There’s little question that the car industry is fast approaching one of its most exciting, traumatic, unknown and – hopefully – progressive periods. Autonomy. New power sources. Alternative ownership models. Just about every key aspect of the industry’s ecosystem, developed over the last century, has the potential to become a) extinct or b) rapidly evolved.
And speaking of centuries, BMW is celebrating its 100th birthday throughout the year with a series of events and concept cars. Following on from the BMW Vision Next 100 Concept (both ‘Vision’ and ‘Concept’ just to make the message clear) – shown on BMW’s 100 year anniversary in March – the wider BMW Group has now shown its predictions for the future automotive landscape.
Shall we start with the good news or the bad? Ok, the bad.
The Rolls-Royce 103EX Vision Next 100 Concept. An inelegant name for, sadly, an even less graceful car. From its long, gaunt face – the poor thing apparently in pain from its cruel disfigurement – to its strangely high tail that allows a full view of her undercarriage – spindly pontoon legs and all – the 103EX is a rather misguided behemoth.
Take “The Grand Arrival” – the term given to its overly-complex, contrived door opening that tips the entire roof over, allowing occupants to stand and walk out through the rear-hinged door. The whole thing smacks of a distinctly average undergraduate student project (with no disrespect intended towards distinctly average undergrads) with a real naivety from its outboard pontoons (which appear to dictate it can only travel in straight lines), to the poorly-executed body-to-glass relationship.
Inside a simple ‘sofa’ across the rear bulkhead, a big screen across the front and nothing but simplistic wooden sides and some fancy materials in between was no doubt intended to create a pure, serene space, but the result simply looks rushed. A Rolls-Royce is, and always should be, about the beautiful attention to detail as well as the grand statement, not about packing the biggest TV and to hell with the jewellery. And should a Rolls-Royce really be autonomous? When the whole world is self-driving, wouldn’t having a driver in your employment be the ultimate luxury?
And now the good news…
What really stood up the Rolls-Royce was the debut of the Mini Next 100 Vision Concept just moments before. Those who have accused BMW’s other British brand of appearing a little rudderless since the introduction of the latest versions will have to eat humble pie. This vision of the future of the brand, its design expertly steered by Anders Warming, proves that this iconic little boat has wind in its sails.
This is the first Mini design to genuinely shake off the shackles of the rather enforced brand iconography that’s appeared more of a burden as the subsequent generations have appeared. And yet, despite the fact there isn’t the ‘normal’ Mini grille, lamps or proportions, it’s a far more genuine embodiment of the original’s ethos than any other so far.
It’s smart (metaphorically and physically) in as many ways as the Rolls-Royce is contrived. Where the big limo attempts to emulate the grace of 1930s Rollers in a very literal sense with some sci-fi applied afterwards, the Mini appears to have The Future woven into its very fabric. The way the connected elements, the solutions to new ownership models and customisation have been integrated feels entirely natural and only serves to enhance the brand. It’s progressive. Plus it has tons of desirability – the great stance, spacey glazed front and beautifully minimal interior have instant ‘want’. What could be more appropriate for this brand?