Often automakers keep the testing of their vehicles hush-hush, but not Rolls-Royce. In the case of the forthcoming Cullinan – the brand’s ultra-luxurious SUV – Rolls will put the last of its test program in the public eye. Called “The Final Challenge,” the test regimen will be documented by National Geographic in a new partnership.

Although testing has been going on for three years, Rolls-Royce is now sending Cullinan prototypes to Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. for final shakedowns before the SUV is introduced later this year. The international trip begins tomorrow, April 4, in Scotland, continuing to Austria, the Middle East, and then the U.S. Rolls says there will be “multiple off-road challenges” for the Cullinan along the way.

Joining the Rolls-Royce team will be National Geographic photographers and videographers who will provide daily updates on the test program. (You will be able to find them at National Geographic’s website here.) The team will be led by Cory Richards, an outdoor photographer named National Geographic’s 2012 Adventurer of the Year.

For Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös, this unusually public demonstration of the Cullinan’s abilities is key to promoting it to potential customers.

“I promised the public three years ago that I would involve them in the development and testing of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan,” he said in a statement. “Today’s public and customers will see Rolls-Royce in a wholly new light as Cullinan demonstrates just how capable a Rolls-Royce can be.”

We’ve known for some time that Rolls-Royce wanted to add an SUV at the top of its range, and though the Cullinan name was initially said to be “just a working project title,” we now know it’s the official label for the new model. We also know that Rolls has benchmarked the competing Range Rover, while spy photos reveal that the interior design and technology will likely mirror that of the Phantom sedan. In fact, the Cullinan is believed to ride on a version of the Phantom’s chassis, likely using its biturbocharged V12 engine, too, for motivation. Rolls has also said there will be a “Viewing Suite” feature allowing owners to sit on comfortable rear-facing chairs mounted on the rear of the vehicle.

Stay tuned for more on the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Though we don’t have a specific timeline just yet, the company says it will reveal its SUV “later this year” – a major auto show in Europe seems likely. Until then, we’re looking forward to seeing the Cullinan in some epic scenery around the world thanks to National Geographic’s efforts.

Source: Rolls-Royce

Gallery: Rolls-Royce Cullinan National Geographic

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Three years after the beginning of a gruelling testing programme that has seen it conquer every corner of the globe from freezing snowfields to searing deserts, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan will undertake The Final Challenge to prove itself Effortless Everywhere in the public eye. In an unprecedented partnership, Rolls-Royce and National Geographic will work together to publish daily film and photograph updates as Cullinan undertakes trials in Northern Europe, the Middle East and the United States for a final time ahead of its world debut later this year.

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan will embody all the values and capabilities that drove Rolls-Royce’s two founding fathers, the Honourable Charles Rolls and Sir Henry Royce, to secure the marque’s reputation early last century, as they took top honours in rigorous public adventures such as the Scottish Reliability Trials, the London to Edinburgh event and the Alpine Trials.

The Final Challenge will begin in the Highlands of Scotland on Wednesday 4 April and will be broadcast on social media by National Geographic and Rolls-Royce as it continues its adventure through the Alpine snowfields of Austria, the arid deserts of the Middle East and finally across the toughest terrain in the United States. These will include multiple off-road challenges and miles of rough terrain.

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan and crew will be accompanied on The Final Challenge by acclaimed explorer and photographer Cory Richards, National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year in 2012. The National Geographic team will document the journey with daily updates broadcast from the spectacular, far-flung locations he and the crew encounter.

“I promised the public three years ago that I would involve them in the development and testing of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, and I continue to keep that promise by making The Final Challenge, a public trial,” comments Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce.  “Today’s public and customers will see Rolls-Royce in a wholly new light as Cullinan demonstrates just how capable a Rolls-Royce can be. And in a few short months, our customers will be able to experience this capability for themselves as they get behind the wheel of this truly compelling Rolls-Royce that is Effortless, Everywhere.”

Viewers can follow the Rolls-Royce Cullinan’s Final Challenge on www.nationalgeographic.com/rollsroycecullinan and on Rolls-Royce social media accounts as well as www.Rolls-RoyceMotorCars.com.