The Next Really Big Thing
Did you feel a chill in the air? That was either hell freezing over or someone opening the fridge to reach for the Grey Poupon. In either case, the wind signals the arrival of the first-ever Rolls-Royce SUV, the Cullinan.
Named for the largest diamond ever found, and part of the United Kingdom’s Crown Jewels, Cullinan is, in Rolls-Royce’s words, “an all-terrain, high-bodied car that makes the idea of authentic, luxury off-road travel a reality for the first time.” Don’t let the folks at Land Rover read that!
It is always entertaining to read Rolls-Royce marketing materials, but good-natured ribbing aside, it appears the crew in Goodwood has built something quite unique for the high-end SUV category. The Cullinan arrives next year, starting at around $325,000 before options, of which there will be plenty.
Into the Woods
Since most SUVs are really “high bodied cars” anyway, it’s no surprise that Rolls built the Cullinan on the same “Architecture of Luxury” platform as its Phantom VIII sedan. In the Cullinan the 6.75-liter twin-turbo V-12 delivers the same 563 horsepower as in the Phantom, but is tuned for even more low-end torque, so the torque peak of 627 lb-ft at just 1,600 rpm is actually lower than the Phantom’s 664 lb-ft at 1,700 rpm.
An 8-speed automatic transmission channels torque to Rolls-Royce’s first all-wheel drive system. And, with rear-wheel steering to help improve agility in curves, the 5,864-pound Cullinan should get down the road with aplomb. Height-adjustable multilink suspension flattens the bumps and allows the Cullinan to get its tires dirty. With a push of the “Off Road” button on the center console, the Cullinan will rise on its air springs to maximum road clearance, a spec Rolls has not yet published. Then you can fearlessly tackle mud, snow, sand, and, one might surmise, polo field divots.
In that mode, the Cullinan can wade through water up to 21 inches deep. If you’re driving through 21-inch deep water, though, you probably waited too long to evacuate the island ahead of the hurricane, or maybe you just want to test Rolls-Royce’s claim.
Big, Bold and Rollsy
All luxury marques have wrestled with translating their car design language into SUV bodies. We think Rolls pulled it off. The Cullinan is nearly seven inches taller than the Phantom VIII, which is already a “high bodied car” in comparison to everything else on the road. That big Rolls façade looks quite at home on this taller vehicle. The “coach doors” carry over from the Rolls sedans. You certainly won’t find those on the plebian Range Rover, at least not yet. Even Cullinan’s taillights look sufficiently Rollsy.
For size perspective, the 210.3-inch Cullinan stretches just a quarter-inch longer than a Lincoln Navigator. Cullinan’s 129.7-inch wheelbase, however, is more than 7 inches longer than the Lincoln’s, which, according to Motor Trend, yields “tons” of rear seat legroom. We’d prefer to see a legroom spec expressed in inches, but Rolls has not divulged this spec yet, either.
Rolls designers perhaps got carried away by referring to the Cullinan as “the first ‘three-box’ car in the SUV-sector.” The third “box” to which they refer is the slight bustle-back design. The feature, Rolls says (in all seriousness, we think), is “a nod to the era when luggage was mounted on the exterior of the motor-car, so the occupants did not travel with their belongings.” Maybe that was because in that “era,” carmakers didn’t know how to build an integrated trunk.
In the Cullinan, there is a “separate” trunk, at least with the optional Individual Seat package, which walls off the luggage area with a power-operated glass partition. That way, when the chauffeur opens the tailgate, the rear seat passengers don’t catch a draft. The Individual Seat setup is, as you could imagine, tops in opulence and adjustability. What’s more, it includes a console with a beverage compartment complete with a fridge, Rolls-Royce whiskey glasses and decanter and Champagne flutes.
The drawback here is that the opulent, uber-adjustable rear seats don’t fold down to create a longer cargo floor. For that, stick with the standard Lounge Seat, a three-across rear bench, which does fold down.
Rothko Meets Indiana Jones
Speaking of folding seats, most don’t produce a truly flat load floor. We’ll let Rolls explain how it solved this thorny issue:
“But for those wishing to carry a long item back from their trip – whether it be a Mark Rothko from the art gallery or a newly discovered artefact from the latest archaeological dig – a loading length of 2245mm [88.4 in.] and load capacity of 1930 litres [68.2 cu. ft.] is accessed by electronically raising the boot floor to meet the seat base, allowing the item to slide through effortlessly.”
Using your Cullinan to spirit away antiquities from archaeological sites is not advisable and is probably illegal. Besides, 68.2 cubic feet seems somewhat skimpy for a vehicle this large, probably owing to how Rolls packaged the luxurious rear seat and huge panorama roof. It’s less than you’d get in a Subaru Outback, for example. But then, the Outback doesn’t offer anything like the Cullinan’s optional “Viewing Suite,” the ultimate tailgating attachment featuring two rear-facing foldout seats and a pop-up table. Now, all the Cullinan needs is an option that pivots the massive front grille downward to cook up the Wagyu burgers.
Written by Jim Koscs, Audamotive Communications
For Premier Financial Services