Rolls-Royce traditionalists will scoff at the idea of an SUV. The word utility shouldn’t even be in the same paragraph as the Rolls-Royce name, never mind describe one. Yet here we are. Named after the largest diamond ever discovered, one which now resides in the British Crown Jewels, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is the brand’s first-ever SUV. Actually, Rolls would rather have you call it a high-bodied, all-terrain luxury car. Which actually fits the Cullinan quite nicely. Semantics aside, though, Rolls-Royce traditionalists shouldn’t turn their nose up at the Cullinan, because it’s exactly what the brand needed.
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Rolls-Royce Cullinan Magma Red
“The super-luxury lifestyle is evolving and Rolls-Royce is in the lead. Luxury is no longer an urban concept. More and more it is about embracing and experiencing the wider world. Our customers expect to go everywhere in luxury, effortlessly and without compromise, conquering the most challenging terrain to enjoy life’s most enriching experiences, wherever they may be. For this reason, they have asked us to create a Rolls-Royce that offers uncompromised luxury wherever they dare to venture. Cullinan is that car. It is Effortless, Everywhere.” said Rolls Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös.
And innovation in luxury is actually something that Sir Henry Royce himself championed. “Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it”. So while an SUV with all-wheel drive might not be something that fits with the traditional Rolls Royce image, it’s not out of the question.
Rolls-Royce Cullinan Tungsten Grey
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is built on the brand’s all-aluminum “Architecture of Luxury” platform, the same one on which the Phantom VIII is built. According to Rolls-Royce, the Cullinan is the first-ever “three-box” SUV in the segment. A glass partition wall separates the passengers from the rear luggage compartment, in an attempt to isolate the rear passengers from their cargo. It would be a bit uncouth to have VIPs sitting so close to something so beneath them, such as a cargo or luggage. In fact, the rear split tailgate is actually called “The Clasp”, a nod to a time when luggage was mounted to the rear of the vehicle, so as to keep the passengers separated from their cargo.
Rear seat passengers will be treated to either one of two seat configurations; Lounge Seats or Individual Seats. The former is your typical three-seat bench and is the more functional of the two, preferable for families. With Lounge Seats, the rear seats also fold down, so as to allow for more cargo space, a Rolls-Royce first. Of course, they fold automatically, with buttons in the trunk. One press of the corresponding buttons folds the seats down, while simultaneously raising the rear headrests up so as to not leave imprints on the precious seats. They can fold down in either 1/3, 2/3 or complete configurations.
What’s interesting is that the base of the rear seats actually sits higher than the boot (we are talking about an English car) floor, which allows whatever luggage in the boot to not slide forward into the passenger compartment when the seats are folded down. That doesn’t allow it to have a flat boot floor but the Cullinan is not about being the ultimate practical SUV but the ultimate luxury SUV. So keeping cargo from the front passengers is more important. Also, not that anyone actually cares, but the cargo space of the Cullinan is 560 liters, which improves to 600 liters with the parcel shelf removed.
One thing you have to love about Rolls Royce is, when talking about the loading capacity of the Cullinan in its press release, it doesn’t say that it’s easy to load in suitcases or baby strollers but “a Mark Rothko from the Art Gallery or a newly discovered artefact from the latest archaeological dig”. That’s hilarious and fantastically Rolls Royce. The Goodwood based brand would also like to point out that the Cullinan has more loading length than the Range Rover Vogue Extended Wheelbase, which is a shot across the bow at its fellow British rival.
If you decide to choose the Individual Seats for the rear, you get two thrones, separated by a “Fixed Rear Centre Console”, which offers a drinks cabinet filled with whiskey glasses and decanter, as well as champagne flutes and refrigerator. The two seats are also almost infinitely adjustable, so rear passengers can get as cozy and comfortable as possible.
Back to that glass partition which separates the rear passengers from their supposed archaeological cargo. It not only keeps passengers away from their own stuff but it helps to create a more comfortable environment, temperature-wise, as the Cullinan then doesn’t have to heat or air condition the trunk. Which is actually quite clever, as it will change temps quicker in the rear seat that way. Not only that but, with harsh exterior temperatures, the tailgate can be opened without outside temps intruding on the occupants. So the chauffeur can get the luggage in and out of the trunk, I’m sorry boot, without the rear oligarchs getting either too cold or too hot. Clever stuff.
Also, who can forget the incredible rear tailgate picnic seats, dubbed the “Viewing Suite”, which allows two lovely little seats to pop up from the rear cargo area onto the lower portion of the split tailgate. This allows two people to sit and enjoy whatever stunning view that may lie before them. Possibly the breathtaking wonder of the Northern Lights or perhaps the vast beauty of the Swiss Alps. There’s also something called the Recreation Module, which is an optional extra, in place of the Viewing Suite, that can accommodate several different recreational activities its customer might enjoy, such as fly fishing, photography, rock-climbing or even something called volcano boarding, which sounds terrifying.
Though, it’s evident Rolls has put a lot of thought into the rear occupants of the Cullinan, more so than ever before. When unlocking the car, either by keyfob or the touching of a door handle, the Cullinan will lower itself 40mm for easier ingress and no “Paris Hilton moments”. Once inside, the doors power close, so no one has to reach out and actually grab a door handle, and then once the car is started it raises 40mm again. Clever stuff.
Once inside, passengers are greeted by a typically lovely Rolls Royce interior. What’s interesting, though, is it’s not as pretty as the interior of the Phantom. The new Phantom is still on another level, in terms of sheer beauty. However, the Cullinan seems a bit more SUV-like, actually, at least for a Rolls Royce. It’s vast and it seems a bit, dare I say tougher? Don’t get me wrong, it’s still stunningly beautiful inside but it lacks some of the standout features of the Phantom, most notably the now-famous Art Gallery.
In the back, the Individual Seats look incredibly plush and there seems to be something wonderfully luxurious about sitting in the back of a Rolls that sits far higher than a standard car. So you can physically look down on everyone else, as well as figuratively, rather than just doing the latter in a standard Rolls. I can’t even afford the wax with which they shine the Spirit of Ecstasy hood emblem on the Cullinan but even I can see the appeal in that.
What’s even more interesting is that there’s some actual function and utility to the cabin. For instance, the top of the dash, or upper fascia as Rolls calls it, is made of what’s called Box Grain leather, which is a very durable, water-resistant leather used in high-end Italian luggage and hand bags, so if you’ve gone skiing and you have a bit of snow on your clothes, it won’t ruin your dash leather.
Under the skin lies a very similar configuration to the new Phantom VIII. Powering the Cullinan is the same 6.75 liter twin-turbocharged V12 as the Phantom and it makes the same 563 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. Paired to that engine is an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a Rolls Royce-specific all-wheel drive system.
After seeing the Cullinan, an SUV now makes so much sense for Rolls Royce. Previously, it seemed uncouth but not it’s a wonder why it was never thought of before. Imposing brutishness combined with effortless, unparalleled luxury is the Rolls Royce way and the Cullinan seems to embody that perfectly. It genuinely is Effortless Luxury, Everywhere.