2010 Baby Rolls-Royce RR4 - Sneak Preview 2008

Bentley sells roughly 10,000 cars world-wide each year, but Rolls-Royce - the brand that once purchased the Le Mans-winning marque - lags far behind, moving fewer than 1000 vehicles annually. In order to increase sales, Rolls needs more metal in its showrooms. (The current lineup, consisting of the Phantom, the Coup, and the Drophead Coup, is available only to the ultrarich and those willing to hock their first-born.) Enter the baby Rolls-Royce.

The smallest, yet still very high-end, Roller will be based on the next-generation BMW 7-series (due later this year) and will cost about $225,000. Expect power to come from the Rolls-Royce-fettled BMW V-12 - but don't be surprised if Europe gets a diesel version. Yes, diesel. In spite of the seeming heresy of an oil-burning Rolls-Royce, CO2 levels need trimming, and Rolls buyers like torque.

In addition to bolstering sales, this new model also will give Rolls-Royce the opportunity to build a less ostentatious, less arrogant car. We can only hope that the finished product will show a bit of restraint and help to widen the marque's appeal.

HIDE THE SILVER, MUFFY. THE LITTLE PEOPLE ARE HERE: You didn't think the "more affordable" Rolls-Royce would actually be affordable, did you?

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