What is the future of luxury?
With its impossibly long hood and clamshell opening door, Rolls-Royce answered that question emphatically yesterday at a private press event in London where they unveiled, their Vision Next 100 concept car. It’s the first ever, purely forward-looking concept for the venerable luxury brand and it demonstrates the possibilities for the future of personal super-luxury transportation.
According to Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chairman and CEO of Rolls-Royce, with this concept, “we freed our minds and looked 25 years into the future, showcasing new concepts and technologies in luxury. We are definitely looking at electric propulsion and fully-autonomous driving.”
Based on an advanced lightweight platform and using a high-performance electric drive, the Rolls-Royce VISION NEXT 100, takes bespoke automaking to the next level, allowing customers to be involved in the development of their cars like never before. There are four key areas of focus for the Rolls-Royce vision concept that cover the most important attributes of the Rolls-Royce experience for its owners: Personal Vision, Grand Sanctuary, Effortless Journey, and Grand Arrival.
Personal vision is an evolution of the company’s current bespoke capabilities. Taking the concept to a much higher level using their modern platform architecture, owners will be able to work with Rolls-Royce designers to create a totally custom vehicle from the ground up, including the style and proportion of their car. Unlike today’s cars where owners can only specify paint colors, materials and accessories, they’ll actually be involved in designing the car.
While no customer was involved in this car, Director of Design Giles Taylor said, “We had a couple in mind for this car. They live in central London. Are in their early 40s. Made their money in technology and love to enjoy everything the city has to offer. They are theater goers, love dining out and participating in charities events around town. This car reflects their lifestyle and their desire to stand out.” This car is designed to be fully autonomous, with no steering wheel or other control inputs. “But if someone wants controls, we can put them in.” Taylor said.
Grand sanctuary refers to the classic Rolls-Royce attribute of ultimate comfort and luxury. Your Rolls is more than a car, it’s a private retreat. As such they’ve focused on adding new, sustainable materials and creating a more open and inviting space. The Vision Next concept also incorporates warm tone Macassar wood, hand-twisted silk carpeting and soft silk upholstery.
As I mentioned the concept is fully autonomous, using technology to create the 21st century chauffeur, so there no driver’s seat, steering wheel nor instrument panel. All that remains is a completely new sense of space. Passengers have just a central analogue timepiece below the panorama window as a reminder that the greatest luxury any of us has is time.
Effortless journey is the desire to deploy the highest technology in the most unobtrusive ways possible to make every trip as easy as possible for the owner. Controlled by virtual intelligence that anticipates the passengers’ every need, Rolls-Royce has dubbed this technology, “Eleanor.” Taking its name from Eleanor Thornton, the woman who was the inspiration for Rolls-Royce’s iconic Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, Eleanor is more than just Siri with a British accent.
As you spend more time in the car, Eleanor learns your interests, favorite routes, restaurants, music preferences, and more. With simple, straightforward voice interactions, she can tailor every drive to your desires.
The grand arrival celebrates something that Rolls-Royce cars have always excelled at, making a statement. In addition to being a beautiful car with classic proportions, the Rolls-Royce vision opens up like no other car. As the coach doors swing out the roof opens up so passengers can just stand from their seats and walk right out onto a red carpet projected in light from the vehicle. Of course, should the skies open and rainfall on your entrance, two bespoke umbrellas are tucked away as always in the car’s front quarter panel.
The brainchild of the entire Rolls-Royce design and engineering team, the Vision Next 100 concept is best explained by Mr. Taylor, “With the Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 we were very mindful not to dwell on the past. We wanted to be as innovative as possible and at the same time transcend the design history of the marque.”
How much of the Vision Next 100 will find its way into future Rolls-Royce product? A lot probably. They’re already talking about using lightweight materials in the next version of Phantom. And both electrification and autonomous technologies are fast being developed by their corporate parent, BMW. As for when, Mr. Müller-Ötvös told me as we finished our conversation, “Watch this space.”
You can see the Rolls-Royce Vision 100 concept along with the MINI and BMW Vision concepts on display at the historic Roundhouse in London until June 26. The car will be touring the world, but locations and dates for future appearances have not be announced yet. We’ll keep you posted.