Announced for the first time three years ago, it is finally here. The “world’s most anticipated SUV” and the first-ever high-riding model from Rolls-Royce, the Cullinan, shows its face to the world wearing a name inspired by the largest single-piece diamond ever discovered on the planet. The British luxury automaker actually describes it as “an all-terrain high-bodied car” – and we can’t agree more.
The Rolls-Royce of SUVs is targeting wealthy buyers with an appetite for a powerful, super luxury, and practical sport utility vehicle. The company wants to attract the “younger, very successful high-net-worth individuals who are heavily engaged in the experience economy” by perfecting the already popular formula of a premium SUV.
With the profile of its rear end, the first-ever Rolls to feature an opening hatch, which is called The Clasp, makes a nod to the era when luggage was mounted on the exterior of the car in order to free up more space for the passengers in the cabin. Needless to say, it’s operated automatically at the touch of the key fob button and opens up a cargo area of 560 liters (19.77 cubic feet). With the rear seats folded, the load capacity raises to 1930 liters (68.15 cubic feet) – enough volume for “a Mark Rothko from the Art Gallery or a newly discovered artefact from the latest archaeological dig.”
Speaking of the rear seats, probably the most comfortable place in the Cullinan is exactly the rear passenger compartment, which will be offered in two different configurations. The Lounge Seat layout is the more functional of the two and has space for three passengers in a traditional bench-style single seat, which can be electrically folded in a number of configurations. The Individual Seat configuration offers the ultimate luxury with two separate chairs, divided by a massive rear center console incorporating a drinks cabinet with Rolls-Royce whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes, and refrigerator.
The driver’s seat is equally impressive. Despite being the place where most likely chauffeurs will sit, it has heating and ventilation, to ensure the driver is perfectly acclimatized. In front of his eyes is Rolls-Royce’s latest generation digital instrument cluster, while a central position on the dashboard is taken by the first-ever touch-sensitive display in a model from the automaker. The infotainment system can also be controlled through the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy controller on the center console.
Rolls-Royce’s first SUV is based on the so-called Architecture of Luxury all-aluminum platform, which also underpins the Phantom. Designed from the ground up, it uses components reconfigured into a spaceframe, which should deliver “extraordinary car body stiffness for exceptional ‘best-in-class’ functional performance.”
“The drivetrain system we engineered for Cullinan had one key job to do,” Caroline Krismer, Engineering Project Leader for the Cullinan, explains. “To bring the famed Rolls-Royce ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ to all other terrains possible, while ensuring class-leading on-road behaviour in the SUV sector.”
The system Krismer is referring to is the self-levelling air suspension, a heavily re-engineered version of the already existing air suspension of the company, which makes millions of calculations every second to adapt itself to the road. Larger air struts with more air volume have been added to cushion the blows of the off-road terrains, and the front axle suspension layout has been completely redesigned. The Cullinan rides on 22-inch wheels.
Power comes from the familiar 6.75-liter biturbo V12 engine of the marque, which has also been revised and now delivers “just the right level of torque” – 627 pound-feet (850 Newton-meters) at low 1,600 rpm. Peak power is 563 horsepower (420 kilowatts), channeled to all four wheels through a new all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering system.
The top speed of the 5,846-pound (2,660-kilogram) SUV is electronically limited at 155 miles per hour (250 kilometers per hour), while data for the 0-62 mph (0-100 kph) sprint is not provided by Rolls-Royce. Average fuel consumption? Not that it matters, but just for the protocol – 18.8 miles per gallon, or approximately 15 liters per 100 km.
Rolls-Royce is positive the Cullinan won’t be used only on asphalt. Anything should be possible – fly fishing, photography, rock climbing, snowboarding, parascending, kite boarding, base jumping, and even volcano boarding. “History set our precedent, and today Rolls-Royce answers its call to action,” Torsten Muller-Otvos, Rolls’ CEO. “Our answer to the visionaries, adventurers, explorers and those who believe in the supremacy of liberty is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.”
The starting price of the Cullinan for the U.S. market is $325,000.