The use of very slightly flared wheel arches suggests that there is a next-generation drivetrain under the skin of this test car, but it also shows that that the wheelbase of the next Phantom will be virtually identical to the current model.
With BMW’s next generation 7-series also seen testing on public roads around the company’s Munich HQ, it seems likely that this Phantom is involved in developing some of the driveline components it will share with BMW’s upcoming flagship.
Given the amount of flexibility the Rolls Royce engineering team has to modify and originate unique components, one of the few completely common parts is likely to be a hybrid drivetrain.
Components such as the automatic transmission with its integrated electric motor, the complex control electronics and the battery packs are likely to be shared with the new 7-series, which is thought to be at least 18 months from the showroom.
The new Phantom is not expected to be seen before late 2017. In an interview with Autocar earlier this year Rolls’ design chief Giles Taylor said he had ‘already started sketching ideas’ for the new car.
“I don’t feel boxed in by the [existing] design," he said "We are treading an evolutionary path and have a defining vision of modernity. The Wraith was all about modernising the brand. The fastback profile has a contemporary relevance.
"We are working on how to lay down what we call a ‘charismatic expressiveness’ for our future design language.”
Discussing his team’s thinking on the new Phantom, Taylor strongly suggested that it would be less formal looking.
“Cars like the post-war Cloud were inspiring in their surfacing, almost baroque,” he said. “Rolls-Royces have always had flair and movement. We’re looking at more charisma and more edge in the future.
“I don’t think that the current Phantom is ‘stiff’. I’m a fan of the permanence of the Phantom. But if we are going to take the model forward, we need to retain the Rolls Royce ‘golden section’, a big part of which is the angle of the rear pillar. You get a lot of privacy behind that wide C-pillar. It’s part of the Phantom recipe.”
Taylor also hinted that the new Phantom’s grille, lights and air intakes would be different from those of the current model, saying that there needed to be a “sense of connection and integration of the [car’s] graphics”.
Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below: