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Car Review

Rolls-Royce Spectre review

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Published: 03 Jul 2023
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

To set off, you tug a quaint stalk behind the steering wheel. You don’t go anywhere, but the windscreen gets doused in a localised downpour. Whoops. Turns out if you don’t frequent Rollers it’s easy to confuse the transmission lever with the windscreen wiper stalk. They’re centimetres apart.

Find the correct one and there are only two settings: drive or reverse. No Sport mode. No regen adjustment paddles adorn the back of the extra-large steering wheel. If you want one-pedal driving with strong regen, try the ‘B’ button on the stalk. The one for the drive, not the wipers. 

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Presumably the sort of people who drive Rollers know that already…

Once underway, the first few miles in a Spectre are an exercise in calibrating your brain to accept something completely alien. The inherent noises, vibrations and imperfections you associate with driving are absent. Your eyes recognise the scenery being drawn past the pillarless windows.

Your muscle memory knows that a steering wheel ahead and pedals underfoot mean you’re in a car. But nothing about life inside reconciles with what you’re used to as ‘driving’. It’s more like boating on a millpond, or turbulence-free low-level flight. The Spectre glides along in reverent, curated silence. It’s uncanny. 

What tech has RR used to achieve this?

There’s nothing digital about it – none of the Ghost’s active noise cancellation here. In fact, Rolls-Royce has sought to ‘filter’ some ambient noise into the cabin because the soundproofed Spectre is so inherently quiet, the prototypes made test drivers feel disorientated. Unnerved. The peace is immediately spellbinding.

EVs are usually quiet, but this is sensory deprivation. You know it’s merely basic physics – the 700kg battery acts as a sound blanket and there’s noise-retarding foam inside the tyres – but the refinement is so enchanting that pointing out the method is like spoiling a sleight of hand trick. Just enjoy the magic.

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Only above 70 miles per hour does wind rustle attacking the blocky mirrors expose the fact the Spectre doesn’t travel in its own private vacuum. 

So it’s quiet, but is it properly comfy?

But as the old saying doesn’t go, there’s no point in being hush if you’re not also plush.

For a car wearing such gargantuan, Brunelian wheels, the Spectre rides gorgeously: stunningly compliant yet remarkably controlled. The engineers took the system they’d perfected for the Ghost and threw away the upper wishbones, deemed unnecessary because the Spectre’s battery-backboned chassis is record breakingly stiff. 

Only at very low speeds do the realities of such a heavy wheel meeting a poor, innocent pothole make themselves felt. When you’re barrelling along in a straight line propelled by a splendid 664lb ft of all-wheel drive torque, the anti-roll bars decouple themselves so one side of the car isn’t upset by something the opposite flank is dealing with. Handy, when you’re taking up a lane and a half’s-worth of space.

It's terribly clever, but all the more gratifying because anyone aboard is completely unaware of the mathematical clash of titans occurring below decks. Again, no modes. No option to lower this or adjust that. Rolls-Royce fundamentally understands something that so few other carmakers seem to realise – the greatest luxury is not ‘more choice’. It’s having tasks taken off your plate. Delegated out of sight to free your time and your mind. 

Feed in the oily-slick steering and the anti-roll bars re-engage to stop the car keeling over. Finish the corner and the car surges forward with great speed but no EV-esque ‘thwack’ in the back. It’s all very linear and composed. The brakes are beautifully judged to meter out power harvesting without a hint of judder, though you’ve got to bear in mind that with three tonnes to manage, braking distances have to be considered...

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