Surprise: Rolls-Royce plans to call its first-ever SUV the Cullinan. Oh, wait, you already knew? Well, the reality is that folks inside the British maker have been referring to the ultra-luxurious ute for some time as “Project Cullinan,” but the company only now is making that the official choice for the production model.
So, with a little less than shock value to the name, Rolls has also released an assortment of pictures of what it prefers to call a “high-bodied vehicle.” And, if you’re wondering, it’s an appropriate moniker for something targeting the world’s most affluent motorists, making reference to the largest diamond ever discovered.
“The name Cullinan has been hiding in plain sight since we revealed it as the project name some years ago,” explained Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce. “It is the most fitting name for our extraordinary new product. Just like the Cullinan Diamond, the largest flawless diamond ever found, it emerges when it is perfect and exists above all others.”
(For a first look at the Lamborghini Urus SUV, Click Here.)
Whatever Rolls wants to refer to Cullinan as, it sure bears all the hallmarks of an ultra-luxurious SUV. First announced in mid-2014, it does, indeed, boast a much taller body and plenty of additional ground clearance when compared to the latest-generation Phantom introduced late last year.
The images accompanying Tuesday’s announcement show that this diamond can handle the rough. It has some serious off-road capabilities, rather than just the abilities to creep over gravel and mud.
That’s despite the fact that it largely shares the same all-aluminum architecture that will be used for the rest of the Rolls-Royce line-up moving forward, including the eighth-generation Phantom. It marks a big step away from the BMW-derived chassis that had been the underpinnings of outgoing Rolls models for more than a decade. It also will help shave weight and improve fuel economy, something even ultra-luxury brands now have to cope with as global government emissions and fuel economy standards tighten.
That said, Cullinan is expected to retain the familiar Rolls’ 6.6-liter twin-turbo V-12. A plug-in hybrid is also in the works and there’s reason to believe a pure battery-electric model could follow, as well.
Expect to see a formal unveiling of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan sometime this coming summer, with the first of the SUVs — er, high-sided vehicles — expected to clamber into showrooms around the world sometime during the 2019 model-year.
Rolls will follow Bentley into the SUV segment, the one-time partner brand launching its own model, the Bentayga almost two years ago. Meanwhile, a broad procession of ultra-premium luxury brands are following suit – no surprise considering utility vehicles have been rapidly gaining sales momentum in virtually every segment of the market. Among the other high-line marques bringing their own high-sided models to market are Aston Martin and Lamborghini, the latter maker unveiling its Urus model late last year.
Even Ferrari is getting into the game. The Italian brand is expecting its ute will become its best-selling model – as it has become at Bentley. And Rolls has similar expectations. It’s forecasting Cullinan will boost its overall global demand to 5,000 vehicles annually, up from 3,362 last year.
(Ferrari expects big things out of its first-ever SUV. Click Here for the story.)
As for pricing? Well, you’d be able to buy some fancy diamonds for what the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is expected to go for, something in the range of the new Phantom, in excess of $400,000.
Of course, that’s cheap considering what the legendary Cullinan Diamond would be worth today. At 3,106 carats, it remains the largest raw diamond ever pulled out of a mine – deep in South Africa’s Magaliesberg Mountains, to be more precise, in 1905. It was eventually cut and polished into nine individual stones. The two largest reside in Great Britain, one in the Imperial Crown, the other in the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross.
How it got to Britain makes for a good adventure tale: the Cullinan Diamond was purchased for a relative bargain price of £150,000, equal to £16.8 million, or $23.3 million, adjusted for inflation. The plan was to give it to King Edward VII for his 66th birthday as a sort of appeasement in the wake of the brutal and disastrous Boer War.
Considering the fame the diamond had immediately generated, it was shipped to Britain in a special safe and carefully guarded during the long steamer trip from the Southern tip of Africa to the UK. But legend has it the detectives assigned to the task were actually guarding a resin replica, a classic deception The real Cullinan Diamond, notes Rolls-Royce, was actually sent to the British Foreign Office by registered post.
(Maserati set to roll out 2nd SUV. Click Here for the story.)