When you are the world’s most luxurious car brand, it comes with a certain amount of responsibility and also pressure. So when Rolls-Royce decided to make its first ever sports utility vehicle (SUV) it was understandably under a rather large spotlight. The big question was if Rolls-Royce could produce an SUV that was big on utility but remained luxurious and comfortable inside. Enter the Cullinan.
Cullinan is the name of the world’s biggest diamond, which currently sits in the middle of the crown jewels in the Tower of London. That gives you an idea of what Rolls-Royce was hoping to achieve with its first ever SUV. It wanted to produce an off-roader that sparkled and shined among an increasingly crowded segment of posh tanks.
Rolls-Royces is actually no stranger to making off-roaders, despite having a global reputation for luxurious sedans. Lawrence of Arabia drove a Rolls-Royce through the Sahara desert during his military exploits, while they were widely used as combat vehicles during World War I. Fast-forward to 2019 and Rolls-Royce has come full circle, producing the most lavish and comfortable SUV you could imagine.
The shape of the Cullinan is pretty distinctive and also a little intimidating. But up close it looks so much better. Yes, it’s a very big car but this gives it lots of gravitas and road presence, which is one of the main reasons people buy an SUV in the first place.
Once you sit yourself in the in the driver’s seat, you instantly feel superior on the road The seating position is supremely high and gives you a great view of the front of the car and way beyond. Despite its gargantuan proportions the Cullinan is surprisingly easy to drive, helped by a series of 360-degree cameras dotted around its body.
Inside you are bathed in soft leathers with contrasting piping, expensive woods and fittings that keep in the traditions of vintage Rolls-Royces, such as old-fashioned air vents and an analogue clock. It’s easy to go crazy bespoking your Roller and my test-drive model came with half a million dollars’ worth of extras. These included a sky roof that stretches all across the spacious cabin, massage seats, rear seat curtains and a Spirt of Ecstasy (the flying lady on the front of the car) that lights up.
You expect a big engine to move a car that weighs just over 2.5 tons, and you definitely get that with the Cullinan. Under the bonnet beats a 6.75-litre, V12 engine which will get you from 0 to 100kph in an incredible 5.2 seconds. It’s very big, but very fast. Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW so the Cullinan borrows a lot of technology and engineering from its German parents.
Rolls-Royce describes driving its cars as ‘’a magic carpet ride’’ which I first discovered in its luxury saloon the Wraith many years ago. But could it create the same experience with the tank-like Cullinan? There was never any doubt as soon as I pulled away from the showroom. This car glides and cruises effortlessly whatever the surface.
However, a lot of effort goes on behind the scenes to make this such an unbelievably smooth car to drive. The transmission is linked to a GPS satellite-navigation, so the Cullinan is able to monitor upcoming curves and undulations and shift into an appropriate gear ahead of time. Combined with the BMW-engineered air suspension, you genuinely feel like you are hovering on top of the road.
While I had my reservations about the Cullinan, it turned out to be one of the most comfortable and pampered drives I’ve enjoyed for a long time. And while the shape may not please everyone, you will definitely feel king of the road. Perfect for the modern day Lawrence of Arabia.
Price: $1.27 million
Engine: 6.75L, V12, twin turbos
Top speed: 250kmh
0 to 100kph: 5.2 seconds
Fuel consumption: 15L/100km