The Rolls-Royce 'high-sided vehicle' comes into focus

New photos of a camouflage-wrapped Project Cullinan suggest the British luxury carmaker's coming off-roader will be posh, powerful and very large.

This week, Rolls-Royce casually dropped two photographs of its coming all-terrain ark, the grandly code-named Project Cullinan. What we can tell from these images is that beneath a psychedelic camouflage wrap sits a very large vehicle. Large and square, with a Parthenon grille and coach-style doors. But it's not an SUV.

Rolls-Royce's parent company, the BMW Group, has an uncomfortable history of tweaking known automotive descriptors to suit its needs. When the X5 crossover arrived, it was an "SAV," or Sport Activity Vehicle, because BMW considered the 'U' in SUV to be a bit too, well, utilitarian for its clientele. Similarly, Rolls-Royce is deftly avoiding the plebeian "SUV" descriptor for Project Cullinan, preferring instead the mildly silly 'HSV', for High-Sided Vehicle.

No surprise, the two images of the camouflaged prototype arrive as works of art, open to interpretation, rather than pieces of information that might be used to create an actual story. We know from previous PR squirts that the vehicle will employ an entirely new all-wheel-drive system, tested beneath an elevated Phantom mule with a large wing. We also know the vehicle will feature an "all-new aluminium architecture that will underpin all Rolls-Royces from 2018 onwards."After that, the line goes dead. Engine? Let’s go with a V12. And, later, a plug-in hybrid.

In the absence of facts about the vehicle, let's look at the name. For the uninitiated, Project Cullinan refers to the famed Cullinan diamond, also evocatively known as the Star of Africa. Discovered in 1905 by one Captain Frederick Wells, superintendent of the Premier Mine in South Africa, the uncut diamond was a giant among gems, weighing in at 3,106.75 carats, making it heavier than a pint of Fuller's. The stone was cut up into nine large pieces and 97 smaller cut stones and unpolished chips. The biggest piece — the 530.2-carat, teardrop-shaped Cullinan I — sits atop the The Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross (pictured below; itself created in 1661 and modified several times over the years before receiving the Cullinan diamond upgrade in 1910).

As for the Cullinan from Goodwood, it's headed to the Arctic Circle later this month for cold-weather testing and traction trials (the vehicle in these new photos is already wearing Continental winter tyres) and then on to the Middle East for a hot-weather shakedown. The finished product isn't expected to arrive until sometime during 2018.

The Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross, complete with Cullinan I.

The Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross, complete with Cullinan I.

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