Over the past century, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has crafted its reputation as the global flagbearer for excellence and luxury. When describing the pinnacle of the industry, ‘the Rolls-Royce of’ is widely thrown about, a phrase that now translates to ‘the best of the best’. So, when the marque went about realising the 1900 prophecy of its founder Charles Rolls, the pressure and expectation to create something truly exceptional loomed over the team. From the iconic brand’s base in Goodwood, Sussex, Syrian-born Dr Mihiar Ayoubi led the engineering to create something for the history books – a vehicle that was silent, that had to almost hover around the road, to hold a charge, but most importantly, deliver the complete Rolls-Royce experience – be a Rolls-Royce first, and then an electric car. That car, is Rolls-Royce Spectre.
‘I had the pleasure of launching Cullinan in 2018, Ghost in 2020, and working on multiple Black Badge Rolls Royce models; however, today is a particularly great day for me,’ said Ayoubi at the launch in Napa Valley, California. ‘It’s a historic moment for us. We are going into a new era, and will be fully electrified for the next years. We are going to be fully electric by 2030.’
Of Syrian descent, Dr Mihiar Ayoubi moved to Germany in the 80s, where he began an illustrious career that would lead him to BMW and then Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. ‘The Electrification of Rolls Royce is not a new idea; it’s actually 123 years old,’ he explains. ‘While people know Rolls’ prophecy, few know that our father, engineer Henry Royce wasn’t a mechanical engineer at all; but he was an electrical engineer. He trusted in and believed in the electric drive, which happened when Rolls-Royce built its reputation on the V12 – on silent drive and production. In fact, the engineers always believed that one day we would be electric.’
Nevertheless, as a bevvy of electric cars debuted over the years, the marque had to wait until the technology became mature enough and of a standard to fit the brand. ‘When the time came, we decided to start,’ says Ayoubi. ‘The first question was, “Which car?”. ‘Do we try to electrify the Cullinan? We found through our discussions that we needed to be highly emotional with the new car – and a highly emotional concept is always a coupe. It has to be a Rolls-Royce first and an electric second.’
But what does it mean to be a Rolls-Royce? A product of such history and calibre and a global flagbearer for excellence. ‘A Rolls-Royce should always be a melting point before stunning design and technology. An electric driving experience should be elevated to the luxury level of Rolls-Royce.’
‘We decided to build a super coupe with the largest proportions in the segment,’ explains the veteran engineer on Spectre’s highly imposing presence. ‘There was only one car on the same scale, the Phantom Coupe. We consider Spectre to be the successor of the Phantom Coupe, and Spectre is a variation of about 1.5cm to the Phantom Coupe.
‘We needed to keep the height of the roof, but we also had to integrate the largest wheels in Rolls-Royce history, and in addition to that, we needed to add the battery to the car. We had to balance this with the interiors; as you know, you should sit in, not on a Rolls-Royce. We did this by lowering all searing positions dramatically; we wanted to deliver a cabin feeling that cocoons the passengers and driver. This was the most challenging brief ever, as in the past, we had our engine and built the car around it, but with Spectre, we re-engineered the DNA of the car.’
‘I was searching for the right words to describe the core values of Rolls-Royce and Spectre, and these are “waftability” and the Magic Carpet ride – ultra easy to drive, ultra smooth to accelerate, and ultra silent,’ he continues. ‘What does it take to deliver effortlessness? Every driver, every Rolls-Royce client, should be able to steer this car with two fingers and have every information from the road coming to them. They have everything, from the tyres backwards to the driver. Waftability is to accelerate without pressing into the seat – waftability is cancelling the mass of this car, so it feels like it’s being pulled by an imaginary hand. The Magic Carpet ride is a brand standard and loved by our customers; they want to be hassle-free and serene in the cabin. This car is 30% more rigid than a Ghost, which is twice as rigid as a popular car on the market.
‘I’ve been trying to find a way to describe how Spectre is different to driving another electric car. I always want people to visualise Spectre suspended by a hook from the sky, gliding forward, unaffected by all the irregularities of the road. The driver is floating over the road, yet having all the information coming from the road – slippery, obstacles, there’s always information yet effortlessness of drive. Knowing Rolls-Royce Spectre would be our first electric car, we devised the most expensive and demanding testing programme ever in Rolls-Rouce history.
‘Our engineers went out driving four loops – we tested the car under extreme conditions like hot, cold and humid. Each loop returned with changes we needed to make – our suppliers went crazy! Rolls-Royce is about refinement, which is in the finishing school. Rolls-Royce is not about numbers, acceleration from 0-60, or lap times; it’s all about a deep understanding of what our customers like and dislike; sometimes, this is challenging to translate to an engineer in terms of numbers. To sum it up, if you were applying for a driver job in Rolls-Royce as a chauffeur, one of our tests is the champagne test. If the driver needs to accelerate or break, the customer inside the car shouldn’t feel that – or spill their champagne.
‘With that test in mind, we had to devise every pedal in the car with a long distance, like our brake pedal. If you touch our brake pedal at the exact moment you need when approaching a traffic light, you won’t have the car pitching or diving in.’
From $422,750 (about AED1.55 million); rolls-roycemotorcars.com