In a world that has gone SUV-crazy, even super-luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce desperately needed to get into this fast-growing segment.
The very combination of the words “sports utility” with the RR-badge may seem vulgar to some but the lavish new Cullinan off-roader is designed to show Rolls-Royce can produce the best high-riding vehicle that money can buy.
The emphasis is on engineering excellence and the kind of durability and quality shown by early Rolls-Royces which survived epic adventures in India and the Swiss Alps.
The Cullinan will probably be more at home in upmarket London suburbs than in the Gobi Desert but it does have the capability to drill the dirt. It may also appeal to buyers who already have a Roller in the garage for use on regular roads.
In order to live up the posh name, the Cullinan offers the brand’s famous magic car glide ride for owners who like to go powering through messy stuff like mud, wet grass, snow or sand. Air suspension and electronically-controlled shock absorber adjustment smooth out the bumps.
Rolls-Royce is one of the latest big names to come up with a luxury SUV in the wake of the Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus, although the Cullinan was first promised back in 2015. Since then prototypes have undergone rigorous testing.
Naturally, the Cullinan costs more to buy than any of its rivals (starting from around 325,000 dollars). To stress its superlative nature, the SUV is named after the largest diamond ever discovered. Found in 1905, the Cullinan was named after a mining club chairman and is part of the crown jewels of the United Kingdom.
Genteel is certainly not the world to describe this gargantuan, five-metre-long car and the front is dominated by the marque’s traditional upright grille – topped by the Spirit of Ecstasy emblem.
The Cullinan is the first RR to have a tailgate which purrs down electrically to reveal a cavernous 555 litres of luggage space. This goes up to 1,930 litres if the sumptuous leather rear seat is folded flat.
Rolls-Royce likes to spoil occupants with luxury and comfort, and the Cullinan cabin continues this tradition. The body lowers to aid entry and a mass of wood, leather and deep-pile carpet greets the driver and passengers. The cockpit features state-of-the-art instrumentation and a suite of driver safety aids.
The Cullinan is the second model after the Phantom limousine to be built on the new aluminium “Architecture of Luxury” platform from Rolls-Royce. It uses the same twin-turbo 6.75-litre V12 engine, which has been re-jigged to produce 563 horsepower and drives all four wheels.
Top speed and acceleration have not been revealed by the makers. This may be a throwback to earlier days when Rolls-Royce fended off unseemly enquiries by saying that the power of its cars was “adequate”.