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The Rolls-Royce Spectre: saving the planet, ostentatiously

The new elite EV is a jaw-dropping phenomenon even on Dubai's blingy roads

Alloy Wheel, Car, Car Wheel Rolls-Royce says the Spectre is the most aerodynamic car it has ever produced Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce says the Spectre is the most aerodynamic car it has ever produced

A Rolls-Royce has a strange effect on people. Grown men giggle like excited schoolboys when they get behind the wheel; women purr with delight at the instant attention on pulling up outside a five-star hotel; pedestrian jaws drop as they reach for the video button.

I learned this all over again last weekend when I was privileged to test drive a Rolls for a couple of days around Dubai. The highlight was the hotel security man who clicked his heels at attention and saluted as I passed through the entrance barrier.

Any Rolls will have that kind of effect – but this was not just any Rolls. This is a Spectre, the first all-electric vehicle from the venerable British car maker, owned by BMW of Germany since 1998. It simply demands public attention.

It is a big car, even by Rolls standards. At around three tonnes, it is heavier than even the flagship Phantom, the car of kings and presidents in the Middle East. The Spectre is not as tall as the SUV Cullinan, and shorter (not by much) than long wheel-base versions of the other models, but it simply oozes class and grandeur.

The livery on the one I drove was just drop-dead gorgeous: shimmering gold-green body with contrasting jet black hood, roof and trunk; and huge shiny alloy wheels which, I fantasised, contained some fiendish device to keep other cars at a respectful distance.

Rolls says it is the most aerodynamic car it has ever produced, and the sleek lines flowing to the big coupé rear are certainly a change from the strong vertical “sit up” look traditionally associated with Rolls.  

Range for the Spectre is estimated at about 465km, sufficient for most Rolls owners – any further and they would probably opt for the helicopter

The doors are so heavy you have an electronic switch to open and close them and retractable umbrellas are housed in the door arches. Of course.

The interior is full of all the glittering high-tech gadgetry you expect from a state-of-the-art car of British and German heritage, and at night turns into a veritable planetarium of twinkling stars and LCD displays. Very Dubai.

My tongue-in-cheek complaint about the interior is that the air-conditioning is too loud. With a totally silent electric engine and Rolls’ fabled “magic carpet” suspension, the AC is about the only thing you can hear – until you turn on the bespoke sound system which is of concert-hall quality. 

Cushion, Home Decor, Car At night the interior 'turns into a veritable planetarium of twinkling stars and LCD displays. Very Dubai'Rolls-Royce
At night the interior ‘turns into a veritable planetarium of twinkling stars and LCD displays. Very Dubai’

Petrol-heads don’t exist in the age of EV, so for all you electro-heads out there, here are the basics: a 577 bhp engine (the most powerful in the Rolls portfolio, outside specials) will glide you from zero to 100kph in 4.5 seconds and deliver a top speed of 250kph. That’s not Ferrari-fast but Rolls owners don’t seek such juvenile thrills.

The electric battery is, of course, the big new feature. The Spectre uses the same advanced nickel-manganese-cobalt battery BMW has developed for its EV range, and it takes up most of the space under the passenger compartment, accounting for roughly a quarter of the total weight. 

It has capacity to generate 120kW per hour – easily enough to run a large house – but only 102kW of that is available because Rolls does not want batteries to burn out over the incredible longevity of its cars. It’s estimated that of all the Rolls ever built since 1906, 65 percent are still on the road.

Range and recharging are still the main issues with all EV cars. The Spectre’s maximum range is listed at 655km, but that assumes perfectly ergonomic driving conditions in optimal climate.

“Real range” for the Spectre is estimated at about 465km, which is probably sufficient for most Rolls owners – any further and they would probably opt for the helicopter.

Likewise, the challenges of recharging will not worry owners. They will have somebody to plug in their Spectre overnight in the eight-car garage in the Hills for the 5.5 hours needed to reach full range.

Unlike me for my weekend test, that is. I found myself constantly watching the range dial on the high-tech dashboard, which dropped surprisingly quickly in normal Dubai driving, and a couple of times searching urgently for a public charging point, most of which turned out to be already occupied.

Memo to UAE authorities: with so many new EV’s coming on the roads – 25 percent of all new car sales – an accelerated roll-out of charging infrastructure is a top priority.

As for the cost – if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

There is a “basic” price of about $420,000, but nobody buys a basic Rolls. Bespoke customisation will easily push the price to well over $500,000.

If you are in the market for the ultimate EV motoring experience, and doing your bit to save the planet, in a very ostentatious way, that is probably good value.

Frank Kane is Editor-at-Large of AGBI and an award-winning business journalist. He acts as a consultant to the Ministry of Energy of Saudi Arabia and is a media adviser to First Abu Dhabi Bank of the UAE

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