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Rolls Royce Cullinan: Redefining the luxury SUV

By Ghaith Madadha - Nov 13,2023 - Last updated at Nov 13,2023

Photos courtesy of Rolls Royce

Awaited with some apprehension ahead of its 2018 launch, the concept of a high-luxury SUV was still novel, with the Rolls Royce Cullinan then only preceded by the Bentley Bentayga. But given the popularity and sales potential of the SUV segment, it was inevitable that the most illustrious of British luxury carmakers would throw its hat in the proverbial ring. In fact, Rolls Royce vehicles serving in inhospitable terrain and demanding conditions is not unprecedented, and famously included nine lightly modified examples used by T.E. Lawrence during the Great Arab Revolt.

Described as a “high-bodied all-terrain car” in Rolls Royce-speak, the Cullinan is no successor to Lawrence’s improvised fleet, but is rather a modern and ultra-luxuriously appointed and off-road capable SUV with all the comforts expected from its manufacturer. Rolls Royce’s first five-door wagon body and off-road oriented vehicle, the Cullinan design combines tough off-roader themes in an elegantly conservative package. Under the skin, it shares much with the second generation Phantom flagship saloon, including architectural elements, aluminium construction, electronics, gearbox and its silky smooth and richly ample large displacement engine.

Brisk brute

 

If not as enormous as images suggest, the Cullinan’s haughty brutalist demeanour, lines and vertical orientation, nevertheless, make it an imposing sight, best appreciated up close. Squared-off and statuesque with a high waistline and long bonnet, Rolls Royce’s design themes, vast proportions and huge, upright neo-classical style chrome grille in fact translate naturally for a five-door SUV wagon body format, and contrast well with more subtle surfacing and elegant signature details like its retractable “Spirit of Ecstasy” statuette. Optional tailgate-mounted electrically-operated pop-up viewing seats are meanwhile a practical, indulgent and new feature.

Powered by a vast low pressure twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre V12 producing 627lb/ft torque at just 1,600rpm, the Cullinan enjoys virtually lag-free progression from standstill, and effortlessly muscular on-the-move versatility. Progressive and eager through to redline, the Cullinan is however is in its element through a comparatively low rev range, with its full 563BHP achieved at just 5,000rpm. Propelling its bulky 2,660kg mass from standstill with near-immediate response, the Cullinan’s hurtles briskly through -100km/h in just 5.2-seconds. Power build-up is meanwhile underwritten by a brutally abundant, yet, ever-present and seemingly indefatigable avalanche-like torrent of torque.

 

Stealthily swift

 

Almost silent and stealthily near-silent in operation, the Cullinan’s sweet soaring V12 soundtrack, however, becomes more evident at revs rise to redline. Swift but unhurried in character, Rolls Royce’s first four-wheel-drive is capable of an electronically-limited 250km/h top speed. Its thirsty 15l/100km combined fuel consumption is meanwhile considered modest for its weight, size and shape. Channeling power through a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox, the Cullinan can allocate power between front and rear wheels as necessary through a permanent four-wheel-drive system, and incorporates strengthened off-road capable driveline components.

Comfortable and compliant, but reassuringly stable at speed, the Cullinan glides with a trademark “wafting” ride quality. Smoothing out imperfections with supple grace — despite vast low profile 255/45R22 tyres — the Cullinan’s front double wishbone and rear multi-link adaptive air suspension “reads” the road ahead through a stereo camera and makes constant adjustments in response. Leaning into corners with progressive tautness, its adaptive air suspension automatically adjusts for firmer body control or more forgiving ride comfort, as needed. It also allows for longer off-road wheel travel and increased ride height for 540mm water fording

Composure and comfort

 

Comfortable as expected, the huge Cullinan also proved more nimble than anticipated. With light but accurate steering, commandingly high driving position, plenty of road-holding and numerous driver assistance and safety systems working in the background, the Cullinan also features electro-mechanically actuated anti-roll bars that tauten for improved cornering body control and composure. Meanwhile, variable four-wheel-steering effectively shortens its wheelbase by turning rear wheels opposite to front at low speed for enhanced agility and turn-in, and in the same direction at speed to simulate a longer wheelbase for improved stability and lane change response.

Extravagantly appointed, the Cullinan’s thoroughly refined cabin is decked with rich leathers, woods, metals and generously padded soft textures crafted for an elegant and luxuriously enveloped ambiance. Spacious in front and rear, it features a comfortable upright driving position with good front visibility. Offered with a standard and practical folding rear bench, it can be optioned with individual rear seats with a luggage compartment glass partition. Signature Rolls Royce touches meanwhile include rear-swinging rear “coach” doors, thin steering column-mounted gear selector stalk and power dial in place of a rev counter.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • 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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