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

Ronan Glon
Digital Trends
rolls royce cullinan news specs pictures prototype
rolls royce cullinan news specs pictures 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.

More: Rolls-Royce rolls out the one-off, classic yacht-inspired Phantom Nautica Edition

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
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.