Rolls-Royce is a marque known for being exceptional, and today it truly lived up to its name with the unveiling of a new Vision 100 concept car. It's part of parent company BMW's centenary celebrations, envisioning what the future of mobility will look like in another 20 or 30 years. The RR answer is simply staggering in the extremism of its opulence and swagger. I witnessed it rolling in to the stage here in London this morning, and it felt like I was attending the inauguration of a giant cruise ship. Measuring nearly 20 feet in length (5.9m) and five feet tall, the Vision 100 dwarfs its occupants and nearby attendants in a way that even the grandest present-day Rolls-Royces can't quite match.
In introducing the car, Rolls-Royce referred to it as “her,” and with good reason. The Spirit of Ecstasy figurine that sits proudly at the front of the car has also been personified in the form of an AI called Eleanor inside the car. “She’s your ethereal concierge,” says Rolls-Royce, and she handles most things around the vehicle in response to your voice commands. Like any good AI, she will learn about you over time, remembering your preferred routes, restaurants, and apparently even your taste in art. The Vision 100 is a fully autonomous, zero-emissions vehicle, and it serves to underline BMW’s expressed belief that electric drive is the future.
The incredible thing about the grandiose car on show today was that it was just a two-seater. I know of apartments in London and San Francisco with less space than you’ll find inside Rolls-Royce’s concept. There’s a sofa — couch, for our American readers — on the inside and no steering wheel or instrument panel to speak of. Rolls-Royce describes those things as “superfluous in this model.” Instead, residents within the confines of this luxury cocoon are presented with a full cabin-width transparent OLED display. The interior is dominated by Macassar wood, and includes a carpet of “hand-twisted silk” and “further extraordinarily soft silk” on the upholstery.
I’ll let the exterior of this car speak for itself. As dramatic and spectacular as it is, though, I do have to note a measure of disappointment with the haughty way in which Rolls-Royce speaks of it. The luggage compartment was introduced as helpfully positioned for servants and helpers to access, because obviously a Rolls-Royce owner would never even think of touching his or her own bags. Moreover, the whole concept of a “grand arrival” with the Vision 100 — which, to be fair, is a consistent theme with Rolls-Royce — basically marks this as a vehicle to communicate conspicuous wealth.