Rolls-Royce deviates from the norm

The Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100
PHOTO: Rolls-Royce

The driverless - or, rather, chauffeur-less-concept offers a tantalising glimpse into the British luxury carmaker's next 100 years.

The red-lettered 'RR' emblem affixed to the downsized Pantheon grille on the Rolls-Royce 103EX is a reminder - if you needed one - that this car is purely experimental.

Like the blown-glass illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy, the grille is purely cosmetic - there is no radiator or internal combustion engine behind it - but too dear to the marque to be excluded from the design, even as its creators contemplate the next century in the most forward-thinking ways possible.

This is the company's first "pure" Vision Vehicle, following the Phantom-derived 100EX cabriolet of 2004, 101EX coupe of 2006 and 102EX electric saloon of 2011.

The 103EX is derived from nothing; it bears no resemblance to any production model, past or present, yet thanks to its sheer magnitude (it is a Phantom-sized monster, stretching almost 20 feet end to end) and the preciousness of its details, it manages to embody everything a Rolls-Royce car ever was, is or will be.

The car itself, despite its futuristic outlandishness, is a tour de force of Rollerdom, packed with Easter eggs for the faithful.

Rolls-Royce's German corporate parents are as dogged as the tweediest Brit when it comes to mining the carmaker's storied history for ideas.

Take 'Eleanor', the 103EX's artificially intelligent concierge, named for the woman who posed for the original Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture back in 1911.

Or how about the 103EX's analogue dashboard clock, which is designed to recall the electric generators that Henry Royce was making a decade before he met Charles Rolls? Details.

So here's your future, bluebloods. Mighty V12 engines will give way to mysterious electrical propulsion units; chauffeurs, front seats and steering wheels will give way to all-knowing disembodied voices; and supreme luxury will give way to technology-enhanced supreme luxury.

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