High & mighty

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - LIFE -

At Rolls-Royce in south­ern Eng­land, large parts of the fac­tory are out of bounds as the brand gears up to pro­duce its first SUV, code-named Cul­li­nan af­ter the largest di­a­mond ever found. Spy shots of it on the in­ter­net look like a raised ver­sion of the new Phan­tom flag­ship with an up­right grille, square-ish head­lights and lift­back rear. It’s built on the same alu­minium space­frame struc­ture devel­oped by Rolls as the new ba­sis for all its cars, but will have all-wheel drive and a spe­cial sus­pen­sion sys­tem. It will prob­a­bly share its driv­e­line with Phan­tom too, mean­ing a 6.8-litre tur­bocharged V12 and eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box. The “high-sided all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle”, as Rolls de­scribes it, should be re­vealed in full next year be­fore pro­duc­tion com­mences late in 2018. First Aus­tralian de­liv­er­ies are un­likely be­fore 2019.

Rolls-Royce owner BMW will also un­veil a super-sized SUV next year af­ter re­veal­ing a study for the car at Frank­furt mo­tor show in Septem­ber. The Con­cept X7 iPer­for­mance pre­views an SUV to sit above the X5/X6 duo and rep­re­sents one facet of a re­newed ef­fort by BMW to lure the lux­ury buyer. In its “am­ple” up­right di­men­sions the cabin is a state­ment of pared-back moder­nity, richly ap­pointed with six seats in three rows. Like the con­cept, the pro­duc­tion car is al­most cer­tain to be a plug-in petrol-elec­tric hy­brid with some bat­tery-only range.

Audi is also think­ing big and sump­tious with the Q8 con­cept it re­vealed at the Detroit mo­tor show in Jan­uary, the pre­cur­sor to a pro­duc­tion ver­sion in 2018. At 5m long but with only four seats, there’s plenty of space de­spite the coupe-like roofline, while the “cool and sporty at­mos­phere” bris­tles with elec­tron­ics. The driv­e­line is a plug-in hy­brid, this time with 330kW from the com­bi­na­tion of a 3.0-litre turbo petrol V6 and elec­tric mo­tor. Its vi­tal statis­tics are im­pres­sive: zero to 100km/h in 5.4 sec­onds, bat­tery-only op­er­a­tion for 60km in a to­tal range of 1000km, and fuel con­sump­tion of 2.3 litres per 100km. Roll on the next wave.

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