2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre - the 300-mile test

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre - the 300-mile test

Who needs a huge V12 when electric power can bring out the qualities that make a Rolls-Royce a Rolls-Royce?

The great beyond

Words Colin Overland

Photography Mark Fagelson

It’s no reflection on the perfectly decent sat-nav in the Spectre that it takes me a while to find the road I’m looking for. I could get lost on a merry-go-round. Today I’m getting lost in the first production electric Rolls-Royce.

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre - the 300-mile test

All the nav system’s polite but insistent encouragement that I should ‘please perform a legal U-turn’ and all my apologetic shrugs of ‘sorry, not from round here’ as I turn around in another driveway are worth it when, close to the end of my day with the luxury sports coupe, I find myself on Trinity Road, which turns out to be very much not where I think it should be. Changing names a couple of times, to Dry Creek Road and then Oakville Grade Road, it’s no distance on paper – 11 and a half miles – but for most of that length it’s a twisting, turning, rising, falling minor road. Not the sort of road well suited to the typical Rolls limo, but then the Spectre is far from typical. Goodwood’s decision to strike out into uncharted territory for its first EV is all quite deliberate, and it’s working – the pre-orders include many first-time Rolls buyers.

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre - the 300-mile test

Not that it’s unrelated to other Rollers. It uses a version of the same aluminium spaceframe shared across the current line-up of Ghost, Phantom and Cullinan (and not shared with BMWs). It has many familiar cabin elements. The proportions of the body are more or less those of the now departed Phantom Coupe.

No, this first production Rolls EV is, cleverly, a standalone model, not an electric replacement for a combustion model. That transition will happen soon enough, as Rolls delivers on its commitment to be all-EV by the end of 2030. But for now, this is an extra model in the line-up, and one that has no direct competition within or without the BMW Group. The i7 – which shares some battery tech – is impressive, but in a different way. Porsche Taycan or Audi e-Tron GT? Not a million miles away from potential rivalry, but they’re sportier, less luxurious and less coupe-ish, as well as vastly less expensive.

Although the proportions and the bluff front make the Spectre look instantly like a Rolls-Royce, the details include some new elements. The headlights are particularly mean and lean at the front (and very bright at night), and are complemented by the grille being neatly illuminated by small LEDs.

At the back, the lights are very compact, and are isolated from everything else – not bisected or met by any cut lines or shut lines or bulges. This ‘islands in a lake’ approach is a theme favoured by design chief Anders Warming, and can also be seen in the treatment of the Spirit of Ecstasy up front – the statue is just there, on her own, or at least she is until you press the button to retract her. The statue itself is slightly different from her previous form, with one foot in front of the other, like she’s striding into the future on a blustery day, instead of together, like she’s about to dive into a pool at a cocktail party. (And I learnt something else that was new to me: they’re not wings, they’re arms in loose fabric.)

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre - interior

The details of colours, upholstery and trinkets (see box) are near-infinitely variable, but the fundamentals are pretty much fixed. So your Spectre is a two-door, four-seat coupe, with all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering, a 102kWh battery pack in the floor and e-motors front and rear. Despite the skateboard configuration, you sit relatively low, and that’s exaggerated by the glasshouse being quite shallow. Overall it’s roughly the same size as the Ghost, and although the Spectre looks lower it isn’t. And where the Ghost is a no-compromise saloon, the EV is a genuine coupe, with the roof sloping down towards the rear.

But there’s good head and leg room in the back, if not the elbow room you get in a Ghost, Phantom or Cullinan, and the rear occupants don’t get much of a view out, although the absence of B-pillar helps.

2024 Rolls-Royce Spectre - the 300-mile test

Design chief Warming calls it a ‘cosseting art lounge’, which is stretching it, but it is rather nice in there, as pleasing to the eye as to the touch, with metal that asserts its authenticity by being cold to the touch. Everything that moves has a positive action, nicely damped Getting in to the rear seats requires a degree of agility. The doors open with a great deal of theatre, and that missing B-pillar must again be of some assistance, but portly passengers need to tip the front seat back as far forward as it will go to gain entry, pretty much like someone wriggling into the back of a three-door Astra. That’s less of an issue if the relatively youthful target buyer has pre-teen kids in the back, rather than overweight journalists.

Rear-seat passengers of 6ft and slightly taller will find that there’s good legroom and headroom, despite the impression that may be created by the coupe roofline.

It’s strictly two seats in the back, with a wide central armrest, and slightly less arm space on the door side than you’d get in other current Rollers. The massive rear doors are worth dwelling on. At almost 1.5 metres long, and rear-hinged, when they’re fully open they’re way too far away to reach from the front seats with any dignity. Not to worry – there’s a pair of buttons on the control cluster between the seats, one for each door, to close them. To open them, there’s a conventional handle with a two-stage operation, heavily assisted. The first stage opens it slightly, around which time you remember to look for cyclists, and with a gentle tug the second stage opens it all the way.

The level of assistance is automatically adjusted to account for the slope of the road. You don’t notice this until it’s pointed out to you. It’s a complicated but effective solution caused by a challenge inherent in the very idea of the Spectre – a huge two-door coupe.

Ditto the adaptive air suspension, active anti-rolls bars and electric steering – they’re only necessary because the car is so big and so heavy, and because it comes on 23-inch wheels, and because Rolls says it’s sporty, creating an expectation that it will handle and ride well when you use some of the 577bhp and 664lb ft.

You might be rather anxious about just how nimble a 2890kg electric car with all that chassis tech can be, and how engaging to drive. Ask me in the morning of our drive through California’s wine region and I’ll give you a different answer from the one you’ll get later in the day.

Pottering around the Calistoga/Geyserville/Middletown area, I’m pleasantly surprised by how easy it all is. It’s a big car, but very manageable. The cabin tech helps here by being utterly intuitive. The digital dials in front of you are very simple, distilled down to what you need while driving. Some other information is available if you want to seek it out via the infotainment system, but compared to most EVs the Spectre is refreshingly unpreoccupied with its status as an EV. The state-of-charge and charging basics are covered plainly enough: you won’t be able to bank on doing more than 300 miles between stops, and you’ll need to allow 34 minutes for a 10 to 80 per cent charge using a 195kW fast charger, and that’s on a good day.

It uses a BMW iDrive-derived touchscreen/rotary controller, with voice control too, and a satisfying number of physical switches, like you get on other Rolls-Royces. The heating gets an extravagant variety of buttons, knobs and dials, all the better for adjusting on the move without having to take your eyes off the road, and there’s a big physical volume knob for the audio, just where you want it (as well as controls on the steering wheel).

During all this initial trundling around in town and on some traffic-heavy hill roads, basking in the niceness of it all, the clever suspension sometimes seems to struggle to be as magic-carpet-like as billed when the wrong permutation of curves, cambers and bumps gangs up on it.

Nothing particularly horrible, but short of magic. And then out on slow-moving major routes, it’s all very dignified and smooth and quiet, but no more so than you’d expect from any expensive electric car.

I’m also struck by how restrained its acceleration is. It’s quick – 4.5sec to 62mph – but not remarkably so by EV standards. But then the day ratchets up several gears when – entirely through luck, not judgement – I find myself turning on to a road I’d been trying to find for a ridiculously long time.

The elusive Trinity Road has Bothe-Napa Valley State Park to the north and Hood Mountain Regional Park to the south. It feels more like part of the Med than an area just 70 miles north of San Francisco. The elevation rises and falls by several hundred feet. It’s narrow, very twisty, and overlooked by a remarkable number of architecturally impressive – and doubtless very expensive – modern homes, clinging on to the hillside. In parts it’s very badly surfaced, and several stretches are rendered temporarily single-lane by theoretical roadworks (where no work is actually going on).

I turn down the yacht rock on satellite radio and focus on wrangling the Spectre through these bends. There are few inherent distractions: no choice of suspension settings, no sport mode, no adjustable brake regen levels (just a B mode to scoop up some charge on downhill stretches). What adjustments there are tend to be quite trivial: more or less synthetic e-motor noise, more or less vibration and feedback through the steering wheel.

And… what a joy. It really comes alive when you drive it with that bit more commitment, the big steering wheel offering plenty of feel, and the wheels feeling much better connected to the road now that the complex suspension is having to earn its living.

It doesn’t become a narrow car or a lightweight one, but it does feel wonderfully well connected to the driver. You find yourself thinking the car through the bends, and gauging the throttle inputs instinctively as you exit them. Within seconds you’re at the next sharp curve, the brakes feeling as well weighted and natural as the steering. In, through, out and on to the next. It’s lovely. You really do stop thinking of it being an electric car – the energy source is so unimportant to your appreciation of its uncanny blend of comfort, solidity and agility.

The acceleration is restrained. At 4.5sec to 62mph it’s not remarkably quick by EV standards


Rolls-Royce used to be very reticent about power outputs, considering it vulgar to admit to anything more specific than ‘adequate’ or ‘sufficient’. That’s no longer the case. But you do still have to be persistent to get any information on the price. That’s partly a lingering bit of one-upmanship – ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’ – but it’s also because the Spectre, like all Rolls-Royces, is built to order, and no two are the same. The actual entry price is £275,000 before taxes, which in the UK means £330k on the road, but the bill for most cars already ordered is above £400,000.

The configurator offers not just a double-digit choice of body colours, plus even more colours as extra-cost options, there are also two different versions of the two-tone look: you can have the contrast panels in narrow or wide forms. Also, the coachlines can be in different places, as well as different colours. There are four versions of the 23-inch wheels. Your Spirit of Ecstasy can be metal or up-lit glass. And that’s before you start specifying your interior, where the default is three different leather colours working together, plus a choice of veneers on the dash.

lot of tech wrangling a lot of weight, with glorious results. Rear lights are ‘island in a lake’. Ah, designers. Not the carpet you’d choose in any nation that has mud Here in Cali the Spectre does not seem big Proportions are from the V12 age; weight is near 50:50

  • PLUS Comfortable; engaging; eye-catching; very well made
  • MINUS Heavy; expensive; not that fast or frugal


  • Audi e-Tron GT A quarter of the price; almost as much power; not as fancy but a very fine car.
  • BMW i7 Some electric know-how pooled with Rolls, but very much a saloon in the 7-series tradition.

It doesn’t become a narrow car or a lightweight one, but it does feel wonderfully well connected to the driver


  • PRICE From £330,000 (£450,000 as tested)
  • POWERTRAIN 102kWh battery, twin electric motors, all-wheel drive
  • PERFORMANCE 577bhp, 664lb ft, 4.5sec 0-62mph, 155mph
  • ON SALE Now
  • WEIGHT 2890kg
  • EFFICIENCY 2.6-28 miles per kWh (official), 2.3 miles per kWh (tested), 329-mile range, 0g/km CO2 Data
  • RATING ★★★★★


  • 0 miles Who’s driving the first car to hit the road on the first day of the Spectre global launch? CAR, of course.
  • 6 miles Is that overcast sky about to turn to rain? No. But the umbrella slotted in the door frame is a superbly engineered bit of kit, colour coded to the interior.
  • 52 miles Father and son in an ancient Ford pick-up in Calistoga love the look of the Spectre, even though the name Rolls-Royce means nothing to them.
  • 69 miles You sit low, and massive mirrors can obscure your outlook at some junctions, although the camera view on the central screen can help.
  • 91 miles What’s under the hood? A big metal cover, to keep the ugly e-gubbins hidden. There’s no frunk. The boot is a low but long 380 litres.
  • 112 miles Vents in the centre of the dash are a different size from those at the ends, and sound different when you tap them: deeper in the middle, fact fans.
  • 150 miles The town signs say Glen Ellen, but it’s all a bit Radiator Springs around here, the archetypally friendly small town from the first Cars movie.
  • 178 miles Turns out the museum of Robert Louis Stevenson – the Treasure Island author lived here in the 1880s – in St Helena shuts at 4pm on Saturdays. Drop off
  • 185 miles Not great efficiency, at 2.3 miles per kWh on our route. But what Rolls ever was? Perhaps more relevantly, the driver is still fresh and keen for more.
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