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AUTOLUST | Rolls-Royce VISION NEXT 100 (Codenamed 103EX)

Whether you call it the VISION NEXT 100 or 103EX, the special anniversary concept car from Rolls-Royce looks to predict the future of luxury.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

If Rolls-Royce and BMW are to be believed, there’s good news and bad news coming to the automotive world in the “not too distant future.” As for the bad, there’s still no legitimate sign of the flying cars we were promised. We might have to give up on that hope. As a consolation prize, more terrestrial car designs could surpass anything the sci-fi writers of decades past imagined.

The on again, off again working relationship of Rolls-Royce and BMW reignited to celebrate a set of anniversaries. While BMW is celebrating its 100th anniversary through 2016, Rolls-Royce is marking its 110th. The theme of BMW’s year-long celebration is The Next 100 Years. Since BMW is the Rolls-Royce parent company, the companies paired to produce a machine that explores the future potential of automotive design.

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The result is the Rolls-Royce VISION NEXT. Also termed the 103EX, the machine debuted in London during a special anniversary event. The intention was to look to the virtual outer limits of car design in the decades to come in the hope of creating in 2016 what extreme luxury cars will look like with current technology taking its course well into the future.

Rather than merely produce the car virtually, Rolls-Royce invested its resource in actually building a working model for public display. It’s not capable of any road test, but its doors, lights, and some in-car luxury features function by way of demonstration.

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The first thing to know about the VISION NEXT is you will never drive it — and not just because it’s a one-off concept car that will not be mass produced in the version we see here. Even if a Rolls-Royce factory on the moon builds 103 of the 103EX, no one will drive a single one because it would drive itself.

Under the hood is a zero-cylinder, who knows how many horsepower mystery. Rolls-Royce and BMW both expect the supercar or luxury ride V12 power plants are an endangered species. Even today’s wonderfully vociferous V8s are all doomed to die because there are soulless, bloodless turnips masquerading as men who insist they’re threatening a worm in Bangladesh. So, Rolls-Royce didn’t assign an engine to the VISION NEXT yet. By the time the 103EX is built, we might have also retired horses and count engine power in Jupiterian Leaping Worms or some such nonsense.

Rolls-Royce Vision concept, Goodwood Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

We can safely assume the power won’t be supplied by fossil fuels, and both Rolls-Royce and BMW insist it will be zero emissions. Observers might expect to see an electric battery powered system surging the 103EX forward. But, with Tesla’s toasting marshmallows around the world and battery capabilities consistently running headlong into hard limits, it’s more likely we’ll be seeing hydrogen or other common elements turned into energy sources.

So, we don’t have a proposed delivery date or an engine description. Rolls-Royce did provide some solid details in the VISION NEXT’s concept build. It will be built with light, strong materials most likely evolved from the carbon fiber constructs used today.

Rolls-Royce Vision concept, Goodwood Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

Unlike cars of today that are hard-bolted between frame, chassis, and body with, the VISION-NEXT’s exterior would hover or float on the road, suspended over the vehicle’s wheels with exposed arms and struts visible from outside the car as an aesthetic design element. The 28-inch, very narrow, almost bicycle-like wheels (made possible thanks to reduced weight wrought from results of decades spent in material research) are precision forged with 65 separate pieces of aluminum. They allow the car to cut through the air. The mental picture of that motion might conjure images of the high-tech America’s Cup sailboats BMW already built for USA’s Team Oracle.

Since the VISION-NEXT is entirely self-controlled (…not a future this writer looks forward to seeing, admittedly), there’s no need for any driver controls or even a driver’s seat. Instead, passengers would ride in entirely sociopathic comfort. The drapery-enclosed passenger compartment offers a wide-screen nuclear definition entertainment system and a couch wrapped in finest silk…because it’s the future and why wouldn’t you?

During the VISION-NEXT’s big reveal, there’s no indication of what how many Arcturian Space Bucks such a car might cost. Rolls-Royce can’t predict if we’ll still be using money or trading in actual souls by the time the 103EX or its actual manufactured counterpart arrives in orbiting showrooms. But, it’s safe to assume our alien overlords who rule the planet by then will approve of the bold design.