This is the new smaller, cheaper Rolls-Royce, codenamed ‘RR4’. Priced at £170,000, it will come with a similar price tag to Bentley’s Arnage, and will go on sale at the end of 2009.
A production-ready ‘RR4’ will be revealed at the Frankfurt Show in six months’ time. However, next week in Geneva Rolls-Royce will unveil a concept called 200EX, which is pictured above and look so much like the finished car that its designers aren’t even listing any visual differences.
What the new model isn’t, Goodwood bosses insist, is a cheap or ‘baby’ Rolls. Its materials and manufacturing standards will be no different from those of the Phantom, and its overall length is an imposing 5.4 metres.
Yet the Phantom is nearly half a metre longer, and the ‘RR4’ – whose production name has yet to be even decided, let alone revealed – uses a steel monocoque body-in-white more akin to mass-produced BMWs than to the bespoke aluminium spaceframe of the Phantom.
Engineering director Helmut Riedl, who led the Phantom project, doesn’t hide the ‘RR4’s’ relationship with BMWs, principally the new 7-series. It is, after all, a front-engine/rear drive V12 saloon which uses “important parts” from the 7-series body-in-white, and especially the basic front and rear crash assemblies, to help contain costs.
However, only about 20 per cent of the new Rolls’ components are carried over from 7-series and other BMWs, he says.
“RR4 has a unique height, length and wheelbase,” says Riedl. “Its air springs are shared with no other model because its ride characteristics are different and it needs extra wheel travel. Even the height of the driving position is different, both from BMWs and from the Phantom. We started engineering the car only after its proportions had been laid down by Ian Cameron, our chief designer. That was when we investigated which existing components we could utilise. Above all, the car had to be a genuine Rolls-Royce.”
Riedl says the ‘RR4’s’ cabin is almost as roomy as the standard Phantom’s. Rear access is once again provided by rear-hinged ‘coach’ rear doors. Likewise, Phantom owners won’t notice a great deal of difference in the new car’s air of crafted luxury, its refinement or driver effort levels, says Riedl. “We think they’ll find the car more dynamic, though, based on its more compact size and lesser weight.”
Nobody at Goodwood will talk about the ‘RR4’s’ mechanical specification yet, but since both the Phantom and the Bentley saloons weigh around 2500kg at the kerb, and an old-shape, long wheelbase BMW 7-series V12 weighs around 2100kg, an estimate of 2300 for ‘RR4’ seems fair.
Talking engines, Riedl will only say that the car has an all-new V12. However, enquiries in Germany lead us to believe it’s a normally aspirated 6.0-litre modular unit, closely related to BMW’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, with direct injection but normally aspirated.
Drive is through a ZF six-speed automatic gearbox, and the car bristles with the latest electronic chassis stability programs, along with an adjustable damping system that improves on the Phantom set-up. Brakes are huge vented discs, and the car has differently-sized 20-inch tyres front and rear (255/45s and 285/40s respectively).
Though ‘RR4’ is closer in size to the old “Silver Something” Rolls models, Goodwood bosses won’t confirm that the old name-style is under consideration. They do suggest that the car is likely to be made in several body styles.
When ‘RR4’ was first mooted there were estimates that its volume could touch 2000 units a year on its own, but CEO Tom Purves believes a more cautious estimate makes sense at present.
“History shows Rolls-Royce is at its strongest when it can offer two complementary models,” he says. “I believe ‘RR4’ is going to give us extra strength, just when we need it.”