2018 rolls-royce cullinan

The brand’s first SUV comes to challenge the Bentley Bentayga
by Ciprian Florea, on November 20, 2017, 13:30

The luxury SUV bug has bitten its share of automakers in recent years. Up to now, Rolls-Royce has been an exception. Come 2015, luxury automaker has confirmed it is working on an SUV of its own. Better late than never, Rolls-Royce. News of Rolls’ interest in developing a luxury SUV came to light after design chief Giles Taylor said that his design team had begun tinkering with sketches of a potential SUV, possibly to gauge the feasibility of building one in the future. Taylor was also quick to point out that the team was still in the infancy stage of an SUV design and that any talk of "proportions and three dimensions" were premature. This changed dramatically in 2015, when Rolls revealed that it’s working on a car "that offers the luxury of a Rolls-Royce in a vehicle that can cross any terrain."

Although Rolls-Royce has no history with SUVs, the company cited vehicles from the past which have been successful in events such as the Scottish Reliability Trials and the Alpine Trials, and had the ability to carry their owners "over challenging terrain with absolute reliability and comfort" in Australia, India, and other parts of the world. The SUV’s true purpose is to challenge Bentley’s upcoming Bentayga, but the two won’t meet face to face earlier than 2017. Known under code name Cullinan, the British SUV has been spotted numerous times on public roads, and most recently it was photographed while being hooned on the Nurburgring track.

Updated 11/20/2017: The upcoming Rolls Royce Cullinan was caught testing once again, and as you can see it begun dropping some camouflage, which allows us to see a side line that almost looks elegant and well in proportion.

Continue reading to learn more about the future Rolls Royce SUV.

First Official Images

Spy Shots

November 20, 2017 - Rolls Royce Cullinan begins dropping camouflage

October 24, 2017 - Rolls Royce Cullinan reveals its interior

July 28, 2017 - Rolls Royce Cullinan caught testing on the Nurburgring

March 14, 2017 - Rolls Royce Cullinan caught testing in Sweden

March 9, 2016 - First mule caught testing

Exterior

Although this will be Rolls-Royce’s first-ever SUV, I don’t expect the company to come up with a revolutionary design for it. And the spy shots come to confirm just that, with the prototype sporting the same massive chrome grille, as well as a pair of slim headlamps similar to those seen on the Ghost and Phantom sedans. On the other hand, the SUV appears to have a different configuration below the grille, where it showcases a tall bumper and the obligatory skid plate.

But it’s the profile that brings a completely new take on a Rolls-Royce. While the first test cars wore heavy camouflage, the SUV that was recently spotted on the Nurburgring has thinner covers that allow the details to come to the surface. The first thing that catches the eye is the long roof and the nearly boxy rear section. So unlike many luxury carmakers that entered the market with sporty looking crossovers, Rolls-Royce is taking the old-school route with a big vehicle with a massive trunk. I may seem awkward, but we have to keep in mind that Rolls-Royce built some massive, truck-like shooting brakes back in the early days, so it’s not entirely weird.

But despite looking at an SUV, we can see many of the brand’s trademark cues. For starters, there’s a high beltline that runs almost in a straight line from the the engine hood toward the taillights. It’s simple and elegant, just like on the company’s sedan. The thin camo also confirms that the Cullinan uses coach doors, just like the Phantom. The massive moonroof that covers the front section and half of the rear-seat passenger compartment hints at a comfortable cabin with plenty of natural light. The wheels are again sourced from the Phantom, sporting the company’s thin-spoke design. They are very simple, but very elegant at the same time.

An important change that will set the SUV apart from other Rolls-Royce models will be shorter wheelbase. The Phantom-based mule that was spotted testing in Europe in early 2016 has a shorter wheelbase than the sedan.

The rear end is where this Rolls-Royce will be like no other production car from the firm, mostly due to its wagon-like roof and tailgate. However, it seems that the SUV will sport Phantom-type taillights instead of the larger, horizontal units you’d expect to see on a vehicle of this type. Having already seen the brand-new Phantom VIII, it’s safe to assume that it served as inspiration for the SUV. The slightly upswept bumper will showcase more underbelly protection and larger exhaust pipes.

Interior

Although it’s been spotted on road since early 2016, it took more than a year for Rolls-Royce to have the interior ready and for our paparazzi to snap a few shots of the interior. And not surprisingly, the Cullinan’s cabin is almost identical to the new Phantom VIII. Though most elements are still hidden from sight, it’s pretty obvious that it shares almost everything with the sedan. So expect the same massive dashboard with the big infotainment display in the middle, a wide and tall center console, and big A/C vents atop the controls in the center stack. There are a few changes though, with the center section of the console feaeturing a more conventional layout.

The spy shots also show a BMW-sourced steering wheel, but expect it to be replaced by a fancier wheel based on that of the Phantom.

Much like any Rolls-Royce out there, expect it to come draped in the finest leathers and Alcantara, with plenty of wood veneers and aluminum to decorate most of the dashboard and the door panels. All these features will be highly customizable, with hundreds of colors and finishes available. Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke division will also enable buyers to configure their SUV to unique specifications. On top of offering segment-leading roominess, the cabin should also be very quiet and comfortable. Since many Rolls-Royce owners spend most of their time in the back seat, the Brits will focus on turning that area into a luxury lounge.

Drivetrain

A lot may change in this department before this SUV goes into production, but knowing Rolls-Royce, a V-12 powerplant is very likely. The Brits will most likely go with the Ghost’s twin-turbo, 6.6-liter mill, which should receive an extensive update before then, as well as the already familiar eight-speed, ZF automatic transmission. I expect the combo to send in excess of 600 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque to the wheels, to make the SUV the second-most powerful Rolls-Royce after the Wraith.

On the other hand, the revised, twin-turbo 6.75-liter V-12 in the new Phantom VIII is also an option. The unit is good for a healthy 563 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque in the sedan, so it shouldn’t be a problem to tweak it to around 600 horses.

Although Rolls doesn’t use hybrid drivetrains as of 2017, it is very likely the SUV will receive one, especially since both the Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus are set to make use of this technology. If I were to guess, I’d say the Brits will borrow it from parent company BMW.

Prices

The Bentley Bentayga might be the world’s most expensive SUV in 2017, but it will most certainly lose that title as soon as Rolls-Royce’s hauler becomes a reality. At around $230,000, the Bentayga will be somewhat of a bargain compared to the $350,000 Rolls-Royce is likely to ask for its SUV. This figure is only speculation, but I don’t see Rolls-Royce placing it below the Ghost’s sticker, which is set at around $250,000.

Competitors

Bentley Bentayga

The Bentley Bentayga is the obvious choice as the most direct competitor to the Rolls-Royce SUV. The idea of an SUV coming from both luxury brands seemed far-fetched as recently as 10 years ago, but times sure have changed. In its first foray into the luxury SUV market, Bentley has prepared the Bentayga to be a cut above the rest, literally and figuratively. Covered in rich materials, the interior is class-leading with amenities expected in such a vehicle. Power is provided by a new 6.0-liter W-12 engine rated at 600 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque and mates to an eight-speed automatic. Capable of hitting 60 mph in four seconds and a top speed of 187 mph, the Bentayga is the quickest and fastest SUV in the world. Pricing starts from a whopping $229,100.

Read our full review on the 2018 Bentley Bentayga.

Lamborghini Urus

Its "Urus" name is derived from one of the largest cows to ever roam the Earth, at 61 to 71 inches tall at the shoulders and weighing up to 1,500 pounds. And while the SUV is still in concept form, a production model is likely to arrive by 2017. Under the hood, the concept features a 4.0-liter V-8 engine fed by a pair of turbochargers. This pushes the super-SUV to 600 horsepower and an estimated 600 to 650 pound-feet of torque. Driving the wheels is a dual-clutch automated-manual transmission with an enhanced, permanent all-wheel-drive system. We estimate the Urus to hit 60 mph in the mid- to high-three-second range. Although the Urus won’t be as luxurious as its Bentley and Rolls-Royce counterparts, it will be the quickest of the bunch, no matter what drivetrain it gets under the hood. I also expect it to fetch more than the Bentayga, but less than the Rolls-Royce.

Read our full review on the 2019 Lamborghini Urus.

Conclusion

It’s way too early to draw a conclusion here, but I do know for a fact that Rolls-Royce’s SUV will set some benchmarks once it arrives in dealerships. Building the most luxurious SUV out there will not be an easy task, but Rolls-Royce is indeed one of the very few manufacturers that has the means to do it.

  • Leave it
    • * Awfully expensive
    • * Not as sporty as the Lamborghini Urus
    • * I don’t like the bloated Phantom wagon design

Reference

Read our full review on the 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII

Update History

Updated 10/24/2017: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Rolls Royce Cullinan out for a new testing session, and this time they were able to take also a few shots of the interior.

Updated 07/28/2017: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Rolls Royce Cullinan out for a testing session on the Nurburgring track.

Update 12/01/2016: Nine months after we got our first glimpse at the Cullinan SUV, Rolls-Royce releases two official, camouflaged images on a production-ready SUV and confirms that the SUV is being called Project Cullinan. Later this month it will be in the arctic circle doing some more testing before heading to the middle east in 2017. Check out our review below to see the new images and to learn more about it.

Updated 03/09/2016: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Rolls Royce SUV - rumored to be called Cullinan out for a cold weather testing session in Sweden. You will notice that the car in the photos is anything but an SUV, but remember this is just a mule testing the upcoming platform.

Updated 09/17/2015: In a recent interview at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Muller Otvos confirmed that the company’s first SUV should be unveiled by the end of 2018. The car will most likely retain the current "Cullinan" codename, which was given by world’s largest rough diamond. (AutoExpress)

Updated 03/16/2015: Based on the recent details and our own speculations, we’ve created a rendering of the future Rolls Royce SUV. We hope you’ll like it.