AROUND THIS time last year, Rolls-Royce revealed its long-awaited foray into electrification with Spectre, and since then, Australians curious about the exquisite coupé have been watching it make its way around the world, and finally, it’s hit our shores in all its silent grace.
For a little bit of context, Rolls-Royce, or rather its co-founder and legendary motoring and aviation pioneer Charles Rolls, has had a long history of fascination with electric cars. The first electric car was invented in the early 1800s and became commercially available in 1890. After experiencing one of Columbia’s, a pioneering electric carriage company, models Rolls famously praised and prophetised the technology in a magazine interview in 1900, commenting, “The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean. There is no smell or vibration. They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.” The comment is dually an expression of Rolls’ vision of both the past that could have been and also the Rolls-Royce ethos of comfort, silence and sophistication he would go on to create. And well, 123 years later, here we are.
Now making its way around the country in Rolls-Royce spaces and customer activations (customer deliveries which are expected to drop later this year) Spectre is not only incredibly opulent and beautiful in its finish and proportions, but a bold statement of the brand’s future. When everyone else has led with SUV EVs, the British marque has chosen to make its debut a sleek, two-door coupé. Why? Youth and beauty.
Last year at the Goodwood launch, Rolls-Royce design director Anders Warming revealed that the marque was discovering that more of its customers—which are now the youngest average ownership cohort of the entire BMW Group (Rolls-Royce’s parent company)—are wanting to drive the cars, rather than be driven around in them. In the latest issue of Esquire, we chronicled our very secretive preview of the marque’s most recent coachbuilt two-seater, Droptail, and here, this expression of own-to-drive was ever-present. So even the marque most associated with chauffeur-driven lifestyle (and granted, still is in some circles), is not impervious to the cultural pivot around the car as a sacred third space and place of freedom. And now with the silence, comfort and cleanliness of an EV powertrain, the next era of Rolls-Royce is speaking to that desire more than ever.
Importantly, as Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce’s former CEO who retired this month, pointed out at the launch, Spectre is a Rolls-Royce first and an EV second. And honestly, it’s the brand that has always made the most sense to go electric, for the same reasons Rolls himself pointed out all those years ago. Powered by a 102kW battery, Spectre claims 430kW/900Nm of power and torque, a 0-100km/h acceleration of 4.5 seconds and 520kms of range. To get here, it’s undergone 2.5 million kilometres of cross-terrain testing, the equivalent of 400 years of use, including extreme temperature (from -40C to +50C) and wear testing. It’s also had more than 830 hours of wind tunnel testing to make it incredibly slippery through the air—even the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament earned a sleek makeover to ensure its drag coefficient of 0.25 was better than a Tesla Model S. And of course, in true Rolls-Royce form, the list of customisations and bespoke offerings—including now, the masques famous starlight constellations available in the doors as well as the roof—is endless.
Spectre comes at a very interesting time for Rolls-Royce. The luxury market in all other sectors is bigger than ever, the marque, which sits at the top of the luxury tree within automotive, is already seeing and welcoming how culture and behaviours are shifting perception. With Australia sitting in the top three Asia-Pacific markets for Spectre, it’s expecting to see a lot more orders coming out of the country. “The biggest hurdle has been the ‘permission to buy’,” says Irene Nikkein, Asia-Pacific Regional Director at Rolls-Royce, commenting on what she has seen within the specific nuance of our global region, where Rolls-Royce has always had a lot of formality around it. “It has a lot to do with heritage and history because a lot of us came from tough times, and so I wouldn’t say it’s a shame, but almost a guilt.” That is quickly changing, she points out with a new wave of wealth—particularly as new generations find success across many different new industries and businesses. “We are starting to see a new generation who feel like their success is not so much from family or inheritance, so they’re more willing to spend on their own,” she says. “The second thing we’re seeing, and it sounds very cliche, but more females are indeed coming forward to the brand by themselves.” Which, she says, in the more conservative markets like Japan and Australia is unusual, but celebrated.
In the same way we’ve seen other legacy luxury brands battle to refresh and modernise their brand identity without losing their DNA, and win—Loro Piana, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin (which also collaborated with Rolls-Royce on Droptail Amethyst, again, check it out in the current issue of Esquire), Penhaligon’s and Creed, to name a few—Rolls-Royce will get there, and this thrilling, opulent and seductive super coupê is just the beginning.
For a sneak peek of Spectre as it starts its tour around Australia, contact your local Rolls-Royce dealership to see when it will arrive in your city.