From £332,0559

We drive Rolls-Royce's first electric car, the sleek, bold and expensive Spectre coupe

Here’s the Spectre, the first fully electric car from Rolls-Royce, its fourth based on the company’s highly adaptable Architecture of Luxury aluminium platform, and a coupé that Rolls-Royce says spiritually replaces the earlier Phantom coupé rather than the more recently retired Wraith.

The Spectre is large, at 5.48m long and 2.02m wide across the body, or about the same size as a generous double-cab pick-up truck. It has four-wheel drive via two motors, one at each end. The forward one makes 255bhp and 269lb ft, and the rear 483bhp and 524lb ft, although because of how they behave together, their combined maximum output is 576bhp and 664lb ft.

With a single gear ratio, the ability to be single-pedal driven and all of the noiseless, vibrationless capabilities that Charles Rolls is reported to have identified 123 years ago (“perfectly noiseless and clean… no smell or vibration”), it’s a set-up that ought to be deftly suited to luxurious Rolls-Royce driving.

Its battery is big, at 102kWh (usable), which is sufficient on the WLTP test cycle for a range of 329 miles – or the Cotswolds to Glyndebourne and back without doing anything as unbecoming as sitting and drinking a coffee in a shopping centre car park.

Rolls-Royce customers typically have more than half a dozen other cars to choose from, and even though they still drive 3000 miles a year in their Rollers, one suspects Spectres and public fast chargers will be distant relatives. On rare visits, the peak charge rate is 195kW.

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The 700kg battery sits beneath the cabin floor, with a channel for wiring and pipework under that, leaving the underside of the car flat to help the Spectre towards a 0.25 drag coefficient. Aerodynamic sculpting is subtle but impressive elsewhere, with the widest and sleekest Rolls grille yet, tail-light housings that cleave air from the sides and a gently sloping tail pushed as far rearward as it can be while meeting impact regulations. Even the redesigned Spirit of Ecstasy has spent “hundreds of hours” in the wind tunnel.

As a Rolls-Royce coupé, tradition dictates it has a prominent grille (even though no air passes through it) and a long bonnet. But when all Rolls-Royces become EVs – by 2030, it says, it will “never” make another internal combustion engine – how long need those stay?

On the flanks are the longest doors yet fitted to a modern Rolls-Royce, at 1.5m apiece. They open onto a lavish interior that seats just four, with chair styles and rich surface materials that, if you’re an existing Rolls customer – as 60% of Spectre buyers will be (less than usual) – feels immediately familiar. Company CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös talks of wanting customers to know they’re in a Rolls blindfolded (not recommended on test drives).

So there are broad, plush leather seats and thick woollen carpets, with real metal or authentic composite major switches. Flick something metal and it will ping that it’s real. It’s very traditional new-Rolls, which, having driven a 1964 Silver Cloud III recently, I now know is entirely in keeping with the feel of a mid-century Rolls. The drivetrain is new, but the experience is absolutely meant not to be.

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Rolls continues with a version of parent company BMW’s iDrive infotainment system that has both a touchscreen and a rotary controller, with bespoke appearance and software that’s simple to navigate. The climate dials are wonderfully analogue. If you have been in a BMW i7 or iX, there’s something incredibly refreshing about the Rolls approach, I find. True luxury is, after all, the option of turning everything off and opting out of the daily grind as you please. You can try that in an i7 or a Mercedes S-Class, but you’re never so clear of their apps and connectivity.

Mp drivingThey are like a luxury docklands flat, relatively isolated but with the hubbub, bright lights and sirens always in the background. Only a Rolls-Royce, maybe a Bentley, really lets you close the door on the world, like a house deep in parkland. Anyway, the Spectre does it too.

There’s space for two adults behind two adults in here, as well there might be given the car’s size. It’s just a little more difficult than a saloon to get back there. But take a look inside a passing Rolls coupé on the rare occasion you see one and it’s even rarer you will find someone in the back. These, curious phrase though it might seem as used here, are driver’s cars. It’s just that with 2.9-tonne luxury coupés, you do a slightly different sort of driving than in a Porsche 911.

The suspension is an evolution of the Ghost’s set-up, with air springs and active anti-roll bars. But the upper wishbone dampers that were a feature on the Ghost, steadying its lateral body movements, have been deemed unnecessary because of a 30% increase in torsional rigidity. Presumably the additional body weight, sited low, helps steady the ship too.

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It’s double wishbones at the front, then, and multi-link at the back. The anti-roll bars can disconnect entirely in a straight line to allow independent wheel travel across the chassis, while wheels are 23in with 255/40 front and 295/35 rear Pirelli P Zero tyres. Huge, yes, but they need to be in order not to look lost among the mass of body.

Still, Rolls’ designers and engineers talk about isolation that’s at least the measure of the firm’s other models. And they generally know what suits a car like this: a truly isolated ride, deathly accurate and consistently weighted steering and the ability to accelerate and brake, right up to and from a standstill, with complete smoothness. Owners, chauffeurs and passengers all appreciate that.

It will be no surprise to you that the Spectre is exceptionally quiet. It’s sometimes hard to tell when one of the firm’s V12s is idling. But rewardingly, despite the power and torque on tap, step-off from rest is beautifully judged, tipping in with just the right amount of response. With ‘B’ selected on the gearlever, you get one-pedal driving down to the perfect gentle stop, too. Without it, there’s creep and it’s harder to modulate the last half mph. But it’s of the sort that nobody but the driver would notice.

There’s a particular noise played through the speakers if you want it – part spaceship hyperdrive, part V12, quite a lot of aboriginal bullroarer. I quite liked it, but you can choose not to have it. You don’t get the option of picking your own gears in a combustion Rolls-Royce, so it’s no hardship not to here either. Above motorway speeds the strong acceleration tails off rather than picking up another gear and going again, but it’s generally very brisk.

Body control in a straight line is quite loose, with some heave over crests and a little ‘sproing’ (sorry, but there is no better word for it) at middling speeds on roads with badly pockmarked surfaces. Not uncommon on air-sprung cars.

The steering is generally ideally weighted and consistent. It just wants the same force, and has the same self-centring, with the same perfect accuracy, all the time – with the very rare exception of some stickiness when it feels like it wants to follow the path the active rear-steer system has adopted.

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Most surprising to me was a twisty-road capability that I wouldn’t have credited with either a manufacturer that doesn’t like the word ‘sporty’ or a kerb weight of 2890kg. The Spectre truly does isolate like the best of them, yet it contains its roll and powers out of corners with the better of them, too. The people looking after this brand consistently nail it.

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Rolls-Royce Spectre First drives