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No, this isn’t a Rolls Royce Phantom after an unscheduled trip to John Hennessey’s workshop. This is Project Cullinan.

It’s a Rolls Royce development mule for a new all-wheel drive system, and our first official, embryotic glimpse at the firm’s upcoming SUV.

As you’ll have spotted, the underpinnings of that SUV are hidden beneath a shortened Phantom II body on stilts. That’s a clue that the production 4x4 will (a) have a chunk more ground clearance than the Phant, and (b) be shorter than the Rolls flagship. Most things are.

The huge rear wing is not there for flat-through-Eau-Rouge japes, but instead to simulate the impact of the extra weight and drag of the taller SUV body.

Rolls is very keen to make clear that Project Cullinan offers no hint at how its SUV could look. The company says this mule features no design aspects of the eventual ‘high-sided, all-terrain motor car’, which is probably a good thing.

Also likely to be a good thing is the ride quality of the Rolls 4x4. The Goodwood engineering team’s first tests with Project Cullinan centre on nailing the ride to Rolls’ traditional ‘magic carpet’ standards both on-road and off, with all new suspension in development for high-bodied stability.

Though Rolls hasn’t announced when its production SUV will land, expect a launch no earlier than 2017, with the as-yet-unnamed 4x4 boasting a new aluminium spaceframe and a V12 under the bonnet. A plug in hybrid powertrain could follow.

Oh, and it’ll be reassuringly expensive, even in comparison to other upcoming ultra-posh SUVs including Bentley’s Bentayga and the Maserati Levante. Expect prices to start from somewhere around £250,000, and head as far north from there as your jewel-encrusted wallet permits…

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