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Driving the Electric Rolls-Royce Spectre around California Wine Country

The Rolls-Royce Spectre Passes the Champagne Test

What makes Rolls-Royce a delicious fantasy, an automotive nameplate that projects peak luxury is its pursuit of desire. A clear example of this quest is in the champagne test. To pass the champagne test, the driver of the Rolls-Royce should be able to brake without the chauffeured guest in the rear spilling a drop of bubbly Krug Grand Cuvée.

After driving the Rolls-Royce Spectre around California wine country, I imagine the Spectre would pass this test without a tremble.

Rolls-Royce

Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

To make this “sailing deceleration” happen is a feat of technical engineering and one that Rolls-Royce is fussing over as it prepares to go all in on electric vehicles. The head of Rolls-Royce engineering Mihiar Ayoubi said, “We didn’t want to electrify a Rolls-Royce. We want to engineer a new car. What’s emotional? A coupe.”

It is a stunning coupe, stacked with an impressive sparkling grille, and a sleek back end that tapers neatly at the rear. It’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye, both powerful and understated. It’s also a design proportion that works to make it drive as smooth as silk as it handles aerodynamics with ease.

Rolls-Royce

Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

The Rolls-Royce Spectre Will Be All-Electric by 2030

Rolls-Royce is in the midst of a massive flex of its perfection prowess as it introduces its first all-electric car—Spectre. In its quest to make fancy a part of the future, attention to detail, is paramount in this generation of vehicles that will carry the brand into 2031, when it will be all-electric.

“You see the car first and you immediately get it,” Director of Design Anders Warming told me. “The more you dig deeper you find out there are layers to the design. I wish to get rid of the superfluousness.”

In this era of transition from gasoline to battery-powered vehicles, what keeps Rolls-Royce relevant as a symbol of status that’s namechecked in popular culture is its history. As early as 1906, the company’s managing director boasted that one of its first models, the touring Silver Ghost, was the best car in the world. This fine pedigree has followed the brand over the last 123 years as the company has changed hands and managed to still keep its reputation intact. Its modern-day executives emphasize that one of the founders Sir Henry Royce was an electrical engineer and therefore dabbled with infusing electrical power in his product.

In some ways, Rolls-Royce’s present-day transformation to EVs is tied to the introduction of the opposite of an electric car, an SUV called Cullinan in 2018. At the time, no one thought that the maker of classic sedans could pull off an SUV. But the Cullinan was an immediate smash hit and opened the door for new ways of thinking at a brand steeped in tradition.

Rolls-Royce

Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

Driving the Rolls-Royce Spectre Around Napa

On our Napa day drive in the Spectre, the Rolls-Royce sense of arrival started before we even got in the driver’s seat. Spectre’s gigantic doors beckoned, cast in a pristine shade of two-tone paint. The dual palette has pairings such as olivine and white sand, Salamanca blue and arctic white, jade and black jubilee silver, tempest gray and mandarin, and midnight sapphire and twilight purple.

Once inside, to close the door, we needed only to tap the brake and it closed ever so gently. The seats swallowed us up like a high-end mattress. When we sat in the passenger seat later in the day, we could imagine curling up for a delicious nap.

Rolls-Royce

Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

Some of my favorite details were what the designer called “the ping-ping.” This is the sound the vents make when you flick the cold metal and each size vent has a different tone. The vibe is calming. Warming said he wanted to make simple use of the interior. “What we’re looking for is a perfect symbiosis between what’s analog and what’s digital. We may need analog for emotional reasons—the tactility of a button that says ‘clock,’” he said.

Rolls-Royce

Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

Silence as Luxury for the Rolls-Royce Client

There’s a method to the magic carpet ride encapsulated in technical terms like balanced weight distribution, a low center of gravity, torsional rigidity, linear deflection, and aerodynamic sound. It’s a distinct feel that Chief Executive Officer Torsten Müller-Ötvös describes as “silent, torquey, and wafty.”

Rolls-Royce buyers don’t need another a car. Statistically speaking they probably have at least six already in various garages, and the Spectre will probably not be their first EV. Public charging is not really a thing for this monied group of customers. As Müller-Ötvös repeated, the car has to be Rolls-Royce first, and EV second. “The clients are collectors, stewards of the legacy.” That’s the kind of harmony that sums up the allure of a luxury electric coupe coasting along in silent EV elegance. “Silence is luxury,” he reminded us.

Rolls-Royce

Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

 

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Kelly Wearstler

THE WINTER EXPERIENCE ISSUE
2023

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