Looking at the elegant 7 Series Individual, you might think it’s the perfect missing link between BMW’s run-of-the-mill 7 Series and BMW’s big luxo-daddy, the Rolls-Royce Phantom. However, this hasn’t stopped BMW from developing the upcoming entry-level Rolls-Royce Ghost, recently previewed by the Rolls-Royce 200EX Concept at the Geneva Auto Show. Essentially it’s a V12-powered F02 7 Series that’s been made even longer and fitted with a body that looks like a Phantom with slightly softened edges.
Now, many purists think of this “entry-level” Rolls as blasphemy. Surely, to have the Spirit of Ecstasy mounted on the nose of anything even remotely affordable to anyone but the most corrupt international bankers is just watering-down the brand, right?
Perhaps so, but maybe the 200EX isn’t to blame. “Rolls-Royce” is indeed the quintessential brand of uncompromised luxury, but since BMW took ownership of the marque and released the current Phantom, “Rolls-Royce” has also become synonymous with ostentatious consumption. The cars (and their owners) are brash, unashamed, and over-styled. Rolls has become the Lamborghini of luxury. If you want to be subtle, you’d opt instead for a Maybach.
BMW has already made the Rolls-Royce brand a caricature of what it used to be. The new entry-level model will just make that cartoony image available to more people.
All of that is nothing new for BMW. Think of what the Mini brand has become. The cars really aren’t all that small (especially the Clubman). The overall package isn’t nearly as clever as the original. BMW just took the elements of the brand people remembered (sporting performance and retro styling cues) and applied them to a conventionally-designed hatchback. In my opinion, either BMW’s own Project i or Gordan Murray’s T.25 seems much more true to the essential premise of the original Mini.
It’s not that the Rolls-Royce and Mini automobiles produced under BMW’s management are bad cars; some would even argue that they’re better than their predecessors. The issue is that the brands’ images have been not just watered-down or evolved, but exaggerated and distorted in BMW’s flame-surfaced funhouse mirror.