Rolls-Royce’s Future: Star Wars Meets Superfly

The thing about really old car companies is that they seem to enjoy taking the gulf of time they’ve been in existence and projecting it into the future.

Rolls-Royce, the 110-year-old purveyor of rolling boutique enclaves for the horses and mahogany set, just looked ahead and saw something…intergalactic?

The Rolls-Royce VISION NEXT 100, unveiled today in London, is being billed as the company’s first “vision vehicle” — a conceptual look at the ultimate luxury car of tomorrow. Actually, make that date a little further in the future, perhaps sometime after the empire strikes back but before the Jedi returns.

Because vehicles aren’t vehicles anymore, the automaker refers to the concept as a mobility provider. It consulted with customers (“patrons,” in Rolls parlance) to identify the luxury elements they couldn’t do without, and the features they’d want to see in the future. Designers then blended them into this somewhat scary but undeniably futuristic concept.

“With the Rolls-Royce VISION NEXT 100 we were mindful not to dwell on the past,” said Giles Taylor, the company’s design director, in a statement. “We wanted to be as innovative as possible and at the same time transcend the design history of the marque.”

Rolls-Royce VISION NEXT 100

While the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament remains, the concept’s fenders took on the shape of a TIE fighter. Under the hood, the company imagines a propulsion source that isn’t a gasoline-powered V12. In the future, an owner will probably be taxed for even thinking of such a thing.

Inside the concept, Rolls envisions a digitally connected cockpit where all functions are controlled by the “Voice of Eleanor” — an artificial intelligence system that anticipates and responds to your every whim. The name alludes to Eleanor Thornton, the woman on which the hood ornament was modeled in 1911.

All this Skynet-like technology might sound unsettling, but rest assured: there will still be a handcrafted interior and lots of real wood trim in the future. Oh, and an analog clock.

If the name VISION NEXT 100 (the name is screamed, like a partisan tweet) seems familiar, it should. Parent company BMW released a Tron-like concept of the same name back in March.

[Images: Rolls-Royce]