When Rolls-Royce announced three years ago that it would launch Cullinan, it did take many by surprise. But not many of its high-profile customers. They were the ones who wanted to see “The Rolls-Royce of SUVs”, with luxury, performance and usability not seen before in the SUV market. From then to now there has been an eager, exciting wait for luxury car enthusiasts. Earlier this week, the iconic British car maker did reveal the Cullinan, saying that luxury is no longer an urban concept. More and more it is about embracing and experiencing the wider world. Named after the largest diamond ever discovered which now resides in the British Crown Jewels, the Cullinan is different, and they’re calling it “Effortless, Everywhere”.


From the very beginning the design team treated this brand-new Rolls-Royce as a unique, high bodied car. Strength and power are immediately apparent from the face of Cullinan. Key features such as lights and air intakes are deep set into the bodywork, whilst strong vertical and horizontal lines create a powerful visage, with the prominent brow of a Saxon warrior created by the line that runs across the top of the pantheon grille and “eyebrow” —like daytime running lights. The Rolls-Royce badge and Spirit of Ecstasy ride significantly above the line of the wing, gives them a unique vantage point. The rear view continues the theme of functionality, with the design reduced to a functional baseline. The design theme for the rear lights remains simple as two narrow upright units house all the lights and are minimally adorned by thin narrow strips of jewellery at their centre. A final mark of functionality are the exposed metal exhaust pipes and skid plate, both reminding one of Cullinan’s power and ability.


Inside, the cabin of Cullinan combines authentic Rolls-Royce luxury with simple, symmetrical functionality to express the car’s inherent strength. The centre stack is framed by hand-finished metal pillars that bridge the upper fascia and middle console, whilst also suspending the horizontal elements of the fascia to give a more commanding feel. The central information screen is for the first time touch sensitive, allowing the driver to quickly select functions, map views and vehicle set-up whilst on the trail. The seats showcase Rolls-Royce’s mastery of leather craft as this entire backrest panel has been crafted from a single piece of leather to pick out a highly three-dimensional surface. All areas throughout the interior that are now heated include the front door armrests, front centre console lid, lower C-Pillar, rear side armrests and rear centre armrest.For the first time a Rolls-Royce has an opening tailgate, called “The Clasp”. This in a nod to the era when luggage was mounted on the exterior of the motor-car, so the occupants did not travel with their belongings. A sealed cabin created by the glass partition wall ensures the occupants can remain in the optimum temperature even when the luggage compartment stands open.


The Cullinan sees a complete reworking of the new 563 bhp 6.75 litre twin-turbo V12 Rolls-Royce engine to deliver just the right level of torque (850Nm) at the lowest possible revolutions (1,600rpm). All this to ensure it will take owners to places no modern Rolls-Royce owner has travelled in luxury before. Cullinan awakes at the touch of the unlock button on the bespoke key, or indeed by simply reaching out to its beautifully tactile stainless steel door handle. It lowers itself by 40mm to make entry effortless as the iconic Rolls-Royce coach doors stand open to welcome driver and passengers to their adventure. Once engaged, the driver can finesse the off-road setting to glide over any situation, whether it be rough track, gravel, wet grass, mud, snow or sand delivering all 850Nm of torque to all four wheels without interruption. And faced with deep snow, sand or the need to ford streams, Cullinan delivers the deepest wading depth of any super-luxury SUV at 540mm thanks to its highest ride height.

Ride & Handling

Rolls-Royce’s celebrated Magic Carpet Ride impresses off-road as well as on-road thanks to the new lighter architecture, and the latest generation of self-levelling air suspension. Through a thorough re-engineering of the existing air suspension system—including adding larger air struts with more air volume to cushion the blows of the toughest of terrains—the strengthening of drive and prop shafts, the inclusion of drive to the front wheels as well as the back for the first time in Rolls-Royce history. The suspension makes millions of calculations every second as it continuously varies the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system—reacting to body and wheel acceleration, steering inputs and camera information. A new double-wishbone front axle and 5-link rear axle deliver good levels of control over lateral roll and deliver agility and stability, as does the addition of four-wheel steering, all contributing to incredible drivability and nimbleness. In the case of driving off-road, the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system uses an air compression system to actively push down any wheel it detects losing traction to ensure every wheel is constantly in contact with the ground and maximum torque is being provided to all wheels.


The best car brand in the world just added a whole new dimension to it. The only thing cars from the brand were not able to do is to go just about anywhere, as that would’ve put this luxury on wheels at risk. Well not anymore, the Cullinan is as functional as a Rolls-Royce can get. Yes, it may not be as striking looking as some of its saloon counterparts but it gives the same amount of luxury and gadgetry. And of course, it can tame the wildest of terrains with a lot of ease. If it gives you some comfort the Cullinan may not be the flagship of the brand when it arrives in India which means lesser than the Phantom which is priced at Rs. 9.5 lakh.


Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars


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