Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV spotted dancing on ice

10 Mar, 2016 2:40pm Ken Gibson

Rolls-Royce's first SUV is snapped in prototype test mule form, ahead of market release in early 2018

After Rolls-Royce confirmed development of an all-new aluminium architecture earlier this year, we've had our first glimpse at the "Cullinan" SUV in prototype form. The test mule was spotted undergoing Arctic weather testing ahead of its 2018 debut.

Only this car's overall length will transfer over to the production SUV, and this mock-up using a Phantom body will bear little resemblance to the final model. Under the skin, the advanced new chassis and suspension system is what's actually being tested here.

Dubbed 'project Cullinan' and likely to use the name for production, the British luxury brand's first high-riding model is officially set to be "assessed on public roads in various locations around the world". 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".

The new platform will also eventually be used for a next-generation Phantom, and the announcement that production of the current model has stopped confirms this.

Speaking to Auto Express at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Muller-Otvos revealed that the upcoming Rolls-Royce SUV would be launched in the first half of 2018.

He was confident about the progress being made on developing the brand's first high-riding SUV model, although he prefers to call it an all terrain vehicle. 

• Rolls-Royce SUV confirmed for production  

He also hinted that the newcomer will be called Cullinan, currently the codename of the car – it was named after the world’s largest rough diamond. Asked if Rolls might adopt the name, Muller-Otvos smiled and said: “I love the name.”

And in a direct dig at Bentley, which is describing its new Bentayga as the "best SUV in the world", he added: “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.”

If the Bentayga's initial success is anything to go by, there's no doubt this could be the strongest-selling Rolls-Royce in recent years, if not ever. But don't expect the brand to adopt a mass-market pricing strategy: this is still very much a bespoke, hand-made car and the price will definitely reflect that.  

What do you think of Rolls Royce's foray into the SUV market? Let us know below.