The premium SUV segment will go further upscale in 2018 when Rolls-Royce delivers its ultra-luxurious bespoke model, currently code-named the Cullinan but likely to retain the name for production.
The carmaker has released the first two official images of the SUV, although it hides under the usual swirly camouflage. Nevertheless, the prominent upright grille and long bonnet stand out as trademark styling cues. Earlier spy pictures of the test mule showed it disguised as a Phantom saloon.
The photos mark the SUV’s move to a test programme where spy photographers will follow its every move. Cullinan is officially set to be “assessed on public roads in various locations around the world”, says Rolls-Royce.
The testing phase will ensure the SUV still “delivers Rolls-Royce’s trademark ‘magic-carpet’ ride on a variety of surfaces and that it is resilient to extreme weather conditions”.
Cullinan will go to the Arctic Circle after Christmas for cold-weather testing. Later, it will head for the extreme heat of the Middle East, which is likely to be its main market.
The SUV is based on an all-new aluminium architecture which will eventually be used for the next-generation Phantom. An all-new suspension set-up is being developed for the Cullinan, alongside the all-wheel-drive system.
Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Muller-Otvos told reporters at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show that he loved the name Cullinan, named after the world’s largest rough diamond.
He had a dig at Bentley, which has described its Bentayga as the “best SUV in the world.” Said Muller-Otvos, who prefers to call Cullinan an all-terrain Rolls-Royce: “The Bentley SUV is clearly the number two.
“Rolls-Royce is the best in the world and will be when our model arrives. We will bring a great new car, and an authentic Rolls-Royce into the market.”
Meantime, Porsche is developing its next-generation Cayenne, due to officially break cover in 2018. These spy pictures show it undergoing testing in Finland and wearing minimal camouflage.
It’s hard to tell the new version from the current model, although there are styling cues reminiscent of the smaller Macan, despite the swirling snow.
Most of the changes are expected under the skin, thanks to Cayenne’s MLB platform which it shares with the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga.
The architecture has helped cut the weight of the Q7 by upwards of 200kg, so Cayenne should reap similar benefits and retain its crown of the fastest SUV from the Bentayga.