► Closest look yet at Rolls-Royce 4x4
► Pre-production testing in Sweden
► It’s huge – more than 5500mm long
Here’s our closest look yet at the upcoming Rolls-Royce SUV, scheduled for launch in 2018. We've already caught it winter-testing in Scandinavia - and now we've caught it being thrashed around the Nurburgring, where it looks tip-toppily huge alongside the Ring's lower, sportier brethren.
Currently known by its internal codename as the Rolls-Royce Cullinan (modestly named after the biggest diamond ever discovered), the Goodwood firm’s first four-wheel-drive model will partner the new Phantom 8 being shown at the end of July 2017 and share its aluminium architecture.
The production model’s final official name is yet to be confirmed – we’ll keep referring to it as the Cullinan for now.
And before we get too carried away with 'High Roller' jokes, our spy photographer reports it was remarkably tidy around the Nordschleife. 'Even if the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is both big and heavy, we have to say that the air suspension looks to be working very well,' he tells us.
'We have seen smaller and lighter cars with more body roll in the curves than this monster.'
Project Cullinan: Rolls-Royce’s first SUV
Labelled an ‘HSV’ (high-sided vehicle) by Rolls-Royce itself (which won’t stop everyone else calling it an SUV), the Cullinan is designed around brand new lightweight - and ultra-stiff - aluminium platform, to be shared with further future Rolls models. Rolls-Royce is at pains to point out that it doesn’t share its platform with any of parent company BMW’s X-series models.
Capacity at Rolls’ Goodwood plant is being increased, in preparation of the Cullinan taking global sales from around 4000 cars in 2014 to as many as 7000 units a year, once the SUV is fully on stream.
We’ve previously spied cut 'n' shut test mules combining Rolls-Royce saloon bodies with the new chassis components, but these new shots give us a much better idea as to how the production crossover Roller will look.
No surprises so far – typically oblong surfacing, the trademark upright Rolls radiator grille and a high roofline for minimum head-ducking – no coupé affectations here. The headlamps will be very slimline, high-tech units for a taut, squinting front-end look.
The shutlines and door handle placement indicate the SUV will get the same backwards-opening rear ‘coach doors’ as the Phantom and Ghost. This should be the easiest Rolls-Royce yet to collapse into, away from the prying eyes of paparazzi.
The Cullinan is a very big car – thought to be more than 5500mm long – check out how it dwarfs the VW police car in the background of the picture below.
It is believed that the Cullinan will repeat the choice of the limousines, in offering a choice of wheelbases and lengths. Those who want to stretch out in true comfort should be able to, with overall lengths spanning up to 6 metres.
That's one advantage of dealing with an aluminium spaceframe.
What’ll power the new Rolls-Royce 4x4?
At launch, a development of the brand’s established N74 V12, running through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. A hybrid variant hasn’t been ruled out further down the line, but is unlikely to feature at launch.
Suspension is by air springs, to allow for a more plump ride - not to mention a raised ride height, should owners have to indulge in a spot of light kerb-crawling.
Naturally, Rolls' new Cullinan will offer four-wheel drive too. This is a first for the brand and seen as a prerequesite for an SUV. Interestingly, this means the Phantom - and other future Rolls-Royces - will be able to offer 4wd too.
To find out everything you need to know about Rolls-Royce’s first 4x4, read CAR’s full scoop dossier here