Rolls-Royce has reportedly started work on a replacement for its Phantom flagship sedan, due to appear on the roads in the next three years. It will feature a new take on Rolls-Royce's familiar design language, while offering technology not yet seen on any production Rolls-Royce--including an optional plug-in hybrid drivetrain and the potential for a carbon fiber and aluminum chassis, reports Autocar.
If given the go-ahead, it's the chassis architecture that could be the biggest change from Rolls-Royce of old. Parent company BMW has now produced two different vehicles that mix carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) and aluminum, the i3 electric and i8 plug-in hybrid. Each features a strong carbon tub and aluminum sections at either end, housing batteries, engines and electrical components. Reduced weight is the main aim, though the company is also enjoying the benefits of lower costs thanks to mass production of the carbon materials used. This would also rule out the use of the next BMW 7-Series platform--unless this too is set upon a CFRP structure.
CFRP's use in the next Phantom would hinge on BMW's new plant--set to triple capacity over the next few years--being able to provide enough carbon for a thousand Rolls-Royce vehicles per year. Low weight would certainly aid the car's dynamics though, given the current Phantom (itself using an aluminum spaceframe) weighs in at over 5,600 lbs. It would also help offset the weight of a "certain" plug-in hybrid model. Rolls-Royce has ruled out a purely electric model, following feedback on its Phantom 102EX concept, but a plug-in hybrid option could prove popular for buyers in emission-restricted cities. It would also technologically rival Bentley's upcoming hybrid vehicles.
In terms of styling, design chief Giles Taylor told Autocar that the new car will be "less formal looking" than the current model. It will have "more charisma and more edge" than the existing model, but should retain key Rolls-Royce characteristics--like the wide C-pillar that gives rear-seat passengers greater privacy.