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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jun 14, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

ROYAL PEARL JAM Words and pictures by John Grafman

Timing is everything. Rolls-Royce knows it. The 200EX, being shown in Beverly Hills for a select few, is the latest concept that is destined for production in fall of 2009. The concept, first shown at the Geneva Auto Show, captures the historical spirit of the maker in a contemporary product, so it seems appropriate that the road going version will be labeled the Ghost. Tom Purves, CEO, Paul Ferraiolo, President of RR Motor cars North America, and Ian Cameron, Chief Designer, have made the trip to California, along with other RR staff to provide an added richness to the presentation. This is a significant advancement for one of the most hallowed names in transportation, and having the corporate brass on hand just makes good sense.

The concept, or more correctly an experimental model, is a big step forward for the Brits. The design is a distinctly modern interpretation of majestic motoring. When BMW acquired the brand there was a need to retain the look of the prior products, so as to not alienate its client base. The Phantom is by all means a huge improvement over its ancestors in many respects, but it doesn't push the envelope in the styling department. It is essential that the car carries on the traditional look of the brand. But that was then, and this is now. The 200EX is a much more fluid, dynamic shape both inside and out. While the boldness we associate is still intact, this comes off as a much more modern approach to luxury. Complimenting our sentiments, Tom Purves, CEO of Rolls-Royce, adds, "We expect the more informal, agile design to broaden the appeal of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, attracting people who appreciate its fusion of refinement, new technology and contemporary style."

On the subject of technology, the sumptuous interior feels truly spacious, due in part to the construction technique used. While the extruded aluminum frame served its purpose in the Phantom, it requires a larger extruded section and takes more space. As a result the upcoming Ghost uses a high-strength steel unibody. Maybe it isn't as exotic, but one can't argue with the roominess the chassis yields. A glance at the cabin and the quality of materials and layout capture the eye immediately. The gorgeous, highly polished Santos Palissander wood trim used throughout is, like the exterior, smooth and flowing. This is a definite break from the traditional Phantom line. The seats with supple, natural grain crëme light leather embrace the body with love in the way a mother embraces a newborn. The perfectly detailed metal parts adorn the vast surfaces of wood and leather. Besides the obvious, the designers clearly studied what worked and what could use improvement on the Phantom. A couple of elements that were refined are the seat controls and the BMW control system that was just too complicated to be used effectively while driving. The seat controls have been located the lower seat cushion like so many other cars. Unique no, effective yes. The center control system does still feature a rotating controller, but now external buttons that surround the controller will allow the user to quickly jump to the feature system, like audio or climate.

The coach doors, embedded umbrellas, and eyeball air vents are a few of the items we know and love from the Phantom line and are fortunately retained in this model too. A degree in fashion design isn't required to realize that the 200 is striving to be a more contemporary vehicle. In the end, this actually looks like a car one wants to drive, rather than one that one wants to simply sit in, or just admire. The 12-cylinder should be more than adequate to get this moving. This very well could be edging into the performance arena that we would associate with Bentley. The grill, unlike the flush fitting vanes on the Phantom, follows the rakish looks. This is neo-aggressive styling with a tempting flare, but restrained. Of course, the Sprit of Ecstasy still sits a top, as we would expect, regardless of any design changes large or small. As one gets past the beauty and major features, like the monitor/folding picnic tables (err, laptop tables), the smaller details like the frosted Rolls-Royce name in the headlights, or the red paint used in the badging. The more time spent with the car, the more appreciation one has of all facets of this ultra-premium four door.

This is not as tall or long as the Phantom, but this is no less stately. The 200EX is larger than a BMW 7 series at 5,399mm (17' 8.5") in length (435mm / 17" shorter than the Phantom) and†1,948mm (6' 4") in width. The height of 1550mm (5' 1") is plenty big enough for all but the most discerning saloon owners. Not only is this dimensionally smaller, but the upcoming Ghost should be priced about 50-100K less than its bigger sibling. Is this what the public really wants? Rolls-Royce hasn't started taking orders just yet, so it's a little hard to gage. However, the factory in England is gearing up with the required talent to ensure that production can be ramped up. As it turns out, Rolls-Royce is one of the very few car companies that's hiring factory workers these days, albeit in numbers that are fraction of what most car companies retain. With all the economy in recession, the upcoming more affordable motorcar might be the perfect solution, so you can still have your caviar and eat it too.

For LA Car's interview with Rolls Royce Design Director Ian Cameron, click here. For more information about Rolls Royce products, go to


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