Like it or not – and there are plenty of people in the or not category – Roll-Royce is building a four-wheel drive. Project Cullinan was announced to shareholders in April last year, and testing kicked off with a chassis mule based on the Phantom. Now, the Rolls-Royce "all-terrain, high-sided vehicle" has been outed for the first time, albeit covered in camouflage from head-to-toe.

Even though it's covered in a swirly black-and-white paint job, one thing is immediately clear about Project Cullinan: it's going to be absolutely massive. The bluff, flat nose and bluff, flat side grille combine with bluff, flat sides to create a seriously big, boxy four-wheel drive. Still, the world recoiled when Bentley first showed off the Bentayga, and that hasn't stopped people snapping those up.

The finished product will ride on an all-new aluminum architecture, with a brand new all-wheel drive system and off-road suspension designed to deliver performance that is "Effortless... Everywhere."

To make sure that lofty goal is met, testing will take place in some of the most hostile environments on the planet. Cold weather durability runs will be carried out in the Arctic Circle, before the program packs up and heads to the Middle East to see how it stands up to the harsh, hot desert environment. Given Rolls-Royce has become popular among sheiks and oil barons, desert running seems like an important thing to get right.

"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," says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce. "Bringing 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."

Project Cullinan is expected to land in 2018, around the same time as the Lamborghini Urus. Can a four-wheel drive ever truly feel like a Rolls-Royce? Only time will tell.

Source: Rolls-Royce

View gallery - 2 images