The life of a Rolls-Royce customer goes beyond the thrills of driving one of the most exclusive cars in the world. In fact, being a Rolls owner is a lifestyle that not many can afford, but lots of people aspire to achieve in their lifetime. For decades, the Rolls-Royce brand has not only been associated with fine and unique automobiles, but also with luxury, opulence and status, so naturally these attributes can be found also on their latest jewel – the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. I’ve had the chance to experience the “Rolls-Royce of SUVs” several times already, including at the International Media Launch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the Cullinan found a home for a few weeks.
Named after the largest diamond ever discovered, one which now resides in the British Crown Jewels, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is the first-ever SUV ever built in Goodwood, and one of the most expensive all-wheel drive vehicles one can buy today. The fact that the first year’s production is already sold out is not surprising, considering that many Rolls customers have been anxiously waiting for the Cullinan since its competitors arrived on the market.
Underpinning the new Cullinan, as well as the latest generation Phantom, is a new custom architecture which provides superior ride stiffness, smoothness and silence. This new platform is called the “Architecture of Luxury” and it’s the backbone of future Rolls-Royce models.
But while the tech details are fun and interesting, it’s the experience of the Rolls-Royce world that fascinates me with every opportunity I get. So to give us a quick glimpse into the luxurious life of the few privileged ones, Rolls-Royce of North America has invited me to Los Angeles to immerse myself into a unique experience. Teaming up with The Peninsula Beverly Hills, my day begins at the beautiful property in the sunny Los Angeles, located at the Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire near Canon Drive, within walking distance from Rodeo Drive and from the best shopping in Southern California.
In hotel years, The Peninsula Beverly Hills is fairly young at only 27 years old, but it has built a reputation of being one of the most luxurious properties in the United States with a unique decor and experiences offered to its guests. It has recently gone through a remodeling process which refreshed the elegant rooms to be worth of the prices starting at $600 per night. The hotel has 195 rooms, including 38 suites and 17 private villas, and while it has a contemporary style, it’s also filled with in-room technology to fit the style of a modern Rolls owner – cue in the tablet in each room that guests can use to request a wide range of services and products.
Gourmet food, a rooftop pool and garden, a five-star luxury spa, are just some of the other amenities that highlight the high-standards of the luxurious hotel. All of these things help the hotel achieve a return rate of over 90 percent of its customers.
So why the connection between Rolls-Royce and The Peninsula Beverly Hills, you might ask?
“It’s an organic, natural partnerships that dates as far back as 1970s,” Gerry Spahn, Rolls-Royce of North America Head of Communications has told me. “Back then, Peninsula wanted the best cars for them.” Since December 2006, the hotel has had a fleet of 14 long wheelbase Rolls-Royce Phantoms painted in the hotel’s signature Brewster Green.It was the largest single order placed with Rolls-Royce in the history of the company and it replaced a fleet of Rolls-Royce Silver Spurs. Across all properties in Shanghai, Beijing, Paris, Beverly Hills, Tokyo, and Bangkok, the luxurious hotel has over 30 Rolls-Royce cars.
“The Peninsula Beverly Hills and Rolls Royce have customers who expect the highest level of customization, attention and quality,” Jonathan Mattis, Public Relations Manager at The Peninsula Beverly Hills told me. “It’s a great partnership because we share a dedication to the same values.”
To solidify their partnership in the United States, in 2016, Rolls-Royce picked The Peninsula Beverly Hills as the location host for the launch of new Dawn. Customers who reserve the Silver Suite, will also get access to a Silver Dawn to take them around Beverly Hills.
My visit to The Peninsula Beverly Hills had another purpose as well – to experience the upcoming Pen Academy which kicks off in May 2019 offering their top customers a tailored, luxurious experience, which I will outline below.
Upon my arrival at LAX, a Rolls-Royce Cullinan and its driver were waiting curbside to take me to The Peninsula Beverly Hills. It was my first time riding as a passenger in the Cullinan and while I enjoy driving, it was refreshing to take the back seat and experience the elegance of a Rolls. My encounter with the Cullinan starts with the coach doors which unveil a spacious and luxury cabin. The outer skin wraps under the body, so that when opened they keep exterior dirt away. The hand-stitching, the wood and the chrome are of the highest quality possible. The upper fascia is clad in durable and water resistant box grain leather, similar to that used in high-end Italian luggage and handbags.
The cockpit-style dashboard features digital dials and a thick steering wheel while the in-house developed sound system is one of the best in business. My car had the two Individual Seats, compared to the Lounge Seats you might see in other configurations. This 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. 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.
There is also a huge glasshouse and high seating to provide panoramic views. With the full-length glass sunroof you can also view the beautiful landscapes around Los Angeles.
Pulling in at The Peninsula Beverly Hills and immediately you’re greeted by the hotel staff that not only assists you with your luggage and check-in process, but they also walk you up to your room to outline some of the hotel’s best features and amenities. A nice touch that can only be found at high-end hotels. The first day of the Pen Academy includes a gourmet dinner at The Peninsula Beverly Hills‘ signature Belvedere restaurant under the direction of Executive Chef David Codney. During the exceptional several courses dinner, a host will outline the next day’s experience which will emphasize the lifestyle of a Rolls-Royce customer.
An early morning start is needed, considering the infamous Los Angeles traffic. The 6AM start comes with a fresh coffee in the lobby, along with a boxed breakfast prepared by The Peninsula’s chef to fuel you up during your journey. The end destination is Edna Valley and the beautiful Tolosa Winery, just over 3 hours north of Los Angeles, where the program ends with a garden lunch and wine tasting. But before I get there, some other tailored experiences are on the way.
Taking the iconic and scenic Highway 1, I get to experience the Cullinan from behind the wheel this time. Just like all the other Rolls-Royce models, the Cullinan maintains the famous magic-carpet waftability of the brand, making the journey quite comfortable for the driver and his passengers. Under the hood, the Cullinan has the always spectacular 6.75-liter twin turbocharged V12 making 563 horsepower and 637 lb-ft of peak torque at a very low 1,600 rpm. Power is sent to all-wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox on which you can’t select gears yourself. Instead, the shifting is assisted by GPS-nav system.
With that much power, I can also have some fun during some twisty sections of the road and it’s impressive how smooth, linear and progressive is the power delivery from the V12. Whether on regular asphalt or on countryside rough backroads, the Cullinan’s cabin isolates you from all the surroundings. Despite the large 22 inch wheels, the road noise is the being almost fully reduced, while wind noise is barely noticeable. The cabin’s quietness is achieved through double-thick glass and 100kg of soundproofing materials, along with the soundproofing foam found in the tires.
Furthermore, an optional glass partition wall separates the passengers from the rear luggage compartment, in an attempt to isolate the rear passengers from their cargo.
The ride was so smooth and comfortable that a couple of my passengers warned me of an unavoidable nap time.
First stop in this luxurious journey was scheduled for Pismo Beach in the San Luis Obispo County. This is the only beach in Central California where you can drive on and enjoy the scenery during a 17 mile stretch. It’s also the place where we decided to had some off-road fun with the Cullinan. A photographer was there to capture the moment where the large and luxurious SUV starts drifting in the sand, thanks to the Off Road setting which elevates the ride by 40mm, the drive-by-wire throttle and gearbox are recalibrated and the adaptive dampers are stiffened – at a touch of a button.
A picnic was setup for the group so you can take in the breathtaking views of the ocean and its surrounding mountains, while enjoying some light snacks and refreshments. If you’re not into the whole beach chair setup, then you can just head back to your Cullinan, pull out the tailgate seating which offers a pair of leather-lined seats. There is also a small table upon which to rest your drink, just because that’s what you’d do as a Rolls customer.
To make this experience even more unique, Rolls-Royce partnered with Daniel Marshallfor a special collection of the renowned cigars and humidors. So now, you can enjoy a cigar from the back of your Rolls. A much needed coffee was on my mind already, so the Rolls-Royce folks surprised me with their own blend put together by Drive Coffee and served from the back tailgate of the Cullinan.
The final stop on our Rolls-Royce X Pen Academy journey is only 10 miles away at the famous Tolosa winery, the sister winery of the Napa’s well-regarded Alpha Omega winery. Two years ago, Edna Valley’s Tolosa Winery welcomed French-born winemaker Frederic Delivert to deliver his extensive experience from around Sonoma and Napa Valley. Delivert was also our host for the wine tour which kicked off with a drive aboard the Cullinan right into the 750-acre vineyard.
The winemaker gave us some insight into the art of wine, showing us different soils that influence the taste of your wine. Tolosa’s estate vineyard, Edna Ranch, consists of six distinct sections, with 60 soil types and myriad microclimates encapsulating a remarkable spectrum of terroirs. Their flagship Pinot Noir, Primera, is highly regarded in the wine industry.
A fascinating tour, not only for wine lovers, but for anyone that appreciates the fine details of any craft.
Every Rolls-Royce experience that I’ve been a part of, and something that every customer appreciates as well, cannot end without a personalized meal in a beautiful setting. On Tolosa’s terrace, and right in front of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan fleet, a lunch table was set to delight us with a variety of dishes, freshly prepared and curated for all tastes. The dishes were paired with Tolosa Poletti Edna Ranch Chardonnay 2017 and Tolosa Hollister Edna Ranch Pinot Noir, both Single Vineyards, as well as the flagship Tolosa Primera Pinot Noir Edna Valley 2017.
The day and the luxury experience now comes to an end, leaving me with a better understanding of what it means to be a Rolls-Royce owner – and the world that revolves around you. This unique journey combines the best of many worlds, from posh hotels and luxury automobiles, to the fascinating world of wine and cigars, and to a culinary experience that makes your life better than it already is.
My fantasy stops – for now – but yours can begin at any time. The academy is exclusive to hotel guests staying two or more nights. The rates will start at $3000 for up to four people, and it will be officially launched on Instagram. Follow @thepeninsulaBH for the latest or visit peninsula.com
To live like a king for a day – literarily – Rolls-Royce of North America and The Peninsula Beverly Hills have invited me to Los Angeles and covered all my expenses, including the tailgate coffee.