The first Rolls-Royce SUV hits the streets two years ahead of its launch date

Rolls-Royce Cullinan prototype
Undermining the work of spy photographers all around the world, Rolls-Royce has published the first official images of its upcoming SUV. The model is called Cullinan internally, though the name might not be retained for production.

The off-roader depicted in the photos is an early engineering mule fitted with a close-to-production body, which explains why it’s completely covered up by camouflage. We can nonetheless tell it falls in line with Rolls-Royce’s instantly recognizable design language by adopting styling cues such as a tall, upright chromed grille and thin horizontal headlights.

The Cullinan will be the only SUV on the market with suicide rear doors, a feature borrowed from the Phantom flagship. The photos don’t show the model’s rear end; Rolls-Royce is leaving that part up to your imagination.

What’s under the skin is just as important as the bodywork. That’s because Rolls’ first-ever SUV will ride on a brand-new aluminum platform, brazenly called the Architecture of Pure Luxury, that will underpin every new addition to the company’s lineup starting in 2018. It will feature all-wheel drive, and an advanced suspension system capable of delivering Rolls-Royce’s signature magic carpet ride even on rough roads.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan prototype

The SUV still has a long ways to go before it lands in showrooms. After Christmas, Rolls-Royce will ship a few test mules like the one pictured to the Arctic Circle to gather data on how they perform in extremely cold weather conditions. A few months later, the same prototypes will be transferred to the Middle East for a round of torture tests in the desert heat.

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan isn’t expected to make its official debut until 2018 at the earliest. Its rivals will include the Bentley Bentayga (which went on sale a couple of months ago), the upcoming production version of the Lamborghini Urus concept, and Aston Martin’s very first SUV, which is tentatively named DBX.

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