Rolls-Royce has issued a surprise statement announcing that it’s at work “developing an all-new Rolls-Royce with exceptional presence, elegance and purpose.” While a new car from the storied company is always something to take notice of, this one will be a radical departure from its current lineup. The company claims the new car will be a “seminal moment” in the company’s 111-year history and compared it to the cars Lawrence of Arabia commanded across the desert nearly a century ago. These comparisons may be lofty, but they aren’t entirely undeserved. This car will begin a new chapter for the company. This new Rolls-Royce is an SUV.
The announcement of the rugged Rolls came in a formal letter titled “An open letter from the Chairman and Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce Motorcars on the subject of a new Rolls-Royce,” signed by company Chairman Peter Schwarzenbauer and Chief Executive Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes. Using a series of bullet points, Rolls-Royce goes out of its way to not call the new car an SUV, instead referring to it as a “high-bodied car” that “can cross any terrain,” and can meet its customers’ “highly mobile, contemporary lifestyle expectations.” While other details are murky in the letter, the company was quick to claim that “This Rolls-Royce will be Effortless…Everywhere,” and gave it a proper launch on Twitter with the hashtag #EFFORTLESSEVERYWHERE.
Speaking with Automobile Magazine, Rolls-Royce board member in charge of research and development Klaus Froehlich and senior designer Giles Taylor fleshed out some further details about the car, telling the publication that the new Rolls is being developed under the name “Cullinan,” after the world’s largest diamond. Froelhlich stresses that the go-anywhere Rolls will not be based on the new BMW X7 platform, as rumored, but have its own unique aluminum architecture.
Taylor said to Automobile Magazine that the company has “settled on a theme that moves away from classic crossovers and SUVs,” adding that the design is unmistakably Rolls-Royce, showing “that it does mean business, but not in an agricultural way.” The all-wheel drive Rolls will most likely seat four (with optional seating for five), and be powered by Rolls-Royce’s 6.6-liter, 630-horsepower V12 engine. Barring any delays, the SUV is expected to make its debut in 2018 or early 2019.
In the company’s letter, it declares, “History sets our precedent, and our future calls us to action.” The future of the ultra-luxury SUV segment is a lucrative one, and the case for a Rolls-Royce SUV is irresistable given the current marketplace.
The segment is rapidly emerging as an extremely competitive market for automakers, and the Rolls will join the upcoming Bentley Bentayga and recently leaked Mercedes-Maybach GLS in the upper echelon of the segment. Priced above the top-of-the-line Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and Range Rover Autobiography Black LWB, the Rolls Bentley and Maybach will give high-end buyers the same distinction in the SUV market that it does with its sedans.
The announcement of any new Rolls-Royce is a noteworthy moment, but its new SUV truly is an important step for the company. Once dismissed as a tasteless money grab, the idea of a Rolls-Royce SUV is now essential if the brand wishes to stay competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace. But while a successful model would attract new buyers to the brand, a flop could tarnish the Rolls-Royce reputation for years.
After the negative reception of Bentley’s polarizing-at-best EXP 9 F concept in 2012, these ultra-luxury brands have realized that designing a vehicle that has “90 percent the off-road capability of a Range Rover” while maintaining brand prestige is a tall order. With Rolls-Royce’s recent success branching out while maintaining the company’s traditions of luxury and refinement, there’s no reason the new Rolls-Royce high-bodied car shouldn’t live up to its expectations — even if it doesn’t want you to call it an SUV.
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