Exclusive: We caught Rolls Royce road testing its first-ever SUV in the wild

Ronan Glon
Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Rolls-Royce is busy developing its first-ever SUV, and our exclusive spy shots shed insight into what we can expect from the high-riding model. The off-roader is called Cullinan internally, a name shared with the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found.

Generously sent in by a reader, our photos show an engineering mule wearing a production body, which explains why it’s completely covered in swirly black-and-white camouflage. Looking through the stickers tells us the Rolls-Royce Cullinan bucks the crossover-coupe trend and adopts a more traditional-looking silhouette, though it stops short of venturing into boxy territory — it’s not a Chevrolet Suburban, after all. It’s a big car — it looks appreciably larger than a BMW X5 — and it’s equipped with a set of elegant-looking suicide doors.

Earlier spy shots confirm the Cullinan’s front end falls in line with Rolls-Royce’s design language by adopting styling cues such as a tall, upright chromed grille and thin horizontal headlights. It’s shaping up to be one of the more charismatic SUVs on the market, which is what you’d rightfully expect from one of the world’s best-known luxury brands.

2019 rolls royce cullinan news pictures price specs performance dt spy shots 02

The hardware under the sheet metal is equally interesting. The SUV rides on a brand-new aluminum-intensive platform brazenly called the Architecture of Luxury. It features all-wheel drive and an advanced, self-leveling air suspension capable of delivering Rolls-Royce’s signature magic carpet ride even on rough roads. Executives have previously promised the Cullinan will be a true Rolls-Royce, a car the world’s most discerning motorists can drive — or be driven in — on a daily basis.

While it’s too early to provide official technical details, we’re willing to bet Rolls-Royce will go big and equip its SUV with the same V12 engine found in the eighth-generation Phantom that made its debut recently. The 6.75-liter unit generates 563 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, and it channels its power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. All of the electronic bells and whistles buyers expect to find in a high-end car will be accounted for, including night vision, adaptive cruise control, collision warning, and a lane departure warning system.

We expect to see the Rolls-Royce Cullinan in the metal next year. Sales will likely begin in time for the 2019 model year. When it arrives, the Cullinan — a name that might not be retained by the production model — will compete in the same high-end segment as the Bentley Bentayga and the upcoming Lamborghini Urus.