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Rugged Roller: Rolls-Royce has lifted the wraps from its Project Cullinan off-roader suspension test mule in the UK.

Suspension test mule hits UK roads for Rolls-Royce’s Project Cullinan SUV


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8 Apr 2015

NO, this is not an April Fool’s joke or a prop for a new Mad Max movie.

Believe it or not, this is an official Rolls-Royce engineering ‘mule’ for the famous British luxury marque’s first SUV now under development in Britain.

Complete with macho wing and jacked up suspension, the vehicle has been cobbled together to test a prototype all-wheel-drive chassis for the “everywhere vehicle” that will take the BMW-owned brand into new territory from about 2017.

True to its word when the program was announced in an open letter from Rolls-Royce bosses in February under the code name Project Cullinan – named after a huge South African diamond that adorns Queen Elizabeth’s sceptre in the British crown jewels – Rolls-Royce has issued the image and an accompanying statement to keep its fans and potential customers informed of the vehicle’s progress.

It says the roll-out of the mule, cloaked in a shortened Rolls-Royce Phantom II body, marks the first key milestone in the development program.

But lest someone thinks that the upcoming SUV will be more rugged version of the Phantom, Rolls-Royce was at pains to point out that the test vehicle is purely to begin the development of the all-wheel-drive suspension system that “will deliver a ride that will be effortless … everywhere”.

In fact, Rolls-Royce has already announced that its new “high-sided, all-terrain motor car” will be built on an all-new aluminium architecture being developed in-house.

The company said that while the body seen here hints at the size of the new car, no other features of the mule will translate into the new vehicle. Sadly, we assume that means the boot-mounted wing too.

Presumably, the rear spoiler has been added to mimic the downforce of a flat-roofed SUV in its final wagon guise.

Rolls-Royce indicated that the project has a long way to go, saying the mule was riding on the first iteration of the 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”.

“The first series of tests will focus on Project Cullinan’s on-road behaviour from suspension throw to high-bodied stability, and will test the new suspension across all types of international road surface specification at test facilities, as well as on public roads,” Rolls-Royce said.

“Test surfaces will include Belgian pavé, cobblestones, corrugated concrete, noise development and measurement surfaces, resonance road and acceleration bumps.

“Project Cullinan engineering mules will spend 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.”

The vehicle that results from Project Cullinan (its final name is yet to be announced) will go up against rival Bentley’s Bentayga SUV.

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