Is this the future of luxury motoring?
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By IOL Motoring Staff
London, England - This spectacular piece of automotive sculpture is the car with which Rolls-Royce plans to define the future of luxury motoring.
Previous concepts from Rolls-Royce have been more real than fantasy, leading viewers into the near future, but this one, bearing the works codename 103EX, is the marque's first ever pure 'Vision Vehicle'. To parent company BMW, however, it is the Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100, one of four announced to celebrate its centenary.
For chief designer Giles Martin, it represents a return to the grand old days of bespoke coachbuilding, when Rolls-Royce would build a chassis and the customer would have the coachbuilder of his choice create a unique body to his personal wishes.
In the future, he says, Rolls-Royce will hand-build what is today known as a platform, using the most advanced materials and zero-emission powertrains, while modern manufacturing processes will enable the customer to specify not only the colour and finishes of the body and interior, but also their shape and layout.
Every Rolls-Royce since 1911 has carried Charles Sykes' Spirit of Ecstacy statuette, modelled from Eleanor Thornton, the mistress of John Scott-Montagu, second baron of Beaulieu.
In the Vision Next 100, the statuette is made of crystal glass and discreetly backlit from underneath, and the voice of Eleanor becomes a virtual assistant and chauffeur, advising the owner on itineraries, schedules and appointments, making suggestions to avoid congestion.
She brings the car around when you're ready to travel and briefs you about the event you're attending, while safely driving you there.
Simplicity is the keynote of elegance - Coco Chanel
The hand-crafted interior of the concept, enclosed by a clamshell roof and coach door, is trimmed in Macassar wood panelling, sweeping round from the single door, behind the large organic LED screen and up next to the second passenger to the side of the seat, a contemporary furniture design trimmed in a special fabric created from silk and wool, over a one-off deep pile carpet woven specially for this car in London from ivory-coloured wool.
There's no cockpit, not even a steering wheel; the big screen is there for information and entertainment, as you prepare to make your grand entrance.
And that's where this art-deco limousine goes right over the top for anybody except a movie star; as the Vision Next 100 glides to a stop outside the venue, the all-dark glass clamshell roof hinges up from the left and the coach door swings open. A step extends from under the door-sill and a red light shines down to create a visual 'red carpet', as you simply stand straight up out of your seat and step down.
The concept actually has the same proportions as the current long-wheelbase Phantom, at 5.9 metres long and 1.6 metres high, but with a sweeping fastback tail and a luggage compartment where the combustion engine would normally be.
Echoing the boat-tail tradition of the 1920's, the body is smooth underneath and self-contained, while the special, narrow 28 inch rims - each hand-built from 65 individual pieces of aluminium - are almost completely enclosed in sponsons located by exposed suspension arms.
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