Early work is under way on the all-new Rolls-Royce Phantom, Autocar can reveal. The new model is thought to be nearly three years from appearing in the showroom, but design chief Giles Taylor’s team has “already started sketching” to develop the first ideas for the new model.
The architecture of the new Phantom is undecided at this stage. Today’s car uses a unique aluminium spaceframe structure, but bosses at Rolls-Royce's parent company BMW are also said to be considering a radical shift to build the new Phantom around a BMW i3-style combination of a carbonfibre bodyshell mounted on a separate aluminium chassis.
As for the powertrain, the Phantom’s V12 is likely to remain the mainstay engine of the range, but a plug-in hybrid version is a certainty for the second-generation car.
Despite strong suggestions that Audi and Porsche will build pure-electric versions of their luxury models – influenced by the success of the Tesla Model S – BMW is said to be undecided on an electric Phantom. The 2011 battery-powered 102EX Phantom concept remained a one-off after an indifferent reception from existing Phantom owners.
Speaking to Autocar at the Geneva show in March, Taylor hinted that the new Phantom would move on visually from today’s model.
He said: “I don’t feel boxed in by the [existing] design. 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 will 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”.
A decision on whether to build the new flagship around an aluminium chassis and carbonfibre structure is said to be in the balance. Demand for the similarly constructed i3 is strong and the i8 sports car is also about to come on stream, and increasing demand on BMW’s carbonfibre facilities to supply as many as 1000 extra bodies annually might be too much of a stretch.
However, this technology would reduce the Phantom’s weight, improving economy, and put the BMW flagship model at the technological cutting edge. It is also ideal for pillarless construction, and a separate chassis would resonate with original, historic Rolls-Royce models. It could make building a wider range of Phantom models more cost-effective, too.
With the next-generation BMW 7-series likely to have carbonfibre in its make-up, as will the next Audi Q7, the new Phantom needs to be seen to keep up with these much cheaper luxury models.