High & mighty
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.