Rolls-Royce SUV needs to be “undeniable, natural and authentic”
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Turning a sleek luxury saloon in to an elegant large SUV could seemingly be a challenge, but it’s one that Rolls-Royce Cars director of design Giles Taylor is clearly looking forward to.
CarAdvice spoke with Taylor at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show, and he suggested that while he has been ordered to keep a lid on the progress of the new Rolls-Royce SUV, which has been dubbed Project Cullinan, it is moving along, and the design is a key part of the program.
“It’s got to be Rolls-Royce – that’s the biggest part of the brief to meet,” Taylor said.
“An undeniable, natural, authentic Rolls-Royce that just happens to have four-wheel drive and can go off-road if necessary.
“We’ll always get elegance into that formula,” Taylor said, in a slight suggestion that other brands may not have been able to do that yet.
The Rolls-Royce SUV will compete with the likes of the Bentley Bentayga – which is possibly one of the most polarising cars in recent memory – while Mercedes-Benz is likely to do a Maybach version of the updated GLS SUV.
Taylor indicated that the car will have be both functional and formal, and that the brand is “in the process of establishing how formal right now”.
Rolls-Royce Cars product communications manager James Warren said the company is still very early in the development of the new model, so giving away any real details at this point is somewhat difficult.
“That’s the trouble – it’s still such an early stage in the development. We were very eager with Project Cullinan – it was such a talked-about notion – that we were very happy to tell you this is going on. But there’s not a massive amount to talk about right now,” he said.
“These things are all being decided in due course,” Warren said.
“We’re talking years not months away, so those kind of thoughts are not even formed yet.”
Warren said that while other brands may be opting for high-end SUVs to build volume – the Lamborghini Urus, for example, is expected to boost sales – Rolls-Royce isn’t ever going to go for huge sales.
“We don’t chase volume. We’re not in that business. We’re certainly not in the business where we need to spin off a group platform – a car to fulfil a certain niche – in order to hit volume targets. It’s not Rolls-Royce.
“We’re in the business of profitability, scarcity and rarity, at 4000 cars a year.
"We talk about competitors – our competitors are actually your yachts, your jets, fine arts. That sort of thing for share of voice with our customers. Cars, less so.
“It’s customer demand. Our customers ask for it, so we do it.”
It is expected that the new SUV model will carry over the ‘coach’ door layout, too, as Taylor said that is a signature part
of the brand's heritage.
“Coachdoors are us, and they work. People love them,” Taylor said.
“It’s about a grand arrival. When you do that, when you can walk straight out, it's all about effortlessness.
“For us, especially for the rear environment it works, and we will continue that. There’s no doubt,” he said.
Warren echoed that sentiment. “There are a few ‘unchangeables’ for the brand. The coach doors, the umbrellas. It’s a distinction for us, those kind of features, and we’ll guard them very carefully.”
In terms of size, the new SUV will be “big enough”, though Warren said the company “can’t say” if there will be five or seven seats.
“It will be beautiful and luxurious and lovely, and we’ll tell you all about it when we’re ready,” Warren said.
“We announced this thing and said ‘we’ve announced this, we’re doing it’.
"The program has commenced, and that’s where it’s at at the moment. And we’re going to peek you in every now and again, and it’s going to be a very open launch in a way.”
Whether the SUV carries the name Cullinan to production or uses another moniker that fits the bill for the model remains to be seen. (If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Cloud – it would follow the Ghost, Dawn and Wraith in removing the Silver prefix, harking back to models of old).