Cars & Racing | 4 January 2017Rolls-Royce; Still the Finest Cars in the World? Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Rolls-Royce and its companion marque, Bentley, had an increasingly difficult time throughout the 1970s and 1980s as their exalted standing in popular culture as the finest cars in the world began to wear thin. After much political wrangling in the late-’90s, BMW would acquire Rolls-Royce while VW procured the Bentley brand. Effectively, all BMW had bought was a name and the goodwill associated with it: no personnel, no models, and no facilities figured in the deal. BMW was thus faced with the task, a daunting one even for its world-class design teams, of engineering from a clean sheet of paper what hard-to-please, super-rich buyers around the globe would naturally expect a Rolls-Royce to be: the best car in the world. As the January 2003 release date inched closer, it became clear that the new car would be of advanced all-aluminum construction, that it would have a new and sophisticated engine unique to the Rolls-Royce brand, and that it would indeed be a contender for the title of best car in the world. From the book The BMW Century is a closer look at several of the Rolls-Royce models that have been developed by BMW. Phantom, 2003 Early indications had hinted at something large and splendid, but when RR1 was finally unveiled and its Phantom name announced on January 1, the scale and the forcefulness of the design exceeded even the most extreme of expectations. Everything about the nearly 6m limousine was grand and imposing, especially the bold, bluff front with its massive grille and multiple lights; the sheer stature of the design was initially intimidating, but after a while the intrinsic elegance of the lines, most particularly around the tail, could be more readily appreciated. Most vitally, though, the Phantom had achieved its main aim: sheer impact, and being utterly unmistakable in a crowd, whether in Beverly Hills or Birmingham. Backing up that visual splendor was the finest BMW-inspired engineering, with the promised new V-12 engine (of 453 hp), as well as impeccable craftsmanship in the interior and ingenious design of details marrying new technology with aristocratic discretion: rear-hinged “coach” doors to give dignified access to the back seat, the satellite navigation screen that disappeared behind an exquisitely veneered wooden panel, the weighted Rolls- Royce logos on the wheel centers that returned to vertical when the Phantom stopped, and the “Power Reserve” meter taking the place of a rev counter in the instrument panel. Phantom Drophead Coupe, 2007 Some had speculated that Rolls-Royce would revive the Corniche nameplate for the production version of the 100EX convertible, but at the 2007 Detroit show the model was announced as the Phantom Drophead Coupe. “This is a less formal representation of classic Rolls-Royce design,” commented chairman and chief executive Ian Robertson—an observation borne out not only by the smoothly flowing lines, whether the soft top was up or down, but also by the sumptuous, full four-seater interior, with its immaculately crafted veneers, hides, and polished metal and plush flooring. The 100EX’s key features, such as the rear-hinged doors and the elegant teak decking on the soft-top cover, were all retained, and at the rear the lower trunk lid folded downwards to provide a seating platform and the trunk floor lifted up to reveal a champagne cooler, six glasses, and, as an option, a magnificent cocktail basket (pictured). It was hard to imagine a more splendid form of travel. Wraith, 2013 Described by Rolls-Royce as the most powerful and dynamic model in the company’s history, the Wraith marked a further step towards a more driver-focused car and was, with its sweeping fastback rear, the first to adopt a clearly sporting silhouette. Considerably shorter and lower than the Phantom Coupe, its hunched poise, its implicit athleticism, and its interior environment were more sporting too: the decor reflected the ambience of an exclusive yacht rather than a smoky gentleman’s club, with pale, straight-grained wood paneling to the doors and dashboard rather than plush leather and dark burr walnut. On the center console the discreet cut-glass crystal Rotary Controller appeared—Rolls-Royce’s interpretation of the BMW iDrive—to control car system settings. Yet surprisingly for a sports-flavored model, there was no manual override for the eight-speed automatic, the instruments still did not include a rev counter, and the gear selector still remained on the steering column, as on all Rolls-Royce models. But importantly, the 632 hp and 800Nm torque from the V-12 engine gave performance never before experienced in a Rolls-Royce, and satellite linking of the transmission allowed the driveline to look ahead and adjust its settings in accordance with upcoming conditions. Dawn, 2015 Conspicuously lower, sleeker, and more clearly seductive than the Phantom Drophead, the Dawn was Rolls-Royce’s response to the challenge of building a super-luxury convertible that was capable of accommodating four adults with no compromise whatsoever—in stark contrast to the few other competitor vehicles in the segment, most of which could only offer 2+2 seating, or worse. Giles Taylor’s softer design language placed a new emphasis on gentle, flowing curves, most clearly visible around the nose and on the rear haunches, now drawn up slightly to suggest propulsive energy; when raised, the smoothly blended-in soft top kept the side profile sporty and low. The roof itself was a work of technology and craftsmanship, special French seams allowing an unbroken surface and an almost total elimination of wind noise to achieve similar refinement to a fixed head coupe; every conceivable luxury—and more—promised to make life aboard the Dawn a hedonistic delight. Though similar in dimensions to the Wraith fastback, the Dawn was specified with a slightly, less powerful version of the twin-turbo V-12, in line with its more relaxed mission. Buy from an Online Retailer Relive the first one hundred years of Germany’s best two- and four-wheeled rides. Established in 1916, BMW is one of the auto and motorcycle industry’s oldest and most-respected car and motorcycle manufacturers. Over the past century, the company went through myriad developments. The BMW Century chronicles this remarkable transportation company through images of the cars and motorcycles it manufactured, from the 1923 R32 motorcycle to sleek electric cars of today. This handsome volume is filled with images, history, and in-depth looks at the incredible machines BMW created year after year. The BMW Century showcases how the company’s new visionary team systematically rebuilt BMW in the post-World War II years into the spectacular success we know today – that is, a company with sales projected to be upwards of two million cars annually by 2016, led by its 3-series, the best-selling luxury-performance car in the world. BMW’s motorcycle division is no less legendary. It began with the 1923 avant-garde R32, which featured a 180-degree, horizontally opposed twin, the engine configuration that would become BMW’s hallmark. Along the way, BMW would use that configuration to power groundbreaking machines like the R90S, R100RS, and R80GS. Beginning in 1983, they would add three- and four-cylinder machines to their offerings, culminating in today’s spectacular S1000RR sport bike. From the pre-war motorcycles to the iconic R-series twins of the 1970s and 80s to the mighty M-series cars and superbikes of today, The BMW Century offers a full review of German engineering at its finest. The book is illustrated with hundreds of historic, contemporary, and racing photographs – many sourced from BMW’s archives – and detailed text relating the BMW’s full history. This is the one volume no BMW aficionado can be without. THE AUTHOR Tony Lewin has spent most of his working life driving cars, analyzing them and reporting on the ups and downs of the global enterprises that build them. As a writer and editor for Automotive News Europe he has kept a constant watch on the world’s top carmakers for many years. Today, Lewin divides his time between journalism and books. He lives in East Sussex, England. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.