11 March 2004

The first-ever Rolls-Royce concept car, the 100 EX soft-top four-seater, was widely considered to be one of the best surprises at Geneva.

Designed in California by Marek Djordjevic and built in Germany, the 100 EX isn’t confirmed for production, but a Rolls spokesman told Autocar, ‘you may see elements from this car in the future,’ most likely in the new Corniche pencilled in for late 2006.

Named after a pre-war series of experimental engineering cars, hence the EX moniker, the Rolls concept marks the company’s anniversary year, which starts in May.The 100 EX is based on the Phantom’s alloy spaceframe and uses its suspension, transmission and instrument panel, but otherwise the car is new.

The aerodynamic styling of the all-new body is centred around a smooth new interpretation of the classic Rolls grille – a detail that won approval from rival designers.Under the long bonnet is a new 64-valve V16 engine with an astonishing 9.0-litre capacity, and made bespoke by BMW’s M-division. The stretched version of the Phantom’s V12 ought to be good for 600bhp – a lightly-stressed 67 bhp per litre – although official stats haven’t been revealed.

Shallow indicators and projector headlamps complete the redesign of the Rolls-Royce face. Although imposing at 5.6m long, the proportions of the 100 EX are subtly different to the Phantom. Overall, the body is shorter by165mm, the roofline is 75mm lower and it sits on a 100mm shorter wheelbase. And to make room for the longer V16 engine, the scuttle has been moved back to extend the engine bay.

The Phantom’s hallmark rear-hinging ‘coach doors’ are a key feature, adding a unique styling line to the side profile, and easing access to the rear seats.

A traditional soft-top is used in place of a folding-metal roof. ‘Soft tops can be as quiet as a hard top,’ said Rolls design chief Ian Cameron, ‘but there’s a special romance in hearing rain drops on the hood.’

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