Rolls-Royce RR4 scooped (2010)

Published: 11 April 2008

It might be called the ‘baby Rolls-Royce’ but our latest spyshots prove that there’s very little that’s small about BMW’s new luxury car. The new Roller, codenamed RR4, is said to be longer than a long-wheelbase 7-series – and we can see why.

These spyshots, taken on the streets of Germany in the latest round of prototype testing, reveal a car that apes the imperious styling of its Phantom big brother but wrapped up in a smaller body. Forget the disguise around the surprisingly small rear doors; there will be decent-sized apertures to ease access to the rear seats.

So how will the baby Rolls-Royce fit into the range?

CAR recently interviewed the outgoing chief executive at Rolls-Royce, Ian Robertson. He plans to increase production at Goodwood to 2000 a year – helped by the launch of RR4 in 2010.

‘Its target market is totally different from Phantom,’ he vowed. ‘It will be aimed at successful businessmen who don’t buy Phantoms now. It’s for those who want to move beyond an S-class or Flying Spur. There is no other saloon in that price category.’

Click ‘Next’ to read about the mechanical underpinnings of the baby Rolls What lies beneath all that disguise on the baby Rolls?

Gone are the days when Rolls-Royces can sit on bespoke platforms. Goodwood will share much of the architecture for its new baby with the new BMW 7-series, launching later in 2008. However, a modular production system ensures that the Rolls-Royce will receive an extended and modified version of the architecture, as befits a model at the top of the BMW group tree.

What engines can we expect?

Expect engines based around existing BMW/Rolls-Royce models, but modified to suit Rolls’ laid-back approach. At this £160,000-175,000 rarefied atmosphere, only a V12 will suffice. We hear it will displace some six litres – enough to shift two and a half tonnes of luxury saloon. And with Bentley publicly declaring they will reduce their CO2 emissions, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rolls used the group’s hybrid petrol-electric drivetrain currently under development.

Naturally, there will be gadgets and pampering galore. The full suite of BMW tech will be available on the RR4: radar-adapted cruise control, auto-shut doors and a starlight-effect rooflining that glows with hundreds of LEDs at nighttime.

Click ‘Next’ to find out why Rolls is launching a new small model
Why is BMW launching a smaller Rolls-Royce?

It’s all about scale. Goodwood produced more than 1000 cars for the first time in 2007 – 25 percent more than the previous year. And to fuel further growth, more models are needed. Step forward, RR4.

And it won’t end with the limousine pictured in our spyshots. The baby Rolls will sire a whole family of cars, including hardtop and a convertible coupe, just like the Phantom.

It’s a telling move by BMW. A decade ago, there was a gaping hole in the luxury car market. Mainstream premium brands such as Mercedes and BMW wore five-figure price tags and there was nothing else for the discerning car buyer, unless you had a spare £150,000 burning a hole in your pocket with which to trade up to an Aston Martin, Ferrari or Lamborghini.

Bentley was first to exploit this gap in the market – and plugged the hole with its Continental family, now spanning from £120,000 to £137,000. The VW group has been rewarded for being first with sales of 9000 a year. But other brands are now muscling in on this territory – premium makes are moving upwards (there are now numerous Mercs sold for more than £100,000) and the proper luxury brands (like Rolls) are increasingly nudging further – dare we say it – downmarket.

A new boss at the top of Rolls-Royce

Rolls chief exec Ian Robertson recently announced he was leaving Goodwood to head up BMW’s head of sales and marketing. He will continue as Rolls-Royce boss until a successor is appointed – and then replace Stefan Krause, who has jumped ship to join Deutsche Bank.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet