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The Spectre: Hands on with Rolls Royce’s art deco masterpiece

Rolls Royce's EV coupe is something special

Rolls Royce Spectre front
Dave McQuilling / The Manual

Despite only making its debut in late 2023, the Spectre is one of Rolls Royce’s most iconic vehicles. Like it’s ghostly namesake, it’s also not easy to spot. You’ll definitely notice one when it’s there, but only so many can roll out of the company’s Goodwood, England-based factory every year. The justifiable hype and desirability mean many of those go straight to customers.

Still, I’ve been lucky enough to ride in one as a passenger and drive one myself on a few occasions. One of those occasions involved sitting in heavy Canadian traffic for a few hours, one was a tight 20 minutes in South Carolina, and recently I got to spend a few hours driving a Spectre around D.C. and northern Virginia. While that’s not enough time for a truly in-depth review, it’s more than enough to give me a good taste of the vehicle, which I can then relay on to you.

It’s a head-turner

Rolls Royce Spectre side
Dave McQuilling / The Manual

You don’t buy a Rolls Royce to he inconspicuous, and the Spectre takes this to the extreme. You’re not really driving a vehicle at this point, but a piece of art deco brilliance. The long hood, the sweeping wheel arches, the fastback styling, the frankly huge coach doors. It’s not something you expect to exist in reality, but rather in some work of fantasy set in the 1920s instead. You expect to see Batman chasing you down every time you glance in the rear-view mirror.

Of course, you can both tone things down or dial them up depending on your preferences. I’ve seen solid black examples of the Spectre that still push boundaries in terms of body shape, but are able to blend in a little more. Then there’s the purple and silver example I was driving around the D.C. suburbs. That screams “look at me” about as much as anything can.

During my various jaunts as both a driver and a passenger, I encountered people who wanted to stop and talk to me about it in a parking lot before snapping a photo, obviously. People were pulling alongside me in traffic, and again, a camera was whipping out. Even a panhandler couldn’t resist pulling out a smartphone and snapping the Spectre, which was a first for me, to be honest. You’re basically bombing around inside a 6,500-pound A-list celebrity.

The interior is just as pleasant

Rolls Royce Spectre interior
Dave McQuilling / The Manual

While the outside is enough to blow your mind, the interior is definitely next level. You have the same choice of bold colors or toned-down elegance. Though equally loud and matching purple interior really worked with the vehicle, I drove recently. Whatever you choose, you can expect to find incredibly fine-quality leather or wood on pretty much every surface. A very good, proprietary sound system that Rolls seems very proud of, and plenty of buttons to press. In a world where everything is done via tablet, the dials, knobs, prongs, and buttons dotted around the Rolls Royce shouldn’t be overlooked. Yes, you can still do everything through the central touchscreen display, but the old ways are sometimes better.

What shocked me most from the luxury coupe was just how pleasant it is in the back. Yes, fighting past the front seat is a bit Mini Cooper, and you will have an easier time getting in the back of a Phantom, Ghost, Cullinan, or any other four-door offering. Obviously, but once you’re there, it’ll be very pleasant. There’s a mind-blowing amount of legroom, the seats are very comfortable, you have your own climate control. It’s very much an executive experience. The trunk will also fit a set of gold clubs quite comfortably because it’s a Rolls Royce after all. It also has the standard built-in umbrellas, and the automatic doors are a necessity given their weight and the fact an Orangutan would struggle to reach the things should you need to close them manually.

In my experience, infotainment is an area where Rolls Royce lets itself down a little. The on-board maps can be janky, the operating system seems a bit dated, and the Ghost seems too snobby for Android Auto. It seems if you don’t have an iPhone, you have no business connecting your device to it seamlessly. This isn’t the case in the Spectre, and I was pleasantly surprised to find I could connect with Android Auto, use Google’s perfectly serviceable maps system, and annoy the poor PR person tasked with babysitting me via an unshielded exposure to my musical tastes. Sorry, Tori!

The performance is frankly incredible

Rolls Royce Spectre dash and wheel
Dave McQuilling / The Manual

In terms of performance, the Spectre defies logic to a degree. It zips from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, which is very impressive from something that weighs enough to warrant it’s own zip code. Top speed sits at around 155 mph, which is more than you’ll ever need in this and on par with many other EVs. In terms of handling, all Rolls Royce vehicles feel a touch disconnected, and that’s part of the experience. You can put the car where you want it to go; the steering itself is very light, and the Spectre’s turning circle is very impressive for a vehicle of this length. Thanks in part to four-wheel steering. The steering system also makes lane changes at speed more stable, though this is an incredibly stable vehicle on general.

You have launch control, too, if you want to hit that 4.4-second 0-60 without much effort. When the Spectre takes off, the front lifts. It’s like a purified Rolls Royce experience, really. More akin to sailing than driving. Smooth, silent, disconnected, and not very visceral. Despite its output, this isn’t something to throw into corners like a hooligan. And while it can roast most cars from a dead stop, getting your foot down when the lights change feels a bit wrong. You’re supposed to just glide off in these things, or you may be letting the side down.

With Rolls Royce, it’s not really a case of “should you buy one.” They don’t make bad cars, and the people purchasing them aren’t in a position where it’s this one or that one. But no matter your means, there will be a wait involved. Particularly if you want something bespoke. And if you’re wondering, yes, it’s definitely worth the wait.

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Dave McQuilling
Dave has spent pretty much his entire career as a journalist; this has included jobs at newspapers, TV stations, on the…
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