolls-Royces, and 25 times more programmes or algorithms.

Rolls-Royce is yet to announce the driving range of the Spectre on a single charge. However, bosses said its customers tend to cover long domestic journeys by helicopter or private jet, not road

Rolls-Royce is yet to announce the driving range of the Spectre on a single charge. However, bosses said its customers tend to cover long domestic journeys by helicopter or private jet, not road

We are assured the range is sufficient to allow owners to move around urban areas and cities, to the airport and back, and from central London up to their country retreats in the Cotswolds

We are assured the range is sufficient to allow owners to move around urban areas and cities, to the airport and back, and from central London up to their country retreats in the Cotswolds

Spectre is ‘the most significant car’ in Rolls-Royce’s 118-year history 

Based at its boutique factory at Goodwood near Chichester in West Sussex, Rolls-Royce say Spectre is their most significant car since founders Rolls and Royce agreed on May 4 1904 to create ‘the best car in the world’.

They also point out that Rolls was an earlier electric car pioneer, owning a 1900 noiseless, odourless, clean, and vibration-free battery-powered Columbia and prophesying with some prescience: ‘They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.’

The first electric Rolls-Royce has already travelled a long road. 

In 2011 Rolls-Royce produced an experimental one-off electric prototype – based on a Phantom – called 102EX which I drove around Sussex. But it was before its time and battery range need to develop. It was followed in 2016 by the futuristic concept 103EX.

The Spectre will continue on its testing journey in the coming months before the camouflage is removed and the car is revealed in full to the public

The Spectre will continue on its testing journey in the coming months before the camouflage is removed and the car is revealed in full to the public 

First deliveries of the Rolls-Royce Spectre are expected to reach well-heeled customers in the final quarter of  2023, priced at around £400,000 - though most will have bespoke additions to take the final price closer to - or above - seven figures

First deliveries of the Rolls-Royce Spectre are expected to reach well-heeled customers in the final quarter of  2023, priced at around £400,000 – though most will have bespoke additions to take the final price closer to – or above – seven figures

Spectre is a game changer, says Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös: ‘But first it needs to be a Rolls-Royce. Then it needs to be an electric Rolls-Royce.’

‘It’s a Rolls-Royce, not a supercar. It’s about waftability. It’s about flying on land. That’s what our customers like.

‘We’re not offering a ‘ludicrous mode’ (like Tesla). Driving a supercar can be strenuous. It’s relaxing to be in a Rolls-Royce.

‘But there will be a Black Badge version.’

He added: ‘Spectre is unquestionably the most anticipated product in the marque’s modern history. It is a symbol for our bright, bold electric future, and it represents a seismic shift in our powertrain technology.’

BMW took over stewardship of BMW in 1998, launching the first modern Phantom in 2003. Rolls-Royce enjoyed highest sales in its 117 year history last year – up by a dramatic 49 per cent to a record 5,586 motor cars – as it boosts the number of bespoke commissions and accelerates into an electric future. 

Bosses claimed that the Covid pandemic had actually helped fuel the record sales boom as well-heeled customers with a ‘life can be short’ mentality decided to splash out now on a Rolls-Royce, rather than wait.

But they’ll have to wait another 18 months to experience what I just did in the new all-electric Spectre. 

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