This is Cullinan, the much-anticipated SUV by Rolls-Royce. The prelude has been long. The maker of the world’s most luxurious and crafted motor cars has kept us waiting and guessing and anticipating for over three years when it first announced plans to create its very first all-terrain vehicle. This is an SUV that promises to be above all others – the most luxurious of all off-roaders and the most technological Rolls-Royce in history.
You could argue Rolls-Royce has always been making off-roaders. The earlier vehicles were certainly put through a tougher pace than their chauffeured glamorous contemporary off-springs. Lawrence of Arabia famously wrote “a Rolls in the desert is above rubies” after nine Rolls-Royces carried him and his men to victory – including two Silver Ghosts and Lawrence’s personal transport the Blue Mist. The Maharajahs and Maharanis used theirs to roam around the jungles of India chasing elephants. In 1907, an Englishman by the name of Frank Norbury successfully drove his Silver Ghost 620 miles from Bombay to Kolhapur, through the rough terrain of the India Ghat mountain-passes.
“Our answer to history, to the visionaries, adventurers, explorers and those who believe in the supremacy of liberty is the Cullinan,” says chief executive officer Torsten Müller-Ötvös, observing with confidence that this car will “redefine the parameters of super-luxury travel”.
Cullinan is the second Rolls-Royce to be built on the company’s all-aluminum “architecture of luxury” which gave us the latest Phantom VIII. The component parts of the base architecture were reconfigured into a spaceframe to accommodate the high-bodied shape of Cullinan, which in turn created a tailgate, a new feature on a series production Rolls.
This will also be a mighty powerful machine – the 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 engine promises to deliver 563bhp/420kW and 850Nm/627lb ft of torque to the all-new all-wheel drive. The Cullinan has been put through a thorough test all over the globe to ensure its supreme off-road capabilities. A single function, what Rolls is calling an “everywhere” button, unleashes the full gamut of car’s off-road capability. What’s more, the makers promise the quintessential “magic carpet ride” on and off-road with this vehicle.
This is a car that needs to be amazing to drive, of course, but must also seduce through design, through offering extraordinary luxury and something above the competition. Director of design Giles Taylor says his main goal was to create a clean, modern, contemporary design that is also functional and devoid of unnecessary fussy “jewelry”. The customer he has in mind has a great sense of adventure. “They are daring in how they live their experiences.” They want a motor car that can take them anywhere but in sheer ultimate luxury and in unique style.
Taylor explains that the Cullinan will be the first “three-box” car in the SUV genre. The architecture of luxury allowed Taylor to place the wheels and the roof exactly where he envisaged them. “This gave Cullinan the commanding stance of a warrior, immediately communicating its strength and power,” he says, “whilst at the very same time ensuring the most effortless access to and egress from the rear cabin of any car of this type.”
The face expresses the vehicle’s power. It is a little tough-looking with the new headlamps and air intakes set deep into the bodywork. The hand-polished stainless steel grille is positioned to be high and forward, with the badge and Spirit of Ecstasy riding above the line of the wing for a prominent vantage point. The rear continues the theme of functionality.
Inside is pure Rolls-Royce – elegantly proportioned, lovingly detailed and swimming with lush tactile surfaces. The relationship of glasshouse to metal helps create visual solidity and, in the case of the rear passengers, a sense of privacy without blocking their view. Moreover, a partition wall allows for a distinct environment for passengers and separates them from the luggage compartment. Finally, Rolls-Royces will offer potential customers great scope to completely personalize their Cullinan.
The Cullinan will go on sale at the end of the year with prices starting from around $350,000 although the bespoke features and customization options will potentially raise this closer to half a million dollars.
“Today we are setting a new standard by creating a new class of motoring and motor car for customers who are well-connected, highly mobile and have a global perspective,” says Peter Schwarzenbauer, chair of Rolls-Royce and member of the board of BMW Group. “They want a new type of motor car that gives them unbounded access in ultimate luxury.”