Rolls-Royce has lifted the curtain on its long-awaited luxury off-roader, the Cullinan.
Aimed squarely at being the definitive luxury off-roader, the Cullinan is likely one of the most opulent cars ever conceived. Based on the same chassis as the new Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Cullinan takes what Rolls-Royce knows about luxury and stuffs it into an SUV-style body.
With words like “opulent”, “luxury”, “SUV”, and “Rolls-Royce”, you shouldn’t expect lightness. In fact the Cullinan weighs in at a portly 5,865lb – 200lb up on the Phantom. This is despite being a good chunk shorter than the Phantom, though it is 10% wider and almost 8 inches taller.
Cullinan looks towards the Phantom for its power unit too. That’s the same 6.75-litre V12 petrol, with 563hp and slightly reduced torque at 626lbft — although this arrives at a far lower 1,600rpm.
Rolls-Royce hasn’t published any acceleration figures, as that would be a little uncouth, but the limited top speed is 155mph. Official fuel consumption is 18.8mpg (15.7mpg US), while emissions are set at 341g/km. Not that these will play a role in anyone’s decision to buy one or not.
One key difference to the Phantom though is where the power goes. Although they share an 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox, Cullinan has a four-wheel drive system. The driver hits the “Off-Road” button to engage it and the Cullinan does the rest.
It’s no token effort at off-roading either. Rolls-Royce has been testing the Cullinan — “to destruction”, according to its press release — in harsh terrains across the world. It hasn’t publishing any of the angle numbers that are so important to off-road enthusiasts, but it does claim the deepest wading depth of any car of its type, at 21 inches.
In addition to the general off-road setting, which Rolls-Royce calls the “Everywhere” mode, there’s also selectable modes for specific terrain.
The Cullinan retains Rolls-Royce ride quality on the road too. The car features a new air suspension system, with larger struts displacing more air for a smoother ride. This works in off-road situations too, but delivers the Rolls-Royce “Magic Carpet Ride” on ordinary highways.
Along with increasing ride height when needed, the air suspension allows the tall Cullinan to drop down by 1.5 inches for easy entry and exit. If you have been off-roading, the car’s doors wrap around under the sills so you won’t get any dirt on your clothes.
The car uses an advanced adaptive suspension system. This reacts not only to wheel speed information and steering inputs, but to camera information too, in order to prepare the car for bumps rather than respond to them.
Of course it’s the cabin where you’d expect the truly special parts of a Rolls-Royce. With the exception of the off-road button, Cullinan isn’t so different from the Phantom in the cabin. The central information screen gains touch sensitivity, and there’s a few adjustments for the different proportions, but otherwise it’s a familiar environment.
Rear seat passengers — likely to be the car’s owner and their significant others — can travel three abreast with “Lounge Seat” configurations, or as a duo with the “Individual Seat” set-up. This second option includes a fixed console between the seats with a drinks cabinet holding Rolls-Royce whisky glasses, champagne flutes, a decanter and a fridge.
But it’s the trunk where the most Rolls-Royce feature appears. Cullinan is the first car from the brand to feature a tailgate. This rather impacts on the tradition that one does not travel with one’s luggage, so Rolls-Royce has come up with a solution. Behind the rear seats, the Cullinan features a glass partition, separating the passengers from their belongings.
If you’re looking for practicality, for some reason, the Cullinan packs that in too. The trunk holds 600 litres of stuff, but with electronic folding rear seats — another first for the brand — this can grow to 1,930 litres. Rolls-Royce also points out that this gives the Cullinan a longer loading length, at 88 inches, than a LWB Range Rover Vogue. Hint, hint.
The tailgate itself, which Rolls-Royce calls “The Clasp”, opens in two parts. There’s also an adjustable boot floor to make the load space level with the seat backs. This is, of course, electronic; no sense in making you lug a boot floor about manually. “The Clasp” also features powered, fold-out seats, for tailgating (presumably Rolls-Royce calls it “Clasping”).
There’s a “recreation module” system too, which it aims at supporting the lifestyles of the Cullinan’s owners. This is an electronic drawer and compartment set-up that slots into the trunk and contains the equipment you might need for your activity. Rolls-Royce gives the example of a drone for drone-racing, but also makes mention of fly fishing, photography, rock climbing, snowboarding, parascending, kite boarding, BASE jumping… typical Rolls-Royce owner activites.
For the driver, there’s a dazzling array of assist technologies. These include night vision and “vision assist” with wildlife and pedestrian warning. There’s a four-camera system with panoramic view and a huge 7×3-inch head-up display system. You’ll also find more ordinary tech, like active cruise (linked into the navigation system, of course), cross-traffic warning and lane assists.
There’s five USB ports in the cabin for charging devices, as well as a wireless phone charger in the front of the cabin. You’ll never run out of battery in a Cullinan…
Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, comments:
We knew we had to offer our clients what they couldn’t find in the SUV market. They do not accept limitations or compromises in their lives. They are the new pioneers, and for them it’s about their sense of adventure and daring in how they live their experiences. This approach to life demands a motor car that can go-anywhere in ultimate luxury and style – Rolls-Royce style. Hence Cullinan.
Cullinan is luxury in its purest form blended with perfect practicality and off-road capability. “Effortless, Everywhere” is not just the promise behind Cullinan. It’s the fact.
It is incomparable and dramatically evolves the parameters of super-luxury travel, translating Rolls-Royce’s ethos of effortlessness into physical capability, anywhere in the world. Cullinan will simply take the world in its stride.
One thing Rolls-Royce hasn’t yet revealed though is the price. However, we’d expect it to be in the Phantom’s ball park, if slightly cheaper so as to leave its flagship status untouched. Don’t anticipate much change from $400,000, before options though.
Just… don’t call it an SUV…