Charles Rolls predicted the rise of electric cars some 122 years ago, and while it might have taken a little longer than he'd have expected, the Rolls-Royce Spectre has finally been unveiled to the world.
It’s a curiosity of motoring history that the electric car was invented long before the petrol-engined car. A Scot named Robert Anderson created one in 1834, half a century before Carl Benz filed patent on his somewhat more practical invention; apart from anything else, Anderson’s horseless electric carriage used non-rechargeable batteries.
The reason for this digression into history is prompted by Rolls-Royce’s launch of the Spectre — or simply ‘Spectre’, as they prefer to call it. Even an extraneous definite article is not allowed to taint the lines of such a beautifully-crafted machine, which was unveiled to the world at the company’s Goodwood headquarters on Monday.
Rolls-Royce have been slower off the mark than other car companies when it comes to brining an all-electric offering to the market, something which clearly hasn’t hurt a firm which has of late enjoyed the most successful run in its illustrious history. It’s also let them create a bit of momentum and mystique around their new beast, which they dub an ‘ultra-luxury electric super coupé’ — a marvellous linguistic flourish for a 576bhp barnstormer with 900Nm of torque, capable of hitting 60mph in just 4.4 seconds.
The inference is that they’d like is to take is that they’ve kept their powder dry until the electrified technology was good enough to carry the Spirit of Ecstasy on the bonnet. As you’d expect of Rolls-Royce, however, they’ve made it clear that they were ahead of the game: as well as quotes from CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the company also cite a line from Charles Rolls himself, dated to 1900: ‘The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean,’ he said. ‘There is no smell or vibration. They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.’ What we’d give to be able to disinter the company’s late co-founder long enough let him know that it took 122 years for those fixed charging stations to approach critical mass.
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It’s more than a question of charging, however, but also one of being able to make not just a great electric car, but rather a great car that happens to be electric: ‘With Spectre, the marque confirms that the technology has reached a standard that can contain the Rolls-Royce experience,’ the company say. The speed figures already noted show that in terms of speed the engine itself is the equal or better of its petrol equivalents, but perhaps more impressive is the fact that this is a car which will keep on going. All-aluminium construction has been employed to save weight, while there’s an eye-catchingly sleek design that Rolls-Royce say is the most aerodynamic they’ve ever produced. Even the Spirit of Ecstasy herself has been wind-tunnel tested, with the new streamlined version the result of 820 hours of work.
The result is a spectacularly fast car with an estimated 320-mile range — up there with the very best on the electric car market, and something that’s not far off the 400 or so you’d expect from a petrol-engined Phantom. It’s worth noting that all the figures for the new car are subject to confirmation, incidentally. Some 2,500,000 test miles have already been covered, but there are many more miles of testing and refinement to come before the first Spectres are delivered to customers in the third quarter of 2023.
The drivetrain isn’t the only area of innovation worthy of note: a new ‘Planar’ suspension promises ‘an orchestra of systems with precisely defined responses to driver inputs and road conditions’, with some 18 variables calculated on the fly every time you go around a corner.
The proof of such impressive-sounding driving tech will only come once people start getting behind the wheels of Spectres next year. But you can expect the interiors to be just as perfect as ever, and — as is the way of Rolls-Royce today — customisable in any way imaginable. The company’s focus on interiors in recent years has actually been incredibly clever. For years the Rolls-Royce USP was that no car offered the same blend of smooth, quiet and fast, but the latest generation of electric motors have made those three qualities much easier to produce. Exquisite luxury on wheels is something else, though.
Spectre, says the aforementioned Torsten Müller-Ötvös, ‘is perfectly in tune with the sensibilities of our time,’ adding that it’s ‘the start of a bold new chapter for our marque’ and ‘the most perfect product’ that has ever rolled out of Goodwood. ‘It perfectly answers a call from the most discerning individuals in the world to elevate the electric motor car experience,’ he explains, ‘because Spectre is a Rolls-Royce first and an electric car second.’
The Rolls-Royce Spectre is available to commission now for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2023; price TBC but it will be roughly between the company’s Cullinan and Phantom ranges. See more at www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com
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