First look at the new Rolls-Royce SUV (sort of): prototype revealed

Published: 07 April 2015

Rolls-Royce has today published these rather striking photographs of a car it claims to be the first engineering development mule for its upcoming SUV.

Only a few weeks ago, Rolls confirmed the rumours of an off-roader model were not only true but that development was already very much underway, in an open letter from top brass. You can read that letter in full in CAR’s earlier story here.

Crikey.

It’s quite something, isn’t it? Rather than get papped by long-lensed spy photographers (Rolls-Royce says the car will be out testing on public roads this week) the Goodwood firm has taken the decision to release the pictures on its own terms, and stir up some interest in the upcoming high Roller, codenamed Project Cullinan, in the process.

The test vehicle is based on a shortened Phantom Series II body, with its main purpose to shoulder some of the development of the car’s all-wheel drive system and suspension.

Although Rolls-Royce says the body gives some indication of the eventual production car’s dimensions (presumably in terms of wheelbase, ride height, wheelarch clearance and the like), it’s at pains to point out that it features ‘no design aspects’ of the end product. No surprises there. That BTCC-style rear wing's purpose is most likely to recreate some of the extra drag and suspension loading of the production car’s taller, steep-sided body.

What sort of testing will the mule be getting up to?

Much of this particular mule’s donkey work will take place on tarmac rather than off-it, fine-tuning suspension rates and stability both on public roads and across all kinds of knotted surfaces at private test centres. Further engineering mules will spend plenty of time off-road on loose surfaces and uneven terrain too.

Rolls-Royce isn’t being shy in its claims, saying the production car will deliver a ‘magic-carpet ride’ both on- and off-road.

What do we know about the Rolls-Royce off-roader so far?

CAR first revealed details of the Rolls SUV back in the March 2013 issue of the magazine. It’s expected to reach the market in late 2018, carrying a price tag in excess of 300,000 Euros.

It won’t be small, measuring up to 5.5m in length, with a long bonnet expected to house a BMW V12 petrol engine packing more than 600bhp. Manufacture will take place at Rolls’ existing Goodwood factory, which will need to perform the trick of growing in capacity without expanding in size.

Don’t expect it to be a platform buddy of parent company BMW’s X-series off-roaders, as the yet-to-be-named Rolls will be based upon a brand new aluminium spaceframe structure. Intriguingly, BMW insiders suggest they’re aiming for ‘90%’ of the off-road ability of a Range Rover. No easy task.

Goodwood isn’t the only centre currently beavering away on a high-class, high-price off-roader, with the Maserati Levante and Bentley Bentayga also in the pipeline.

Question is, how will the eventual production Rolls-Royce 4x4 be received? The jury’s out if CAR’s online poll is anything to go by. The voting’s currently incredibly narrow between ‘sound commercial sense’ and ‘terrible news.’ Have your say here.

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

Comments