Currently reading: Exclusive Q&A: Rolls-Royce engineering boss unwraps Spectre EV
Steve Cropley sits down with Mihair Ayoubi to talk about the new ultra-luxurious electric super-coupé

Mihair Ayoubli, a much-experienced BMW engineer before he came to Rolls-Royce, describes himself as having one leg in Goodwood and one in Munich.

We've now tested the production-spec Rolls-Royce Spectre. Read the full review: Rolls-Royce Spectre review

His first involvement with Rolls-Royce was during the engineering of the Phantom 8 in 2015, and he became more heavily involved with the creation of the 2018 Cullinan SUV. But the new Spectre EV is very much his baby.

Why did you decide Rolls-Royce’s first EV needed to be what your colleagues describe as “a super-coupé”?

"We knew the change to an electric drivetrain would always be seen as a huge moment in Rolls-Royce history, so we wanted to start with a very emotional car that also posed a big engineering challenge. It would have been easier – and a little bit predictable – to start with an SUV."

You’re especially pleased with the Spectre’s proportions, aren’t you? What’s so good about them?

"The Spectre has two very dramatic features. First is the very long dash-to-axle distance, with the front wheels pushed a long way forward for extra drama. It’s a big car, but the proportions are ideal. Early on, we discussed having a shorter nose, because we could, but we soon rejected the idea. 

"The second dynamic feature is the proportion of the car’s overall height to the top of its wheels. The car looks very low and streamlined, even though it’s actually taller than some other big cars, which is what we sought."

Mihair ayoubli

Have you carried those themes inside the car?

"Certainly. We’ve lowered the dash and the base of the windscreen, which shows off the long bonnet. We’ve also given the car a central tunnel, which we’ve used to house cables and some of the battery cells, and the overall effect is to give the front occupants an intimate, cocooned feel. The rear passengers aren’t neglected either: the Spectre is a luxurious four-seater."

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The main body of the battery runs under the car between the front and rear wheels, right?

"Yes, and its mounting adds a lot to our overall body stiffness. The flexible design of our EV architecture allows us to mount it in a very novel way. Sometimes the underbody mounting of batteries in big cars can cause an odd kind of flexing that leads to non-linear responses when the car is cornering. We’ve been extremely careful with that, and the result is a car that’s very predictable, with near-instant steering responses. This reduces the driver’s awareness of the car’s weight – useful, because it’s quite heavy. We’ve also been extremely careful with local stiffness around the suspension mounts to reduce road disturbance. With such a quiet powertrain, you need that."

Did you have a big debate about what noises the Spectre’s driver should hear?

"We did. Obviously there’s legislation about what you should hear from outside, but our research showed us that buyers would be unlikely to agree on what they should hear inside the car. So we will offer two configurable solutions: silence and, well, something else that we’re not quite ready to reveal. Let’s say it will be our surprise."

The Spectre has lots of sophisticated chassis hardware. Can you run us through it?

"Sure. We have active all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering. We have air springs, too, and all of this is controlled by electronics that monitor both the driver’s needs and the condition of the road. Our control systems are decoupled into domains — lateral, longitudinal and vertical [better known as comfort]. We have anti-roll bars that decouple when the car is travelling straight, for the very best ride composure."

How would you describe the result?

"The Spectre is extremely refined and very powerful but so easy to drive. That’s what we wanted above all. It has endless power, although not in the sense of chasing acceleration times. Above all, it’s predictable, waftable and luxurious – everything our buyers need from a Rolls-Royce."

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Peter Cavellini 18 October 2022

 There's a 15 minute walk round on TopGear's Website!