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Auto review: Rolls

Jul 21, 2023

The 2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre's dual electric motors are mated to a single-speed transmission that generates 584 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. (James Lipman/Rolls-Royce/TNS)

Rolls-Royce is a brand that has long sought silence, having spent more than a century taming the vibratory, raucous, malodorous personality from the internal combustion engines that power their cars. Their comportment is that of silence, which is why their cars have ghostly names. “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in a Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock,” a 1959 ad once boasted.

It’s a characteristic that resonates with the company’s clientele, as the automaker is on track to build about 6,000 cars annually. It’s not that the company can’t sell more; that’s as many as they choose to produce.

And now, Rolls-Royce is building electric vehicles for the first time, something that company co-founder Charles Rolls believed in. “The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean,” he wrote in 1900. “They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.”

With the release of the 2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre coupe, Rolls-Royce will finally attain his goal, with plans to convert solely to electric power by 2031. The Spectre is the company’s opening salvo, a vehicle that effortlessly dispenses the brand’s long-sought waftability. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, really. A gas-powered engine generates its power from controlled explosions. Replace it with a silent electric driveline, and tranquility's main adversary is vanquished.

Nevertheless, Rolls-Royce designers have cloaked its most-advanced vehicle in familiar garb, resembling a larger descendant of the Rolls-Royce Wraith. Yet it's far larger, about the size of the Rolls-Royce Phantom coupe, measuring a sizable 215+ inches in length, with clean, carved surfaces that enhance its aerodynamic efficiency. It’s an arrestingly sensuous hardtop coupe – a rarity in today’s market, and one that readily lends itself to two-toning.

Open the Spectre’s rear-hinged doors and you’re greeted by a lavish leather-lined cabin, where no detail goes unnoticed. Consider its back seat. Its seatbacks are constructed from a single piece of leather that elegantly transitions from the back of the seat to the side panel. Then there’s Rolls-Royce’s Starlight headliner, which emulates the nighttime sky. Notably, it’s now offered on the Spectre’s interior door panels as well as the passenger’s side instrument panel. If that seems a bit much, you can opt for any number of hardwoods instead.

Other features the brand is known for are present, including umbrellas stowed in each door, along with a one, which automatically closes the open driver’s door when the driver presses the brake pedal before starting the car.

That said, no two Rolls-Royces are alike, as the company handcrafts each one to buyers’ specifications, at least when it comes to furnishings. It’s another story when it comes to performance, as all buyers get the same powertrain.

In this case, its dual electric motors are mated to a single-speed transmission that generates 584 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque courtesy of its 1,549-pound, 102-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. All-wheel drive is standard. Running 0-60 mph takes a mere 4.2 seconds. Given that the average annual mileage of Rolls-Royce owners is 3,200 miles, the Spectre's anticipated range of 264 miles should prove adequate. Of course, owners of Rolls-Royce EVs don't experience range anxiety; their staff does. They also don’t have to worry about trunk space, which is why the Spectre has a mere 13 cubic feet of it.

That said, recharging from 10% to 80% using a DC fast charger takes 34 minutes, or 62 miles of range in nine minutes. A full recharge at home using AC power takes five hours and 30 minutes if the battery is fully drained, according to Rolls-Royce.

But remarkably, the Rolls-Royce doesn’t betray its change of heart. It's first and foremost a Rolls-Royce, one that happens to be powered by electrons rather than fossil fuel. It retains the brand’s requisite smooth and silent bearing, lacking the abrupt rush of torque common to lesser EVs and opting for a far more civilized, liner power delivery. And being that EV transmissions have one speed, there’s no shift shock, merely a composed driveline that’s seen, but not heard.

Built from the all-aluminum architecture used for the Phantom sedan and Cullinan SUV, the Spectre’s battery pack adds 30% more torsional rigidity, which enhances its performance, one aided by an active air suspension that decouples the Spectre’s electromechanical anti-roll bars, allowing each wheel to act individually, preventing side-to-side rocking while delivering a lush, unruffled ride. When encountering a corner, the anti-roll bars recouple, the dampers stiffen and the four-wheel steering activates, providing significant agility without affecting comfort.

Despite its newfound source of power, the hallmarks of a Rolls-Royce remain in the Spectre, an unrivaled exercise in automotive authority. After all, how many other pillarless hardtop battery electric grand touring luxury coupes compete with it? That’s right, none. It’s truly a privileged way to help mitigate climate change.


2023 Rolls-Royce Spectre

Base price: $420,000

Powertrain: Dual synchronous motor, 1-speed transmission and all-wheel drive

Horsepower/Torque: 584/664 pound-feet

0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds

Top speed: 155 mph

EPA range: 264 miles per charge

Recharge time (22 kW, AC): 5 hours, 30 minutes

Length/Width/Height: 215.6/79.4/61.9 inches

Cargo capacity: 13 cubic feet

Curb weight: 6,371 pounds