The Cullinan is the new jewel in Rolls-Royce’s crown



Say hello to the first ever Rolls-Royce SUV, which CarBuyer previewed at an exclusive media event in Beijing.

 

Photos by Fang Yifei and manufacturer

 

Beijing, China

After what seems like an eternity’s worth of teasers, updates, and pictures and videos of the car undergoing testing in extreme environments, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan has finally broken cover. With virtually every other luxury brand having at least one Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) in their ranges, this was a market that Rolls could not afford to ignore.

But though the Cullinan’s late to the party, it’s not because of a late decision on the company’s part.

“The Cullinan project was green-lighted in 2012, but the idea came to mind even earlier than that, when we went to customer clinics to ask, should we or shouldn’t we do it, what should it look like, what should it be able to do,” said John Sheares, Product Manager – Cullinan (above), in an interview with CarBuyer. “There’s no point jumping on the bandwagon just because everyone else is, if we find that RR customers don’t want it, we won’t build it.”

So evidently the company has taken the time to hone and polish the Cullinan, to ensure it can deliver a quintessentially Rolls-Royce experience, as well as a level of luxury that no other SUV can match.

“The clear trend is that buyers love SUVs for the high ride height and the ability to go more places, but what wasn’t available prior to this was Rolls-Royce levels of luxury and exclusivity in this vehicle type,” said Sheares. “Finally RR has delivered the whole package, something you can use all year round both on road and off-road.”

That luxury has a very good starting point – the New Phantom. Like the super-limousine, the Cullinan is underpinned by the Architecture of Luxury, Rolls’ scalable aluminium architecture that will also be used for future models; behind the hand-polished stainless steel Pantheon grille sits the same 6.75-litre V12 engine as in the Phantom, which produces the same amount of power (563hp) but slightly less torque (850Nm).

As it’s expected to take customers off the beaten track, the Cullinan naturally has an all-wheel drive drivetrain – a Rolls first. And where the off-road assistance systems in other cars allow drivers to select the mode they think most appropriate for the terrain, the Cullinan sorts everything out for the driver with the one button marked “Off-Road” , or as the company nicknamed it, the “everywhere” button.

Rolls owners typically aren’t too bothered about what happens under the bonnet though; the back seat is what really counts. Here, two seating configurations are available.

The first is the Lounge Seat, which is a regular three-person bench with folding seat backs (another Rolls first). With the seats down, Rolls-Royce boasts a maximum storage compartment length of 2245mm, longer than “reputed load-luggers” like the Volvo V90 or Range Rover Extended Wheelbase. Sheares refers to this as the family option, expects it to be the more popular overall.

The other, more luxurious configuration is the Individual Seat, which has two extensively adjustable thrones separated by a fixed console that contains a drinks cabinet and cool box. The cabin is also separated from the luggage compartment by a glass partition, to better reduce noise on the move and cabin temperature when the tailgate is opened.

With this new body type, Rolls has been able to experiment with the luggage area. In keeping with the idea of an SUV as a recreational vehicle, a motorised drawer in the boot called the Recreation Module is available. In it, owners can house their hobby paraphernalia in various interchangeable modules. Photography, drone racing, fishing, hunting, snowboarding; whatever the customer enjoys, the company can customise a solution.

The highlight of the Recreation Module thus far however, is the Cullinan Viewing Suite, which slides out to reveal two small rear-facing leather chairs and a little table.

“The idea for this had  to do with the social element, the rear of the car being almost like this convivial space, a natural meeting point,” Sheares elaborated. “And so we thought, what better than for our customers to have somewhere cool to sit? Like when you come to the top of a mountain, there’s the view, just turn the car around and take it all in. Whether it’s a horse race or your kid’s sports day or whatever, this car is so very informal, and it’s a nice place to gather.”

And the name? That comes from the Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond ever found by man. It was cut into several pieces, with the largest two taking centre stage in the Crown Jewels.

On first impression, the Cullinan is certain to be a gem in its own right, and happily, one which Singaporean customers won’t have to wait long to experience. A local launch is scheduled for Q3 2018 (one of the earliest worldwide), and customer deliveries will begin in 2019. Pricing info has not yet been announced, but the Cullinan slots into the Rolls-Royce range between its core Phantom and Ghost limousines, so expect less than the Phantom’s S$1,778,888 before options and Certificate Of Entitlement.

 

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Jon Lim
CarBuyer's latest addition is its fourth historical Jonathan. Old-fashioned in all but body, he thinks car design peaked in the '90s. He also strongly believes any car can be a race car if you have a sufficient lack of self-preservation, which explains why he nearly flipped a Chinese van while racing it.