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Rolls rolls out radical 103EX concept

Vision Next 100 plan spawns eccentric Rolls-Royce 103EX autonomous concept


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17 Jun 2016

ROLLS-ROYCE has revealed a radical 103EX concept that offers a glimpse 100 years into the company's future and a return to the bespoke, individually coach-built vehicles that forged its reputation a century ago.

The outlandish design study is unlike any other concept of recent times and is part of parent company BMW Group's Vision Next 100 plan, which explores what the next century might hold for the brand and its sister marques.

BMW revealed the first of four related concepts with the Vision Next 100 coupe in March this year and the Rolls-Royce offering arrives alongside Mini's interpretation. The BMW Motorrad concept will complete the quartet in Los Angeles in October.

Rolls-Royce says that its offering for the Vision Next 100 plan rejects the notion that the advent of autonomous technology will render vehicles “anonymous, utilitarian and bland,” and its cars will continue to offer a greater experience than simple transport.

Through consideration of what its customers most value in the Rolls-Royce brand, the car-maker says its future will focus on enhancing the process of creating a unique car and, while the company will design the “chassis of the future” paired with a zero-emissions powertrain, much of the car's design will be down to the individual.

“Advanced manufacturing technologies will enable customers to involve themselves even more in the design of the shape, size and silhouette of their personal Rolls-Royce vision,” it said. “In the spirit of the great coach-built cars of the past”.

In the case of the 103EX concept, its form was steered by Rolls-Royce director of design Giles Taylor who said the company's vehicles would continue to be recognised for their unparalleled levels of luxury.

“I envision that the Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 will play a key role in these people’s lives, guiding and conveying them effortlessly through their life’s journey in an exquisite sanctuary, where they can reflect in peace ahead of arriving in the grandest style,” he said.

When called, the car drives itself to the location of its owner who boards the 103EX through a clamshell articulated roof and suicide-opening door, which is complemented by a folding step that emerges automatically and has a red down-light to welcome passengers.

Instead of conventional steering wheel and pedals, all vehicle controls have been handed over to 'Eleanor' (Thornton) – the woman who is said to have inspired Rolls-Royce's Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet ornament.

Occupants are not responsible for piloting the 103EX, and instead simply relax on the silk-upholstered 'sofa' and instruct the artificially intelligent system where they want to go.

In transit, Eleanor can assist the passengers with appointments or background information about their destination as a PA would, or control the entertainment systems which are headlined by a full-width organic LED screen.

A slide-out panel in the folding central armrest appears to offer a more conventional touchpad control and possible volume and brightness sliders at either side.

A deep-pile ivory-coloured wool carpet specially woven in London provides the flooring material, the walls are veneered in Macassar wood, and the only instrument visible in the cabin is an analogue clock that is mounted centrally above the large screen.

Rolls does not detail the powertrain but says it is unlikely the V12 that powers its current range will exist in the future, and that a 'hint' as to what may move the concept “may appear in the Grand Sanctuary” – the company's term for the interior.

The concept's styling is a significant departure from anything Rolls-Royce has previously produced, but classic details are pure Rolls such as the illuminated glass bonnet ornament, Pantheon grille and a liberal dusting of RR badges about the car.

Proportionally, the concept is also similar to its production forebears measuring a hefty 5900mm long and 1600mm tall, but despite its size, Rolls says the car is light and strong thanks to state of the art materials, which appears to be carbon-fibre in some applications.

Its narrow but large 28-inch wheels are hand-crafted from 65 pieces of aluminium and carry the 103EX around on a “magic carpet” ride and in complete silence for occupants.

With no conventional engine to accommodate, the concept's long nose houses a pair of tailored and personalised cases that are loaded by an automatic sliding bed, while a pair of Rolls-Royce umbrellas are stowed in the door for ease of access when exiting into the rain.

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