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Project Cullinan: Rolls-Royce begins testing its diamond SUV in the rough

Rolls-Royce Cullinan seen in camouflage as testing begins


The next step in Rolls-Royce's Project Cullinan is traction and cold-weather testing above the Arctic Circle this winter, followed by exposure to extreme desert conditions in the Middle East.

The fully developed Rolls features new all-wheel-drive suspension, lightweight aluminum architecture, raised ground clearance, a high roofline and a relatively rugged appearance.

Just don't call it an SUV.

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Rather, Rolls describes its camouflaged concept as an "all-terrain, high-sided vehicle". The objective of the testing: to ensure the vehicle is "effortless, everywhere". It is meant to venture off-road while providing passengers the coziness of a baby blanket.

"This is an incredibly exciting moment in the development of Project Cullinan both for Rolls-Royce and for the patrons of luxury that follow us around the world," CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös said, in an update released Thursday. "Bringing together the new four-wheel-drive system and the new 'architecture of luxury' for the first time sets us on the road to creating a truly authentic Rolls-Royce which, like its forebears, will reset the standard by which all other luxury goods are judged."

The vehicle is due in 2018, as is the eighth-generation Phantom, and the vehicles will share the same platform. The project's namesake, the Cullinan II diamond, is a 317-carot diamond in the Crown Jewels, cut from a 3,106-carot diamond discovered in 1905, in South Africa.

Rolls-Royce isn't revealing the Arctic testing site but one logical destination would be the Nokia's "White Hell" track in Ivalo, Finland, visited by Globe Drive's Peter Cheney last year.

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