the electric new rollsroyce 102ex
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The electric new Rolls-Royce 102EX

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Arab Today, arab today The electric new Rolls-Royce 102EX

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Presented with a race track, a cool evening breeze, 390bhp and 800Nm of torque channelled through the rear wheels and the session green-lighted all to myself, you'd think this is gearing up to be a story of noise, screeching rubber and opposite lock. You can just smell the tyre smoke emanating from these pages… But this evening the Autodrome is the most peaceful place in Dubai. For once, Motor City residents are getting themselves a good night's sleep. The floodlights radiate across the smooth track surface and a land yacht pulls out of the pits breaking the eerie silence with yet more silence. In a quiet moment at home, a Friday evening maybe, feet up on the coffee table… you don't realise it perhaps, but you can hear the clock ticking, the fridge whirring, the gust from the air conditioning vents. Compared with sitting inside the experimental Rolls-Royce 102EX electric vehicle, your quiet Friday evening is like a mosh pit at a Metallica concert. Down the main straight of the Dubai Autodrome, I bury the throttle into the wool carpet and listen for the flow of electricity through the car's arteries: boundless power can be so illusory. Where is it coming from? How is this car spinning the earth in the opposite direction right beneath its 21in wheels? It's as if, at launch, the 102EX is already doing 120kph. It's like a portal; now you're at a stop, now you're doing 120. How you got there is anybody's guess. Rolls-Royces are like that. But this electric one, it's uncanny — it's the most Rolls-Royce of any Rolls-Royce, ever. Why did cars shun electricity in the early 20th century again? Yet it's just an experiment. To judge reaction, they say, to find out whether we (well, not ‘we', the rich folks) will accept a Rolls-Royce without a 6.75-litre looking up the Flying Lady's skirt. Goodwood has bucked tradition by shunning a monstrously powerful but smooth petrol engine, filling up the space in the engine bay with 640 kilos of batteries. So it's not strictly an engine bay now, it's merely a very, very big battery slot. Positive up, negative down, remember not to mix them up… The usual six-speed slush-box — literally, because it's slushier than anything else out there — has been replaced by two electric motors mounted on the rear sub-frame. Each provides the equivalent of 195 horsepower spread over the rev band like icing on a cake; nice and even now, chef. If you drive the 102EX like I drove it on the circuit, extremely sedately, you just might see a range of 200km. If you exploit its 0-100kph sprint time of under eight seconds every time you pull off, cruising at its limited top speed of 160kph, you can cut that range to a third or even less. But who cares. A used Phantom of 2006 vintage in one of our local classified pages always has less than 35,000km on the odo. That's 19km per day. Go ahead and step on it, you'll be fine… The rest of the car is nothing to write home about. Well, obviously there's a lot to write about because it's as exquisite as any other Phantom around, with the finest materials sourced from all reaches of the globe. But in the context of this experimental vehicle, there's nothing to write home about, precisely because it's exactly as a Rolls-Royce Phantom should be. The car gets some fine detailing such as a glowing Spirit of Ecstasy and exclusive interior trim. The exterior colour, too, is a unique Atlantic Chrome, which also finds something or other to adorn in the cabin. Apart from that, the dials now read out vital EV information and on one of the car's flanks the petrol cap makes way for a blue illuminated re-charging plug point. Or, Rolls-Royce being Rolls-Royce, this 102EX can just drive over a special plate that would live on your garage floor and without any point of contact the thing magically recharges the car. An engineer painstakingly explained the process but he needn't have bothered; the whole 102EX is a supernatural phenomenon. The question remains: will the upper-class accept an electric Roller? Goodwood wouldn't have gotten so serious about globetrotting the 102EX from the States through to Japan if they weren't quite serious. Yes, they'll make it. Those weren't the Rolls-Royce crew's exact words but when asked the question they didn't exactly say no either. Mankind has harnessed the power of electricity since the 1870s. A hundred and forty years on, Rolls-Royce perfected it. It's as if a Phantom was made for just this kind of motoring; golden silence, the ultimate luxury. Nighty night...

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