BMW has started testing its new baby Rolls-Royce – and our spies were on hand to capture the moment this mule took to the roads around Munich. Size is relative, of course; this might be the smallest Rolls for generations, but it will still dwarf the majority of cars on the road.
Nestling under the disguise of this long-wheelbase 7-series lie the innards of the baby Roller, codenamed New Generation Saloon. The smaller Rolls will slot beneath the Phantom uber-saloon in the range and officials talk of it as ‘a Silver Shadow for the 21st century’. Strip away the BM bodywork, and the baby Rolls will look like the car depicted in our artist’s impression above.
Classic four-door proportions
CAR Online understands the NGS has a classic four-door silhouette that stretches to five-and-a-half metres long. Even Rolls-Royce owners downsizing won’t put up with cramped cabin conditions after all. Will it have the suicide – sorry, coach – doors so beloved of £265,000 Phantom owners? Nobody is certain yet, but it seems likely if customers are to be lured out of their top-spec BMWs, Mercedes and Bentleys.
Analysis of our exclusive scoop shots reveals a platform whose track is noticeably wider than a 7-series’, and the raised ride height is another indicator of what lies beneath this BM body. Check out the size of the brake discs too – required to halt a couple of tonnes of luxury car. The unknown at this stage is the material used to build the NGS; the Phantom’s aluminium spaceframe could be deemed too expensive for the smaller, more affordable car.
Many of the next-gen 7-series’ underpinnings will be used on the secret new Rolls-Royce, and a BMW-derived V12 is likely to provide the propulsion. In the longer run, we’d expect the British luxury brand to dip into parent firm BMW’s hybrid technology; not that Rolls-Royce owners worry unduly about their fuel bills - but they do worry about what people say about them. Even the world’s most exclusive uber-brands will need to face up to their environmental responsibilities in the 21st century.
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Inside the baby Rolls
The inside will be as luxurious as you’d expect of a Rolls-Royce; the company’s artisans employ know-how and materials from the world of yachts and bespoke furniture to craft the sumptuous cabin of the Phantom. We hear there will be a high level of pampering in the smaller Rolls, with quality wood, soft hide and opulent paint choices aplenty.
But the NGS is aimed at a younger buyer than the Phantom, so this cabin will be available with much high-tech gadgetry. Expect radar-based cruise control, auto-shutting doors and fibre optic headlining for that star-studded sky effect, and there will be a new generation of digital read-out screens that are immune from bright sunlight and problems with shadows.
Baby Rolls: the timeframe
Expect a concept car to hail from Rolls’ Goodwood HQ at some point later in 2008 or, more likely, in 2009. This year the company is busy concentrating on the new Phantom Coupe which launches at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, and the smaller car won’t arrive in production form until late 2009.
Prices aren’t fixed yet, but the baby Rolls-Royce won’t wear a truly bargain price. It will be significantly cheaper than the quarter-million pound Phantom and its £307,000 Drophead Coupe convertible sibling – but we’re still talking about an entry price of some £175,000.
But when it does finally go on sale it should swell the production figures at Goodwood significantly, with BMW targeting around 2000 units a year. A second assembly line is being installed to cope with the upshift.
Ten years after BMW bought Britain’s most prestigious car company, it seems that Rolls-Royce is finally getting into its stride.