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Rolls Royce Cullinan: The height of luxury

By Ghaith Madadha - Jul 20,2020 - Last updated at Jul 20,2020

Photo courtesy of Rolls Royce

That a automobile maker as hallowed as Rolls Royce would jump on the SUV bandwagon was as sure to raise some eyebrows as it was an irresistible potential cash cow for all high-end luxury manufacturers.

However, many naysayers had seemed to forget that the storied British brand’s cars were not always strangers to rough terrain, demanding usage and inhospitable conditions.

In fact Rolls Royce cars, have in the distant past, seen wartime action, most notably including nine lightly modified cars serving with T.E. Lawrence’s units during the Great Arab Revolt.

Launched late 2018 as a 2019 model, the high tech Rolls Royce Cullinan maybe a far cry from the stripped down, tough as nails and uncomplicatedly rugged warhorses of Lawrence’s campaigns, but is instead a capable off-road driver with the same ultra-luxurious appointment, ride, experience and cache expected of a contemporary Rolls Royce car. An even more luxurious, exclusive and expensive alternative to a Range Rover or Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the Cullinan effectively competes in a segment of two, alongside the Bentley Bentayga, from its erstwhile pre-1998-2003 era sister, and now arch-rival brand.


Upright aesthetic


Called a “high-bodied all-terrain car” by Rolls Royce rather than the ubiquitous term SUV, the Cullinan’s squared off, upright and high riding, high waistline design lends itself very well to the brand’s core design aesthetic, not to mention that even Rolls Royce’s regular cars are already higher, bigger and more upright than most cars, and some crossovers on the road. Certainly a car that needs to be taken in up close to be properly appreciated, the Cullinan is equally elegant and brutal in its demeanour and lines, and feature’s Rolls Royce’s large temple-like grille contrasting with more subtle body surfacing.

Rolls Royce’s first five-door wagon body and off-road oriented production car, the Cullinan combines elements of tough off-roader visual hints with conservatively elegant design themes, and while it isn’t quite as immensely sized as it looks in pictures, its proportions are still imposing. Powered by a twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre V12 under its rising and descending ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ statuette, the Cullinan shares not just its velvety smooth yet abundantly forceful large displacement engine, but also architectural elements, gearbox, plenty of electronics, design theme and lightweight aluminium construction, with the brand’s flagship second generation Phantom model.


Silky smooth abundance


A near silent powerhouse with relatively low turbo boost, the Cullinan’s enormous V12 is virtually lag-free from idling speed and develops its full 

627lb/ft torque twisting force by just 1,600rpm to deliver effortlessly abundant versatility. Progressive and willing to rev hard, the Cullinan does its best work at a relatively low-revving range, with its 563BHP maximum unleashed at only 5,000rpm. Instantly responsive in hauling the Cullinan’s not insubstantial 2,660kg mass, its progressive power delivery is, however, underlayed with a richly forceful and aurally stealthy, yet ever-present and seemingly indefatigable tsunami of torque.

Whisper quiet as it goes about its business briskly, one can pick up on the Cullinan’s sweet soaring V12 song at full tilt high-rev runs. The first four-wheel-drive Rolls, the Cullinan transmits power to its permanent system through a slick and smooth shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox, and can vary power between front and rear to allow it to pounce from standstill to 1000km/h in just 5.2-seconds. Top speed is meanwhile electronically governed to 250km/h and combined fuel consumption is 15l/100km. Thirsty in absolute terms, this is, however, restrained for a vehicle this tall, heavy and powerful.


Supple and sophisticated


Gliding along with a trademark Rolls Royce “waft”, the Cullinan’s ride quality is akin to a magic carpet, despite enormous low profile 255/45R22 tyres. Supple in how its irons out imperfections with a distinctly soft edge, the Cullinan’s highly comfortable, yet reassuringly stable and planted, ride quality is largely down to its front double wishbone and rear multilink adaptive air suspension, which makes constant adjustments in response to inputs from a stereo camera that reads the road ahead. Featuring strengthened driveline components for off-roading, the Cullinan’s air suspension also raises ride height to allow 540mm water fording.

Highly accomplished in ride comfort, compliance and composure, the Cullinan is no one trick pony, and proved surprisingly adept in its agility and handling traits during test drive. Nimbler than its height and weight suggest, the Cullinan may lean somewhat through hard driven corners, but its adaptive air suspension and electrically actuated anti-roll bars automatically adjust for tauter body control and softer ride comfort on road, or longer wheel travel off-road. Meanwhile, variable four-wheel-steering effectively shortens the wheelbase by turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction at low speed for better agility and turn-in.


Opulent appointment


At speed, the Cullinan’s four-wheel-steering turns the rear wheels in the same direction as the front, to effectively lengthen its wheelbase for improved stability and lane change responses. With light yet accurate steering and plenty of road-holding, driving the Cullinan is just as reassuring as riding in its opulent, richly appointed and highly refined cabin. Providing plenty of space in front and rear, the Cullinan offers a commandingly high driving position behind its long and high bonnet, with good front visibility, while, numerous driver assistance and safety systems are at work in the background.

Swathed in finest leathers, wood, metals and thick padded soft textures crafted to create an elegantly rich, secluded and enveloped environment, the Cullinan’s spacious cabin features upright seating and Rolls Royce touches like rear-swinging rear “coach” doors, thin steering column-mounted gear selection stalk and power dial in lieu of a rev counter. Designed for practical family use, the Cullinan features either a folding three-seat rear bench or individual seats with a luggage compartment glass partition to protect passengers from external elements. Its horizontally split tailgate meanwhile opens to reveal optional electrically-operated pop-up al fresco viewing seats.



Engine: 6.75-litre, twin-turbo, in-line V12-cylinders

Bore x stroke: 92 x 84.6mm

Valve-train: 48-valve, DOHC, direct injection

Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 563 (571) [420] @5,000rpm

Specific power: 83.4BHP/litre

Power -to-weight ratio: 211.6BHP/tonne (unladen)

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 627 (850) @1,600rpm

Specific torque: 125.9Nm/litre

Torque-to-weight ratio: 319.5Nm/tonne (unladen)

0-100km/h: 5.2-seconds

Top speed: 255km/h (electronically governed)

Fuel economy, combined: 15-litres/100km

CO2 emissions, combined: 341g/km

Length: 5,341mm

Width: 2,000mm

Height: 1,835mm

Wheelbase: 3,295mm

Water fording: 540mm

Boot capacity, min/max: 560-/1,930-litres

Unladen / kerb weight: 2,660kg / 2,753kg

Suspension, F/R: Double wishbones / five-link, adaptive air suspension, 48V active anti-roll bars

Steering: Electric-assisted variable ratio four-wheel-steering

Brakes: Ventilated discs

Tyres: 255/45R22


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