Glad we got that one out of the way.
Bentley and Rolls-Royce are fierce competitors in the ultra-luxury car segment, but one thing the former has beaten the latter at is in the race to drop an SUV. The Bentayga has been stealing headlines for some time now. Meanwhile Rolls is still working on its SUV, codenamed Project Cullinan. The project is shrouded in secrecy, but BMW design chief Adrian van Hooydonk lifted the veil ever so slightly at the recent Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este during a chat with Top Gear (magazine).
Van Hooydonk called the project “somewhat daunting." But where the automaker lacks experience with SUVs it makes up for in history. “When the brand started, typically the cars had a lot of ground clearance and huge wheels, and were used by Maharajas and other people to drive from Europe to the Far East,” van Hooydonk said. While these early cars weren’t exactly SUVs they did need to traverse rough terrain and crappy roads. That seems to be what the Cullinan prototype (the raised Phantom pictured here) is after. While Rolls-Royce won’t be making a jacked-up sedan designed for modern Maharajas it will draw upon its history of creating cars that can be "used as daily drivers across rough roads," as van Hooydonk puts it.
Much like with Bentley, van Hooydonk says it’s important for people to know that the Rolls SUV is meant to be driven and not just stared at. Bentley has made a point to show that the Bentayga can actually be taken off-road and it seems like the competition will do the same. At least that’s what we inferred from this van Hooydonk quote. “We believe for the brand, it would be very good to have a car where people immediately understand that yes, I can drive this car every day, it’s not a problem. The SUV will be such a car.” As for the look, well the BMW design boss was understandably coy about that. But he did say that “it will not be a monster truck,” so there’s that to look forward to.
While we’re not a huge fan of the SUV craze we will admit that the world needs more fast cars. We fully expect Rolls-Royce’s V12 offering to compete with the twin-turbo W12 in the Bentayga. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until 2018 to see these two duke it out on the track. Actually, the battle might not be decided on the track but by the Queen of England. She already owns a Bentayga, so will she even bother to pick up a Rolls SUV as well? If so, which one will she be driven around in more?! Someone get the UK tabloids on this, now.