Road tests

New Rolls-Royce Spectre 2023 review

The new Rolls-Royce Spectre has arrived as the iconic British luxury brand finally enters the electric era

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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The Spectre does enough of what a Rolls-Royce should do to fulfil its brief, with peerless cabin quality and exemplary refinement. It doesn’t quite escape some traditional EV pitfalls, particularly weight and its effect on the ride, but until Bentley and Range Rover launch their own pure-electric models, the Spectre is pretty much in a class of one. We’re not surprised there’s already an 18-month waiting list.

More than 120 years after Charles Rolls predicted a future for electric propulsion in cars, the time has finally arrived for the company that still bears his name to venture down that path. Rolls-Royce will go completely electric by the end of the decade – and now we’ve had our first opportunity to sample the vehicle that starts the ball rolling: Spectre.

Said by Rolls execs to be the spiritual successor to the Phantom Coupé, the new arrival is a large four-seat, two-door coupé. The brief from Rolls’ existing clients, we’re told, was for a vehicle that was a Rolls-Royce first and an electric car second. And at just shy of 5.5 metres long, and featuring the widest ‘Pantheon’ front grille ever fitted to a Rolls-Royce, the Spectre certainly cuts a striking shape. It’s imposing, but graceful with it – in more subtle hues, at least.

Spectre is the fourth car to be based on Rolls’ own Architecture of Luxury. There are two motors, with 255bhp at the front and 483bhp at the rear, delivering a combined output of 577bhp and 900Nm of torque. That’s enough, Rolls says, for the Spectre to reach 60mph in 4.4 seconds.

The battery is a whopping 102kWh (usable) lithium-ion pack, whose 700kg mass plays its part in a kerbweight that nudges three tonnes. Rolls claims a range of 329 miles and says that rapid charging at up to 195kW can take the car from 10 to 80 per cent in 34 minutes.

Open the vast 1.5-metre-long, rear-hinged doors and you’re greeted by a beautifully appointed cabin. In this respect the Spectre does feel like a Rolls-Royce first and foremost, because the materials are of a stupefyingly high quality. Tap the air vents to hear a proper metallic ping; stroke the wood inserts to feel the grain; admire the soft, double-stitched leather on the dash top; it is damned hard to find fault in here, even with a starting price of £330,000.

There’s enough space for four six-footers, too, although the boot is only respectable, at 380 litres – with 50 of those beneath the floor and likely to be used for cable storage.

The on-road experience delivers some spectacular highs, but the occasional foible. First, the positives: the steering weight is nicely judged, the low-speed and cruising refinement is off the dial (as in, beyond the levels of V12 petrol Rollers at 70mph) and the brake-pedal modulation is a triumph, with an imperceptible transition between energy recuperation and regular discs and pads. There is still instant-torque shove on offer, but take a gentle approach and it’s easy to drive smoothly.

In other respects, the Spectre can feel a little inconsistent. There’s one suspension setting, but the mix of air and active anti-roll bars delivers a curious balance. The ride feels more settled at 60mph and over larger road imperfections than it does on seemingly smooth surfaces at 30mph. Around town, in fact, it never quite settles – a reflection, perhaps, of how hard it has been for Rolls to tie down a coupé that rides on 23-inch wheels and weighs three tonnes.

On twistier roads the Spectre hangs on better than it has any right to; a soft brake pedal will end your fun before the chassis gives up the fight. But we came away feeling we’d probably trade a little of that for even more isolation from urban road surfaces.

Other EV-specific features are hit and miss, although at least they can be switched off. The artificial ‘motion noise’ is one of the better examples of the tech, but we’d still rather enjoy the spectacular silence.

We’d also ignore the brake-energy regen mode, activated by a ‘B’ button on the gear-selector stalk. Single-pedal driving ought to be right up the Spectre’s street, but in practice there’s still too much ‘step-off’ (and resulting nose pitch) if you simply remove your right foot from the throttle pedal.

It’s better to slowly raise your right foot to feed in the regen, but while this might get easier with practice, the amount of travel needed for the Spectre to cruise at 30mph is so small that we found this much trickier than just using the brake pedal.

Model:Rolls-Royce Spectre
Price:From £330,000
Powertrain:102kWh battery/2x e-motors
Transmission:Single-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-60mph:4.4 seconds
Top speed:TBC
Range:329 miles
Charging:195kW (10-80% in 34min)
On sale:Now

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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