The first Rolls-Royce to be underpinned by an aluminium spaceframe platform will appear in 2018, the British luxury marque has confirmed.

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As revealed in February last year, that new model will come in the form of an SUV - or, as Rolls-Royce described it at the time, “a high-bodied car”.

The new SUV will compete with the Bentley Bentayga, although Rolls-Royce would be loathe to recognise anything with wheels as a rival. “Our competitors are actually your yachts, your jets, fine arts,” the company’s design director, Giles Taylor, told CarAdvice in September.

In a statement today, the company said that on-road testing of the new platform is now underway, which suggests that earlier photos of a high-riding development mule may have been testing other aspects of the new model.

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The British marque said the current testing phase is intended to evaluate the new aluminium architecture against the ‘magic carpet ride’ qualities expected of a Rolls-Royce.

“The assessment of the new proprietary architecture is the first stage of a development programme that will see a new generation of Rolls-Royce motor cars become available from early 2018,” the company said.

The so-called Cullinan SUV will likely be followed quickly by a new-generation Phantom - potentially previewed above - replacing the model that launched in 2003 before benefiting from a major upgrade in 2012.