Rolls-Royce showed off its Vision Next 100 concept today in London, giving a look at what its vehicles might look like a century years from now. Each BMW brand will show its own concept this year; BMW’s Vision Next 100 concept was an interesting mix of textile-like patterns with stretchy fenders and a very 2010s four-door coupe shape, but this Rolls-Royce concept looks more like a luxury version of a World Solar Challenge racer.
The car’s official title is 103EX, following the convention of recent Roller concepts. Whereas its BMW counterpart was perhaps a safe, predictable vision of the future, the Rolls is a striking vehicle and a big departure for the brand. Whether it works as a whole for you or not, it represents the kind of stylistic provocation that made ex-BMW stylist Chris Bangle a household name. While the early Bangle cars were extremely controversial, this Rolls concept is clearly the heir of his penchant for sharply creased character lines. Call the rocker panel crease flame surfacing if you want.
The floating headlamps and blade-edged verticality of the fenders are classic Rolls: imposing and visually heavy, without necessarily being classically beautiful. The square, flat grille is, to my eyes, much less successfully integrated. It seems like Rolls had the perfect opportunity to evolve the trademark grille into something more contemporary. In 100 years, the brand will still need to lean on this sort of anachronism? That seems short-sighted.