Rolls-Royce shows pictures of SUV development mule, dubbed Project Cullinan

Rolls Royce Project Cullinan development mule

Rolls Royce Project Cullinan development mule

Rolls-Royce has outed its SUV. Again. After recently announcing that it will build a new class of vehicle for the company, Rolls has released photos of the first engineering mule “which will be seen on public roads this week.” Called Project Cullinan, it’s for an all-new Rolls-Royce vehicle, something Rolls calls a “high-sided, all-terrain motor car.” Since that’s likely not a pickup truck, a sport-utility vehicle, for lack of a better name, it will be.

How could Rolls-Royce not, after all. Bentley is moving forward with the Bentayga, which has been called “the most exclusive most luxurious and most expensive SUV in the world,” and due out in 2016.
Jaguar and Maserati, though of a lesser class of vehicles, have also stated their intents. And we have seen SUV’s from Audi and BMW for so long now that we’ve forgotten how revolutionary they were when they arrived.

Rolls-Royce Project Cullinan

The Rolls Royce Project Cullinan development mule is based on a shortened Phantom Series II frame, and bears no resemblance to the future Rolls SUV. (click to enlarge)

And for Porsche, what was once sacrilege has, in the shape of the Porsche Cayenne, become the carmaker’s top-selling product. Land Rover, with its luxury Range Rover off-roaders, had proven it could be done all along. But with the impending competitive models due to arrive before the new Rolls-Royce SUV, it’s perhaps not surprising that Rolls would try to blunt those evens with a very public development campaign.

Hence Project Cullinan, out in the open.

The early engineering mule, according to the announcement from Rolls-Royce, is based on a shortened Phantom Series II body. Rolls says the “body may hint at the size of the new car, but it features no design aspects” of he future vehicle. Its sole purpose is to develop the all-wheel drive suspension system.

“The mule rides on the first iteration of an all-new suspension that will assist Rolls-Royce engineers in developing a final all-wheel drive system that delivers Rolls-Royce’s hallmark ‘magic-carpet’ ride not only on the road, but off-road too.”

Rolls-Royce Project Cullinan rear view

With a higher ride height and a goofy rear spoiler, the Rolls-Royce Project Cullinan looks like a redneck special. (click to enlarge)

Rolls says that the testing will at first center on Project Cullinan’s on-road handling from “suspension throw to high-bodied stability.” Test surfaces will include the usual gamut of surfaces, the statement specifying Belgian Pavé, cobblestones, corrugated concrete, noise development and measurement surfaces, resonance road, and acceleration bumps. There’s no word on whether Michigan springtime potholes will be included, but with “equal amounts of time testing on-road and off-road to ensure that the customer will experience the same unrivalled ride quality on loose surfaces and challenging terrain as they do on the road today,” not only Michigan but Pennsylvania as well.

As competitors move closer to release, expect Rolls-Royce’s revealings to increase. Spy photographers won’t make very much money off Project Cullinan.

But why the name “Cullinan”? The Cullinan Diamonds are the world’s most famous diamonds, all nine cut from the largest single diamond ever found. The largest cut diamond—the second largest cut diamond in the world—is the 530 carat Star of Africa (Cullinan I), followed by Cullinan II, at a mere 317 carats the cushion shaped diamond in the center-front of the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain. And now you know.