Rolls-Royce Considering Plans for a “Proper SUV”

Could become latest super-premium brand to add a ute to its line-up.

by on May.15, 2014

Rolls may soon plant its "Spirit of Ecstasy" hood ornament on a new SUV.

Confirming widespread rumors a senior Rolls-Royce executive says the British maker is giving serious thought to the prospect of adding an SUV to its line-up.

It would become the latest in a growing list of high-line manufacturers to add a utility vehicle, but unlike those who have opted for car-based crossover models, design chief Giles Taylor says Rolls would opt for a “proper SUV” if it ultimately enters the market – some estimating the maker could have one in the market by late 2017.

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“I’m interested in function and functionality. I’m looking to create a properly functional vehicle – a shooting brake, not a crossover with a sloping roof. A proper SUV,” Taylor tells British magazine Autocar. But he stresses that such a new model has to fit in with the existing line-up and not “undermine the Rolls-Royce brand.”

There was a time when SUVs were seen as almost anathema to luxury buyers, but that began to change when Mercedes-Benz and BMW entered the market with early models like their M-Class and X5, respectively. Skeptics dismissed the idea of a Porsche ute, but the Cayenne is today the German maker’s global best-seller and has been newly joined by the smaller Macan.

(Aston Martin considers SUV option as it launches biggest investment program in its history. Click Here for the full report.)

Bentley offers a hint of the SUV to come in late 2016.

Cadillac, Audi, Lexus, Lincoln, a utility vehicle has become a must to what might be called the mass market luxury brands. But now, even the most exclusive manufacturers are pressing into the SUV segment.

Bentley recently offered its first official teaser image of the ute it plans to bring to market in 2017, a production version of the initially controversial EXP 9F concept vehicle.

Meanwhile, Ian Menards, product development director for Aston Martin, this week said he is “open-minded” about the possibility of designing an SUV of some sort for that British brand.

As for Rolls, Autocar quotes various sources suggesting that, despite design chief Taylor’s cautious comments, the SUV project is moving forward at a fairly rapid pace and could reach market not long after the launch of the Bentley ute.

(For more on Bentley’s upcoming SUV, Click Here.)

And though Taylor might describe it as “not a crossover,” they indicate Rolls’ model would share the basic underpinnings of the Ghost, the smaller of its product lines. More precisely, it could be based off the next-generation Ghost platform being developed by parent BMW. It is reportedly migrating to a more sophisticated steel, aluminum and carbon fiber construction and could be shared with the anticipated BMW 9-Series signaled during last month’s Beijing Motor Show in the form of the BMW Vision Future Luxury concept.

That said, opting for a car-based platform doesn’t mean it would be a soft-roader. Such an approach can deliver significant levels of performance and capabilities – though whether a Rolls owner would ever be seen trekking across the Rubicon Trail remains to be seen.

But high-line motorists are increasingly demanding broad capabilities from their vehicles, all-wheel-drive becoming a must in many parts of the world, even on sportier models.

(To see why VW is likely to delay ambitious its U.S. sales targets, Click Here.)

Meanwhile, that most classic of luxury SUVs, the Range Rover continues to press ever upward, its latest limited-edition models, like the Autobiography Black, approaching $200,000 when fully loaded.

The Rolls SUV, apparently, would push even higher, at an estimated 200,000 British pounds, or more than $300,000.

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