I drove the new Rolls-Royce Spectre EV across Scotland - the biggest worry was lunch, not where to charge

100 years after Charles Royce said electric cars were the future, the brand bearing his name has built its first one. Matt Allan finds out if it’s worthy of the badge
The Rolls-Royce Spectre parked near Leaderfoot Viaduct . Credit: Matt AllanThe Rolls-Royce Spectre parked near Leaderfoot Viaduct . Credit: Matt Allan
The Rolls-Royce Spectre parked near Leaderfoot Viaduct . Credit: Matt Allan

The Tweed is one Scotland’s longest rivers, famous for its fishing, links to fabric-making and for forming part of the border with England. It also runs within a mile of my house but I must confess I’ve never bothered to follow its path in its entirety.

But with a sparkling Rolls-Royce Spectre on the driveway, the sun shining and an empty diary, it seemed the ideal time to venture out and see what the famous waterway and, more importantly, Rolls-Royce’s first ever electric model have to offer.

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Rising in the Lowther hills above Moffat, the Tweed flows east through the stunning Borders countryside, past Drumelzier with its claimed links to Merlin, and on to the mountain biking hubs of Peebles and Innerleithen. From there it sweeps past Abbotsford House, once home to Sir Walter Scott, before ducking beneath Leaderfoot Viaduct and wending its way through green, rolling countryside past the grandiose Floors Castle to the border at Coldstream. Into England, the river widens quickly on its short run to Berwick-upon-Tweed, beneath the Royal Border Bridge and out into the North Sea.

In all, the Tweed runs for 97 miles, the twisting country roads that follow its course a mere 87 miles, barely scratching the surface of what the Rolls-Royce Spectre with its 300-plus-mile range can achieve.

The Spectre is Rolls-Royce’s first electric car and a statement that the brand finally believes EV technology is good enough to wear its badge. There’s a lot riding on it as the marque intends to go all-electric by 2030 but it confirms what we’ve all suspected – that Rolls-Royce and electric power make perfect sense.

Under the surface, two massive motors produce 577bhp and 664lb ft almost silently. While no-one’s ever complained that the Ghost’s V12 is rowdy, the Spectre’s electric drivetrain gives new meaning to the concept of refined power. This is the fastest Rolls-Royce on sale - 0-62mph takes just 4.5 seconds – but unless you choose to activate the Rolls-Royce Sound, there’s no audible clues to its prodigious pace. Clever throttle modulation also means that despite its turn of speed, the Spectre never feels aggressive, instead the power is laid out seamlessly whenever required.

The Spirit of Ecstacy stands proud on the bonnet of the Rolls-Royce Spectre. Credit: Matt AllanThe Spirit of Ecstacy stands proud on the bonnet of the Rolls-Royce Spectre. Credit: Matt Allan
The Spirit of Ecstacy stands proud on the bonnet of the Rolls-Royce Spectre. Credit: Matt Allan

Like every Rolls-Royce, outside sounds are subdued to almost nothing by huge amounts of noise insulation, meaning you could cross continents in glorious isolation even at autobahn speeds.

While that’s to be expected, the Spectre surprises with its abilities on lesser roads. My cross-border route was on the sort of twisting, narrow roads that can leave family SUVs feeling unwieldy but the Spectre never felt intimidating.

Its engineers talk about Spectre as a Rolls-Royce in HD due to the number of computers and electronic controllers that manage everything from the power delivery and active air suspension to the rear-wheel steering. It all adds up to a staggeringly capable vehicle that disguises its enormous size remarkably well.

A specially adapted version of the Planar suspension smoothes out everything that passes under the wheels and keeps the body flat and stable even during rapid changes of direction. Like the throttle, the steering is carefully balanced to be precise and responsive but never sharp or “sporty”, and the four-wheel steering allows the Spectre to tuck in around tight turns with ease.

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In combination with the bottomless well of instant power, this astonishing chassis control allows the Spectre to pour itself along country roads effortlessly, like the Tweed powering its way towards the sea.

So it drives wonderfully but the challenge with an EV, especially one designed for the 1%, is to make sure it doesn’t leave owners hanging around chargers every half an hour.

To aid in that, Spectre is the most aerodynamic Rolls ever. The Spirit of Ecstasy is smaller and sleeker than before and the traditionally flat bonnet dips away out of sight to aid airflow.

Rolls-Royce says it did its research and determined that the range of 329 miles from its massive 102kWh battery was more than enough for most prospective buyers’ needs. Any further and they’ll presumably take the helicopter or jet. In the real world, I found 260 miles was easily achievable. Nonetheless, for those rare occasions where it needs to be charged, the Spectre can charge at 195kW – enough to add 70% charge in 34 minutes and making it easy to live with.

For all its everyday usability, though, the Spectre is not an everyday car. From the illuminated Pantheon grille to the 1.5-metre-long suicide doors that open and close at the press of a button, this is a car to make a statement.

The Rolls-Royce Spectre at home amongst heather and hills. Credit: Matt AllanThe Rolls-Royce Spectre at home amongst heather and hills. Credit: Matt Allan
The Rolls-Royce Spectre at home amongst heather and hills. Credit: Matt Allan

At 5.5 metres long and 2m wide, it’s huge but well proportioned. Next to a family hatchback it looks massive but in isolation there’s a visual lightness to it. There’s something very clever in the way the body panels tuck in on their lower edges, how the glossy plinth hides the bulky floor housing the battery and how the long bonnet flows into the steeply raked windscreen which itself flows into the low swept-back roof and boat-like tail.

Inside, it’s a true four-seater, with passengers ensconced in a surprisingly traditional Rolls-Royce interior. There’s no high-tech futuristic finish, instead it’s the usual peerless blend of wood, leather, wool and chrome with just a hint of modernity in the central touchscreen and digital instrument panel. The biggest difference between Spectre and Ghost, for instance, is that the backlit starlight headliner has been extended into the doors.

The Twilight Purple body and silver bonnet of our particular car won’t be to everyone’s taste, nor will the cream and purple interior but the joy of a Rolls-Royce is that no two are ever the same and you can choose pretty much any interior and exterior hue or finish you want. You can even have the dials colour-matched to the car’s exterior.

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Facts and Figures

Rolls-Royce Spectre

Price: From £330,000

Motor: Dual motor - 190kW front, 360kW rear

Battery: 102kWh usable

Power: 577bhp

Torque: 664lb ft

Top speed: 155mph

0-62mph: 4.5 seconds

Range: 329 miles

Consumption: 2.6-2.8m/kWh

Charging: up to 195kW

And for all its scale and grandeur, so much of the Spectre’s appeal is in the little touches like the digital sparkles that surround the speedometer needle, the RR emblem in the upright tail lights, and the wheel caps that are always the right way round.

Tackling the Tweed didn’t prove much of a challenge, nor did anything else I threw at the Spectre over a busy week. Heading north in search of more spectacular scenery and challenging roads, the Spectre shrugged off everything from dreich Trossachs loch sides to the still snow-topped reaches of the Cairngorms. The biggest worry on a full day’s driving was where to have lunch, rather than where to charge.

And that’s as it should be with a Rolls-Royce – smooth, silent and effortless, with only mere trifles to worry its occupants.

The marque has been waiting for the day the technology would let it build an electric car worthy of its name and the Spectre proves that day has come.



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