The ravishing Rolls-Royce Cullinan

The SUV that captures opulence at its finest

By George Kuruvilla

Published: Thu 25 Mar 2021, 6:10 PM

Luxury auto makers are many, but there is nothing quite like Rolls-Royce. Its long-standing tradition of building cars by hand and putting hefty price tags on them — ensuring exclusivity — make Rolls-Royce the darling brand of the upper echelons of society. And with the advent of the company’s very first SUV, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, both its popularity and sales numbers are set to soar. Come, let’s have a closer look at the Cullinan, shall we!

Visual grandeur

Take away lifted 4x4s and industrial vehicles and you’d agree that there is nothing as conspicuous as a Rolls-Royce on the road. The Cullinan is no different. With a length of 5,341 mm, width of 2000 mm and height of 1835 mm, this SUV is so much more imposing than what these pictures propose.

It may be new to the family, but it is unequivocally Rolls-Royce — with the exception of the bash plates. The tall and blockish front-end, adorns the familiar pantheon-style hand-polished stainless-steel grille; and atop it sits gracefully, the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament that can be cleverly concealed with the touch of a button. The robust form continues to the rear end with the truncated boot completing what Rolls-Royce call “3-box SUV”. Some people have drawn comparisons to the London Taxi and we see the semblance, but the sparkling LED lamps and lustrous paintjob make the Cullinan, shining jewel on wheels.

Cavernous Cabin

Pull the beautifully tactile stainless-steel door handle to the rear-hinged door and the Cullinan lowers itself by 40mm, to make for a gracious entry or exit. And if your chauffeur is busy tucking away your luggage, you can close it with the press of a button.

The cabin is a palatial space. It is so silent, it has an almost-meditative quality. Every surface is either draped in leather or gets an accent in wood, steel or aluminium. Obviously, rich folk have an aversion for plastic and Rolls-Royce knows their customer’s tastes. The rear cabin is offered in two configurations — Lounge Seats, which accommodate three people or Individual Seats, which accommodate two.

While you are there, you can kick back and enjoy a massage on your heated/ventilated seats, while browsing the net by hooking up your phone to the Wi-Fi hotspot. And if you are in that celebratory mood, you can make a toast with a drink from the Champagne cooler or whisky decanter set in the centre console. It also contains either two champagne flutes or whisky glasses, necessary for that ‘clink’.

But the real highlight is the Starlight headliner with multi-LED arrangement. For a little extra, you can request Rolls-Royce to set the LEDs to match your constellation.

Tucked behind the backs of the front seats are a retractable table to help you with your signatory duties and large infotainment screens that let you control everything the front passengers can, from setting the radio station to sending navigational instructions to your driver.

Driver’s controls

If you choose to drive yourself everywhere, you won’t be disappointed either. Rolls have done a beautiful job of merging the new with old. While the instrument cluster may seem like traditional analogue gauges, they are in fact renderings by the digital instrument screen. Especially intriguing is the power reserve gauge, which serves in place of the tachometer!

Helping the driver navigate this behemoth is an extensive list of electronic nannies including Night vision to help see further down the road at night and a 4-camera system that provides the helicopter-like panoramic view. All switchgear is well-damped, just like that in any luxury vehicle. While the seating position is comfortable with a commanding view of the road ahead.

Pilfered straight from the Phantom without compromises is the same twin-turbo 6.75-litre V12. The engine is so refined it conceals its monumental output of 563 bhp and colossal torque of 850 Nm (available from just 1,800 rpm). Of course, something that weighs as much as a small boat, needs that kind of power. Step heavy on the accelerator and there is nothing but a whimper from the V12 as you get from 0 to 100 kmph in a brisk 5.2 seconds. In the company of SUVs, you’d have to be in a Lamborghini Urus or a Bentley Bentayga to beat its pace.

But just as with all other Rolls-Royce vehicles, you would prefer to coast down the highway, while the 8-speed gearbox does its job seamlessly and the suspension soaks up the bumps effortlessly. To achieve the latter, the Cullinan employs cameras that continuously scan the road ahead and make adjustments to the self-levelling air suspension to deliver that famed magic carpet ride.

Beyond the tarmac

With things like four-wheel drive, height-adjustable suspension and a respectable wading depth of 540mm, there is a case to be made about the Cullinan being a capable off-roader. And instead of those complex multi-mode off-road controls offered in other luxury SUVs, Rolls have chosen to keep it simple by just adding just an “Off road” button and one for Hill Descent as well. That being said, you wouldn’t want to drive this exquisite piece of machinery through slush or sand, unless you have real deep pockets.

What’s in the boot?

For the first time a Rolls-Royce has a 2-piece tailgate, called ‘The Clasp”. Opening it up reveals a boot with 560 litres of space to fit your fetching Louis Vuitton luggage. And yet again, at the touch of another button, two exquisitely finished leather seats and a cocktail table are deployed from the luggage compartment, setting up a great picnic spot wherever you go.

Negative and final impressions

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the company’s first-ever SUV is a benchmark for quality, power and refinement, just like every other Rolls-Royce vehicle before it. The styling is more of an acquired taste, the analogue clock is not in the driver’s line of vision, the gear shifter stalk is flimsy and most importantly, even with the 4x4 underpinnings, it is just too delicate to take off-road. But all of that is a small price to pay for the big price you’d want to pay, to get such opulence into your garage.

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