Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rolls Royce 100EX

It's been awhile since we've heard from Rolls Royce about the 100EX concept, which had been announced as one of two new vehicles the ultra-exclusive brand would be bringing to market soon, the other being the long wheelbase Phantom. The 100EX debuted at Geneva in 2004 and production of a four-door convertible based on the concept is scheduled to go on sale in late 2006 as a 2007 model. Though the 100EX is motivated by an epic 600-hp powerplant displacing 9.0L throughout 16 cylinders, the production model, likely to be called the Corniche, will supposedly make do with the Phantom's 453-hp V12. RR has just released these pictures of the 100EX rolling around the isle of Manhattan increasing property value wherever it roamed.

The 100EX is the first Experimental Car to be produced by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars since BMW Group became the custodians of the marque in 1998 and launched the all-new Phantom at the company’s new home in Goodwood in January 2003. Based on a lightweight aluminium space-frame, this open-top, four-seat, two-door drophead has been designed and produced to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Rolls-Royce, which falls in May 2004. There is no plan to produce it as a series model. Experimental models have long been a feature of Rolls-Royce, particularly between 1919 and 1957 when a number of motor cars were given the ‘EX’ name. Unlike a concept car, an experimental car functions more fully and was originally used by Rolls-Royce to test and evaluate new systems, components and features.

While the design of the 100EX and the choice of its special construction materials resonate strongly with Rolls-Royce tradition, both its aesthetic qualities and its technological content place it squarely in the 21st century. A strong nautical theme runs throughout, with bleached teak decking featuring both inside and outside the car. Polished aluminium also features heavily, particularly on the bonnet and windscreen surround, while the composite body is finished in Dark Curzon.

The design team that shaped the new Experimental Car was based in Southern California, at BMW Group’s studio, Designworks – an entirely natural setting for a luxurious convertible. Here research was conducted into the Rolls-Royce design language specific to open-top motoring. A number of designs were proposed with the ultimate choices progressing to the clay stage. After final selection, the build process began, this time at BMW’s specialist design and build facilities in Munich.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead

The Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead is the type of car most of us will never be able to park in our driveways, which makes watching reviews like this latest clip from Top Gear the only chance to get an idea of what it would be like to own one.

doesn’t manufacture cars. It hand crafts motorcars. Similarly, the two-door open-air version of the Phantom sedan is no mere convertible, but a drophead coupĂ©. No matter what you call it though, it is a striking automobile to behold. The styling evokes traditions of past Rolls-Royce cars without slumming the retro ghetto. The wood is plentiful, the chrome finishes are mirror-like, and every interior surface that isn’t wood or metal is covered with hides from a small herd of identical cattle. You don’t drive this car, you motor.

This Rolls-Royce is an ostentatious car. Even the name—Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead CoupĂ© is pretentious. Puhleese. Call it a Roller Convertible, and be done with it, already. It sounds like an entry at the Westminster dog show.

The affectations start early and are deliberate. Only 200 a year will be built, 40 percent of which will come here, and the first year’s allotment is sold out. Why, of course it is! Its price is a cool half-mil when the teak decking, stainless-steel hood and chromed, oversized wheels are bespoken and befitted with tax, license, destination and gas-guzzler tariff. That doesn’t account for the shooting locker, humidor or wine cellar they’ll gladly fit should you desire. Throw in another $30 grand, and you can have a gold Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament (and who wouldn’t want that?). Niiiice.

Even though we've known the Phantom Drophead Coupe has been coming ever since Rolls-Royce unveiled the convertible 100EX concept three years ago, the sight of one out here in the real world is still enough to drop the jaw. From its sweeping profile to its striking face with that angled, jutting radiator, Rolls' second new product since BMW bought the name in 1998 sees the company still in no mood for understatement. It is ostentatious like no other car on the road, the most visible declaration of wealth on four wheels.

But if any car can get away with this, surely it is one with the Spirit of Ecstasy riding high on its nose. For when you get past the overtness of its detailing, such as the stainless steel bonnet, teak deck (both technically optional but, to date, with a 100% take-up) and those gimlet-eyed headlamps, what remains is a magnificently imposing vehicle. For any other car manufacturer, it would be too brave an approach, but for a Rolls it seems natural and conspicuously desirable, which is perhaps just as well given its £305,500 price tag.

Get beyond its DC Comics appearance and what lies beneath is almost pure Phantom. Sure there's 25cm taken out of the wheelbase but it's still the same spaceframe chassis, beefed up in key areas to replace most of the rigidity lost in the decapitation process. Overall it weighs just 70kg more than the Phantom, a tribute to how hard the engineers have worked to keep its weight down. Even so, at 2,620kg, it's not going to be winning slimmer of the year any time soon. The engine is the same 6.75-litre V12 with the same 453bhp, its gearbox an unchanged ZF six-speed automatic. Rolls calls the car a full four-seater, more of which in a minute.

There is only one car capable of mounting credible opposition to the Phantom Drophead Coupe and it is Bentley's more powerful, more spacious £222,500 Azure, which has everything the Rolls has except perhaps the most important thing of all in the rarefied world of the ultra-high luxury convertible: an unrivalled sense of occasion.