British luxury automaker Rolls-Royce, now 111 years old and best known for making ultra-high-end luxury sedans affordable only by the world’s wealthiest individuals, has announced plans to diversify its product lineup by building a tall, luxurious SUV. The BMW-owned company does not refer to it by that name, though, choosing instead to call it an “Everywhere Vehicle.”
Since BMW took ownership of Rolls-Royce in the late 1990s, the storied nameplate has seen considerable growth. In 2014, Rolls-Royce delivered 4,063 cars, up from an annual total of just 400 units or so during the early 2000s. The company’s most recent models include the Ghost II sedan, which is smaller than its flagship Phantom, as well as the Wraith, a two-door convertible variant on the Ghost.
Among all new vehicle segments, SUV sales are the hottest of all these days, especially in the United States and developing markets such as Russia and the Middle East, where roads are often poorly maintained. The high ground clearance and four-wheel-drive system sure to be fitted to Rolls-Royce’s SUV will make it a hot commodity among the uber-wealthy who reside in locations where today’s Rolls models may end up overmatched or stranded.
The newest Rolls-Royce addition comes as rival luxury marque Bentley has reportedly taken more than 4,000 orders for its own six-figure SUV model, called the Bentayga. That vehicle is due out in 2016, as is the forthcoming Jaguar F-Pace. Rolls-Royce says its entry will reach showrooms within the next 3 years, which suggests a calendar-year 2018 release as a 2019 model.
As for pricing, the “everywhere” Rolls will not come cheap, of course. The company’s least-expensive model today is the $286,750 Ghost; the most expensive is the stately Phantom Drophead Coupe, which is actually a convertible and starts from $474,600. Expect the new SUV model, whatever its eventual production title is, to set buyers back around $350,000 to start before the inevitable long list of bespoke options enter the mix.
Rolls-Royce has also confirmed that the new model will not be of the softer, unibody “crossover” SUV variety, rather a capable, go-anywhere vehicle more akin to a luxed-up version of the Land Rover Range Rover. That will mean an in-house-designed aluminum platform and a torque-vectoring 4WD system featuring a low range mode for difficult terrain along with a self-leveling suspension.
To confirm the new model line in very British fashion, Rolls-Royce sent white-gloved chauffeurs around New York City driving brand-new Phantom sedans with the mission of hand-delivering announcements into the hands of the brand’s most-valued East Coast customers.