Cullinan is Rolls-Royce’s first SUV in 112 years – if you discount some extraordinary armoured saloon-based fighting vehicles of the World War One era and after — and it is also the company’s first-ever 4×4, a great leap forward especially if you consider that Cullinan’s system is a latest-tech, electronically controlled, highly configurable permanent all-wheel drive set-up. This is only the second new Rolls to use the all new, highly flexible “Architecture of Luxury” aluminium spaceframe introduced recently with the latest Phantom 8 limousine and earmarked for every future Rolls-Royce including the second-generation Ghost saloon, next to arrive after Cullinan.
One reason for Cullinan’s impressive overall length is its use a “three-box” layout — in effect a classic, high-riding SUV shape with a short bustle-back that both improves the Cullinan’s profile and accommodates luggage more easily. There’s a split tailgate that opens both upwards and downwards to provide both shelter on rainy days and a low loading lip.
The Cullinan’s styling is upright and quite formal, though Rolls is at pains to emphasise that the car works just as well when painted in brighter, “everyday” colours and with informal interior hardware and texture choices as it does in more formal finishes. “With other Rolls-Royces,” says designer Giles Taylor, “the occupants’ involvement with the car ends with the arrival. Cullinan takes them off-road or to the beach and waits, which makes it a more practical, less formal kind of car.”
For all its practicality, the Cullinan still exudes class-topping quality. The high, prow-like bonnet rides above a traditional, hand-polished stainless steel grille. The lights and intakes are set more deeply into the body than on a saloon, and whole car consists at the front of a system of strong vertical and horizontal lines that the designers reckon imply strength and power) but the whole thing is given a more sporty mein by the fact that the roofline drops noticeably behind the B-pillar.
Rolls call Cullinan a three-box SUV, with a nod to the protruding rear styling of so-called D-back Rolls-Royce saloons in the 1930s. Giles Taylor praises the role of the flexible architecture in his overall Cullinan design. “It let me put wheels and roof in exactly the right places…”
Cullinan’s interior is the usual paragon of Rolls quality and style, with a hint of natural conservatism (unless you configure yours flamboyantly) and an innate simplicity about the controls and instruments.
Rolls have long protected their owners from the sensory overload that can be caused by banks of dials, screens, switches and levers. The fascia, its upper half trimmed with durable and impressive new “box grain” leather (you might find it on a Leica camera) has another material below, perhaps wood.
As you unock your Cullinan with the key, or touch its door handle, the body lowers 40mm for easy access. It rises again when you thumb the starter and the rear coach doors. Inside, there’s a flat floor, a legacy of the SUV format and the new architecture.
Despite talk of simplicity Cullinan can bristle with an impressive array of equipment that includes four- camera surround visibility, night vision, head-up display, a wifi hotspot, an alertness assistant and more. The tailgate is powered, of course, and can opens to reveal an optional “recreation module”, a superbly made container filled with tools for whatever activity you favour, from croquet to drone racing. Our demo car had a Viewing Suite, two comfortable fold-out chairs and a little table, perfect for taking outdoor cocktails or watching a point-to-point. Rolls-Royce is determined that a Cullinan will play its full part in its new owner’s lifestyle.
Rolls-Royce is expecting big things of the Cullinan.
As well as anticipating new interest in markets such as India and Russia that especially suit Cullinan’s “effortless, everywhere” message, the company expects take-up from younger, more active, outdoor-loving buyers.
As ever, Rolls people won’t talk specifics on volume but agree Cullinan is likely to become the best-selling Rolls on offer. Annual volume, currently 4000 units, could easily swell to 6000, and given that most buyers spend big on custom equipment these days, it could lift Rolls onto a new plane of profitability. For all the Cullinan’s comparative practicality, the company insists its unique qualities should not be lost. “It’s a very special car,” says Giles Taylor, “literally the most versatile pinnacle we can imagine.”
Named after the diamond in Britain’s Crown Jewels, the Cullinan will cost about $425,000.
Source Auto Car