Ultra-luxury automaker Rolls-Royce, which has a penchant for leaning heavily on the past and on tradition, will be taking a big step toward modernity with its next-generation vehicles. While we expect future Rollers to maintain their stately presence and positively exude wealth, as fuel-economy regulations tighten, no longer will it be acceptable to turn out pavement-pounding luxury apartments on four wheels. Therefore, Rolls-Royce parent company BMW is setting about transferring the ultra-luxe carmaker’s models to lighter-weight platforms in the next few years. And now we know when, precisely, that changeover will begin.
According to BMW, the new aluminum space-frame architecture set to underpin future Rolls-Royce models is in the testing phase right now. The first Rollers to ride on the new platform will “become available from early 2018.” That means we can probably expect to see a new Rolls-Royce, most likely in concept form, to debut sometime later this year or early next year. Given the timing of the new platform, it isn’t entirely clear whether the upcoming Rolls-Royce SUV—which has been in development for some time now—will utilize an older Rolls-Royce chassis or the new one. At least one prototype for the SUV, rode on a shortened Phantom II platform, itself derived from the two-generations-removed BMW 7-series’ bones. This matters, because the Phantom is a heavy beast, and were Rolls-Royce to base its SUV on it, that creation likely would be heavy, too.
We know that by next year, the Phantom sedan, coupe, and drop head coupe (convertible) will be gone while the smaller Ghost, Wraith, and new Dawn convertible based on the two should continue on for at least a few more years, given their relative youth in the Rolls lineup. It would appear as though the sedan’s replacement, the Phantom VIII, will use this new lighter-weight aluminum BMW architecture.