Following several years of speculation and will-they-won't-they questioning, Rolls-Royce has confirmed that it will follow rivals Bentley down the off-roading trail and produce the first SUV in the company's 100-year-plus history.
In an open letter, signed by Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, R-R’s managing chief executive, the justification for such a car is laid out with careful reference to the historical facts of previous off-roading Royces.
Indeed, while this new model will be the first Rolls-Royce SUV in design terms, the company is at pains to point out at that in its early history, its cars ruggedness and rough-ground ability was repeatedly proven. “This car will embody all the values and capabilities that drove our two Founding Fathers to secure Rolls-Royce’s reputation, early last century, by taking top honours in rigorous overland adventures such as the Scottish Reliability Trials, the London to Edinburgh event and the Alpine Trials.
“Rolls-Royces conveyed pioneers and adventurers like Lawrence of Arabia across the vastness of unexplored deserts and over mountain ranges. In other parts of the world including Australia, India and the Americas, Rolls-Royces carried their owners over challenging terrain with absolute reliability and comfort.”
Does this mean that Rolls will be digging out old Silver-Ghost-based armoured cars, such as Michael Collins’ own Sliabh Na Mban for inspiration? Probably, and somewhat sadly, not for the design team will be basing the styling of the new Rolls on its current range, with a team led by director of design Giles Taylor, charged with the task of creating “a different and exceptional new car.”
While nothing official other than the intent to produce is being said today, we already know that the Rolls-Royce SUV will share its structure with a BMW. That much is obvious, and the equally obvious choice is the new X7, a large, long-wheelbase, seven-seat SUV on which BMW is currently working and which will be built in its factory in the USA. Whether Rolls will countenance building its 4x4 alongside the X7, stateside, isn't yet known. It will also have to significantly modify the X7's chassis and structure to accommodate the expected V12 engine – don't expect Rolls-Royce to use this new car as an opportunity to introduce downsized powerplants.
The new car will face competition from Bentley's soon-to-be-revealed Bentyaga, Lamborghini's Urus and Maserati's long-awaited Kamal.
For those worried that an SUV would hardly be in keeping with the image of Rolls-Royce, Mr Mueller-Oetvoes has some soothing, indeed inspiring words – "History sets our precedent and our future calls us to action.We are creating a motor car in the greatest traditions of our marque.Sir Henry Royce famously said: "When it does not exist, design it". We are doing just that."