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Challenging Tesla: The Last Non-Electric Rolls-Royce

For my test drive, the on-board navigation had been pre-programmed with a 70-mile route. In short, the navigation didn't work. It sent me into some random neighborhoods near Phoenix, which is not what was intended. I pulled out my $399 Android smartphone and solved the problem instantly with Google (GOOG) Maps. So much for embedded automotive technology. I would hate to see a billionaire lost in a seedy neighborhood -- sort of a like a modern-day version of the opening scene in "Pretty Woman."

Now to my bottom-line realization as I drove around in this newest and extremely beautiful -- inside and out -- Rolls-Royce coupe: This must be the last non-electric Rolls-Royce.

Clearly a Tesla Model S -- or a Cadillac ELR or a Chevrolet Volt -- are very different cars than a Rolls-Royce. Realistically, very few people cross-shop. But some do, to some extent. A person who buys a Rolls-Royce at least considers a Tesla, for example. People are curious about new experiences.

A Tesla or Cadillac ELR is obviously no match for the Rolls-Royce in terms of leather, wood and overall exclusivity -- 4,000 cars a year, broken down into several body styles. That said, the sheer driving experience of a gasoline car, like the Wraith, doesn't match a Tesla, Volt or ELR. It's not as silent, smooth or responsive. You just can't beat an electric motor, no matter a 624 horsepower 6.6 liter V12.

BMW owns Rolls-Royce and it knows this. For this reason, I'm betting that this is the last non-electric Rolls-Royce.

So what kind of electric car will Rolls-Royce build in the future? Will it be a pure electric, or something of a hybrid?

My money is on the first plug-in Rolls-Royce being a hybrid, of which there are different architectural kinds. BMW i3 and BMW i8 are two such variants.

Electric motors also would make 4-wheel drive a natural for Rolls-Royce. In an electric 4x4, there's no need for a transmission tunnel, important for rear seat room and comfort.

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