A test mule of the next generation Rolls-Royce Phantom has been spied near BMW's technical center in southern Germany.

The current Rolls-Royce Phantom has been on sale since 2003 and received a facelift in 2012 so it's no wonder work has started on a successor which will likely be introduced in 2017 as a 2018 model. Seen here is a test mule with a significantly lowered ride height and two additional air intakes in the front bumper. In addition, the four exhaust pipes at the back are longer than usual and don't fit nicely within the rear bumper.

The vehicle seen here could feature a plug-in hybrid system sourced from the next generation BMW 7-Series upon which the new Phantom will likely be based. The flagship Bavarian model is expected to lose up to 200 kg as a result of an extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum which could also find its way in the next Phantom, thus shaving some considerably weight from today's hefty 2,550 kg model. Such a considerable diet would also offset the added hardware commanded by a possible plug-in hybrid variant.

The V12 engine will live on in the next generation Phantom while the design won't stray away too much from today's model as Rolls-Royce Design Director Giles Taylor recently said they will take an "evolutionary path" with "more charisma and more edge."

Gallery: 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom test mule spied for the first time

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