Today, Rolls-Royce sent white-gloved chauffeurs in Phantoms around New York City to deliver letters announcing plans to build a sport utility vehicle (SUV), making good on hints dropped by Chief Executive Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes earlier this year.
Well, they’re not calling it an SUV. They’re calling it an “Everywhere Vehicle.” It even comes with its own hashtag: #EffortlessEverywhere.
The announcement comes after months of rumors that Rolls would finally introduce something to compete against Porsche’s Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz’s G-Wagon, Land Rover’s Range Rover, and Bentley’s (forthcoming) Bentayga. This now leaves Ferrari as the only major luxury automaker without an SUV in its lineup.
Rolls has confirmed that its vehicle will be built on an all-new aluminum architecture (not one carried over from BMW’s X5 or X7 lineup), and it will be able to cross “any terrain,” according to the announcement letter. Executives have said they decided to move forward with plans to make the rig after many “discerning customers” urged them to do so.
And that, officially, is all we know.
Rolls has proffered no photo along with the letter, no sketch or rendering of what we might expect from its newest family member. Executives have also declined to divulge a timeline for when it might be built (“still a few years off,” head of communications Gerry Spahn told me on the phone today), what they might call it, or even whether it will have two or three rows of seats.
They did promise to send some images of old shooting-brake cars that Rolls used to make. You remember the ones—the big saloons wealthy people would take on hunting trips as places to store guns and wine and cucumber sandwiches as light refreshment after their jaunt. Maybe this new thing from Rolls will evoke that sprit of adventure. It certainly has the pedigree for it.
Here are a few other probabilities for Rolls’s Everywhere Vehicle:
- It will cost more than any other SUV on the market—and likely cost more than anything else in its current lineup.
- It will sport a V12 engine and all-wheel drive.
- The flat vertical grille that makes a Rolls unmistakable from meters away will be retained.
- Exotic woods, lambswool carpeting, and mother-of-pearl inlays will be design essentials, as will champagne coolers, umbrellas hidden in the doors, and a locking bulletproof glove box.
Or so I hope.
I also expect backlash against this new model regardless of what it looks like, much like the abuse Bentley and Porsche endured when they announced their own SUVs. Luxury brand purists don’t take kindly such obvious plays for sales and market share. They couch their reticence as concern about "protecting brand heritage," but they forget that even luxury brands must stay young in spirit, sensitive to current cultural norms, and nimble enough to venture where the market leads.
SUV sales rose 88.5 percent from 2008 through 2013, according to research firm IHS. By 2016 one in every five vehicles sold in the world will be an SUV. With that kind of growth, a Rolls-Royce SUV makes perfect sense—even without seeing what it’ll look like.