123 years ago, a young Englishman, Charles Stewart Rolls, made something of a prophecy. Years away from forming Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, along with Henry Royce, he observed the weaknesses of the automobile industry. At the time, cars were loud, dirty; they spluttered and made ear-splitting bangs as they trundled down the road. Ahead of his time, he wrote: ‘The electric car is perfectly noiseless and clean. There is no smell or vibration. They should become very useful when fixed charging stations can be arranged.’
Along with Royce, Rolls soon formed the house that changed the luxury motoring industry forever, becoming more than just an automobile but a luxury brand, a global standard of excellence, and the representation of a lifestyle. To this day, the superlatives and titans of industries are referred to as the ‘Rolls-Royce of’, and while this is something the British motoring company has held for decades, it certainly doesn’t rest on its laurels. Over 120 years after Charles Rolls’ prophesy, the marque has unveiled, undoubtedly, the biggest game-changer of the ultra-luxury motor market, Spectre.
Spectre was decades in the making, the realisation of a team driven by perfection and with impossibly high standards. First and foremost, the car had to be unmistakably a Rolls-Royce, and then an electric car, and, until the technology was there and this could be realised, Charles Rolls’ dream would wait. One thing the brand knew was the car would bear the moniker Spectre, inspired by historic Spectre models of the 20th century and the Silver Spectre. Things progressed behind the scenes, driven by Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös, director of design Anders Warming and director of engineering Dr Mihiar Ayoubi and in 2022, the first Spectre was unveiled at the marque’s home of Goodwood, Sussex, in the picturesque English countryside.
But 2023 has been the year of Spectre for the Middle East market. The car debuted in Dubai at Atlantis the Royal and in Abu Dhabi at Manarat Al Saadiyat, showcasing the brand’s connections with luxury lifestyle and focus on Spectre being a luxury item, just as much as an automobile. This summer, Rolls-Royce is raising the bar by taking over Napa Valley for a Summer of Spectre, showcasing the cars and collaborating with some of the world’s most iconic and prestigious luxury houses to deliver the experience of a decade. The stage was the vineyards, coasts and valleys of Northern California, the in-demand Four Seasons Napa Valley and Promontory Wine, where a two-year waiting list for its vintages is longer than the waiting list for Spectre…
‘Last year, Torsten asked me, “Where are we going”’,? says Emma Begley, director of communications at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. ‘And then I knew what he meant, where will we launch this fabulous car? Where are we going to launch Spectre, because, let’s face it, the world’s first all-electric, ultra-luxury super-coupe only gets launched once.
‘We decided to go to California, as the US is our largest market, and California is such a luxury hub,’ Begley explains. ‘We were looking for something different, a little bit groundbreaking, somewhere, like Spectre, that’s spearheading things. So we realised Napa Valley would be the perfect place to come. This is the place where history and the old order of the wine world have been rewritten. The winemakers here showed that great wines can be made outside the hallowed lands of Burgundy and Bordeaux, and this is what our clients want. Spectre represents a similarly spectacular break from our past; you can make a fabulous Rolls-Royce without our V12 in front of it.
The Rolls-Royce Spectre journey
‘This is a very special moment, it’s a historic moment, the first time Rolls-Royce goes electric, and we see an electric car in the super luxury segment. In some ways, sitting behind the wheel of a Spectre in 2024 is a similar experience to carrying the very first iPhone in 2007,’ enthuses CEO Müller-Ötvös. ‘When I joined Rolls-Royce at the helm in 2010 and read the story about Charles Rolls, I knew we needed to be the first in the luxury sector to bring electrification into the market. We are the brand of silence, we are not defined by roaring or exhaust engines, and this is suited to electrification.’
The focus on being a luxury good was part of the brief for director of design Anders Warming. ‘As a designer, this is such an important moment; Rolls-Royce is made by men and women by hand; this is more a luxury good, a luxury product, than an actual car,’ says the Danish designer. ‘When we create a design, we want to tell stories. Everything you see relates to something that inspired us, something greater than the sum of its part. When designing a Rolls-Royce, we think of three things: our patrons, creators and heritage. What is important to us is that we keep the spirit and ethos of our founders alive. We take the best and make it better; this lives on in everything we design. When designing Rolls-Royces, we create automotive haute couture; there’s nothing quite like it in the world,’ he continues.
The Rolls-Royce Spectre drive
Rolls-Royce Spectre is first a Rolls-Royce, and then an electric car, and getting behind the wheel feels almost no different from its iconic models, Phantom, Wraith, Ghost or Cullinan. One difference, however, is the streamlined cockpit. There’s the usual array of dials and sensors to ensure the safest and smoothest drive, but embodying the less is more philosophy. Drivers are able to feel the road and use only what they need without superfluous, and often unnecessary, distractors.
A true delight is the ever so subtle – almost unnoticeable – crescendo of a harp upon acceleration. With no V12 engine (or engine noise), the marque cleverly chooses to input sound to create a more tactile driving experience. The dramatic soundbite feels like the soundtrack to the driver’s own experience, allowing them to live inside their own mini-movie. Spectre’s drive itself is effortlessly smooth, echoing Warming and the design team’s design to almost hover above the road, wafting through the air as if lifted by a string. A ‘B’ button on the spindly column shifter can be pressed to increase regenerative braking and ensure the smoothest ride – so smooth, a glass of champagne would not be spilt in the backseat.
‘Spectre is designed to sit in, not on,’ explains Warming of the rear design, and Rolls-Royce’s signature backseat experience is undoubtedly there in Spectre. Passengers sink into the butter-soft leather cabin and, come night, can gaze up at the canopy of stars that is the signature Rolls-Royce Starlight Headliner. A popular design addition to Rolls-Royce automobiles, hundreds of fibre-optic lights handset into the leather to create the illusion of shooting stars and constellations. Spectre takes this to a new level with Starlight Doors, enveloping the user in the same sparkling, hand-crafted light display. Another new addition is the self-righting centre caps, where the RR emblem on the steering wheel stays straight while driving. Driving Rolls-Rouce Spectre feels truly like something special, lighter, perhaps, niftier, but undoubtedly, the future.
How Rolls-Royce shows its first ultimate luxury product, more than an automobile, is by truly enhancing the life of the owner or driver and creating an entire experience and lifestyle outside of the drive. An umbrella is perfectly tucked away in the door for a rainy day. ‘It’s a beautiful thing,’ adds Warming, ‘it’s a simple thing, but it inspires in its use; it tells us more about life with a roll’s royce.’ Owners also have access to Whispers, Rolls-Royce’s own members’ app, where like-minded drivers can read though-provoking editorials by a global team of leading journalists and thinkers, discreetly connect with each other and have access to the priceless perks and experiences that come with being part of the Rolls-Royce owners’ club.
‘This is such a fantastic hotel, it’s only two years old, and it’s the hottest bed in town,’ adds Begley on the setting for the summer of Rolls-Royce Spectre, the enchantingly unique and bucolic Four Seasons Napa Valley. ‘Local resident Erin Martin built it to reflect the agricultural history of the place. It’s somewhere our clients would come; we are actually bringing them here.’
The property is the epitome of quiet luxury. Four Seasons‘ signage is barely noticeable, bar the signature pillows and in-room branding, and the grounds resemble a winemaking farm – that is, until you step into the public spaces, spa and tasteful rooms. The hotel lies just 1.5 hours from San Francisco in the heart of Napa Valley’s most charming town, Calistoga, surrounded by vineyards. Rooms have slick fireplaces – roaring at the flick of a switch – terraces overlooking the rolling valleys, swimming pools and jacuzzis bubble away, and a farm-to-table restaurant served blends from its own winery. This is all-American low-key luxury at its finest, the hospitality equivalent of Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce is a lifestyle, and as part of Spectre’s launch, the marque invited the world into this elite club and the brands it aligns with. The world’s media and Rolls-Royce clients were granted access to Promontory Wine, one of the most exclusive wineries in Napa Valley, if not North America. Sitting atop a promontory on the convergence of three rock formations, its mineral-rich soils have allowed it to create an all-encompassing, diverse range of blends, while only planting the valley’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon. Some wines have a two-year waiting list, and the winery is strictly by appointment only, overlooking the tapestry of rich golds, oranges and greens.
Spectre is the future of the ultra-luxury automobile industry as the world shifts away from gas-guzzling supercars to sustainable options and quiet luxury. The world is changing, and Rolls-Royce is once again at the forefront, and drivers have the chance to be part of history. One thing is certain, Charles Rolls would be proud.
From $422,750 (about AED1.55 million); rolls-roycemotorcars.com