Would you drive your Rolls-Royce down a rugged cottage laneway, into the woods for a camping trip, or even through a blizzard to the ski hill?
Not long ago, this idea was an abomination. Taking a highly personalized, rear-wheel drive, perhaps half-million-dollar Rolls onto anything but pristine, dry pavement seems dangerously akin to hitting a gem-encrusted watch with a hammer. It might survive, but it would certainly never be the same.
No more. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan utility vehicle has arrived and the brand is unabashedly enthusiastic about the potential it holds. It is, they believe, a game-changer.
Cullinan wraps all of the power, smoothness, and refinement that Rolls-Royce is known for into a package that’s ready to go just about anywhere. It shares Rolls-Royce’s latest aluminum-based platform with the new Phantom, along with a reworked 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine, its 563 horsepower, and 627 pound-feet of torque that becomes fully available at 1,600 RPM. The ZF eight-speed automatic transmission uses GPS positioning to anticipate shifts based on the car’s location and upcoming road conditions. Between this, the self-leveling air suspension with enlarged struts for traversing rougher terrain, rear-axle steering for tighter cornering, and the brand’s traditional featherlight steering combine for a remarkable result: it truly does drive like a Rolls.
Its luxury appointments fit the bill as well. Custom optioning opens a vast range of combinations in stitching and piping to accompany the extensive use of colour through premium leather and open-pore wood. The heating elements in the seats can be extended to include the surrounding armrests. Plush lambswool carpeting and a door-mounted Rolls-Royce monogrammed umbrella retain the brand’s signature touches.
The second row can be configured into one of two distinct set-ups. The three-seat bench includes a Rolls-Royce first: 60-40 split seat backs that can accommodate longer cargo such as water skis or snowboards. Or opt for two individual seats positioned astride a fixed rear-centre console, complete with whisky decanter and glasses, champagne flutes, and a refrigerator. Either choice includes a tray table and tablet system built into the front row seat backs that emerge at the push of a button. To shield occupants from the elements when the rear door is open, a glass partition can be integrated into the cargo area. The rearward space can also be equipped with a retractable pair of seats and cocktail table, or with a tailored storage solution for the gear needed for outdoor pursuits.
And should you encounter a creek with breached banks on your way, there is a well-considered feature: exterior cameras can provide 360-degree exterior views, including of the side doors, which bear an accent line that also happens to mark the Cullinan’s maximum wading depth.
The classic, effortless Rolls-Royce driving dynamic is desirable in the Cullinan in most situations. Its off-road mode alters several of these characteristics appropriately, such as automatically lifting the suspension and softening the gear mapping and throttle response. It would be a benefit to consider having the steering response also tighten, to increase the driver’s feel for the terrain in more rugged environs.
The climb into the cabin, whatever the suspension height, is a steep one. This is aided in the second row by handles that are carved subtly into the front-row seat backs, but the front row has them built only into the door sills rather than on the A-pillar. It’s an awkward reach, and this detail is conspicuous by its absence.
Finally, an aesthetic point: the handle on the end of the shifting stalk is finished in dull black plastic, a missed opportunity to integrate a premium material that better aligns with the opulence of the vehicle. (If this is a concern, perhaps ask about bespoke possibilities.)
As a first foray into the world of utility vehicles, the Cullinan is a bold and valorous effort. It may be a hard-working utility vehicle, but it is still, overarchingly, a Rolls-Royce.
Discover more from our Summer 2019 issue here.