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Rolls-Royce Previews Its New Baby

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has released renderings of its forthcoming “entry-level” model, code named RR4. The sedan is expected to revive one of the company’s bygone Silver monikers when it debuts in 2010 (Silver Ghost and Silver Shadow are prime candidates), but unlike its plush predecessors (and the current Phantom), the RR4 will eschew isolated opulence for sporting manners and driver involvement. Small only by Rolls-Royce standards, the car will share chassis with the new-for-2009 BMW 7-series sedan, but will distinguish its English pedigree with suitably aristocratic interior appointments and a more classically upright profile, complete with rear-hinged coach doors in back.

What lurks beneath the RR4’s long hood remains a mystery. Rolls-Royce CEO Ian Robertson insists that the car’s engine will be unique to the British automaker, not merely a transplanted BMW unit. At launch, expect either a gasoline V-8 with twin turbochargers or a normally aspirated V-12, smaller than the Phantom’s 6.75-liter engine. There are strong indications that Rolls-Royce is contemplating a fuel-efficient clean-diesel engine for the RR4, with a derivation of the 4.4-liter BluePerformance V-8 from the European-market BMW 745d the likeliest contender.

On the subject of price, look for the RR4 to slot halfway between BMW’s 12-cylinder, $124,000 760Li and Rolls-Royce’s $340,000 Phantom—making it considerably more dear than its prime rival, the $170,000 Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Nonetheless, Robertson expects the RR4—which is to be assembled alongside the three Phantom variants at the company’s state-of-the-art factory in Goodwood, England—to more than double Rolls-Royce’s annual sales, which last year topped 1,000 cars for the first time in the make’s 102-year history. (www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com)

 —Matthew Phenix

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