Rolls-Royce at last releases its diamond-standard SUV

The Cullinan is the first 4x4 from Rolls-Royce

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“A Rolls in the desert is worth more than rubies.” So opined no less an expert than Lawerence of Arabia. A timely reminder, if it were needed, that Rolls-Royce has made rugged and off-road capable vehicles in its past.

Lawerence was referring to the machine-gun toting Rolls-Royce armoured cars (if you’ve seen Michael Collins’ Sliabh na mBan you’ll know the one Lawerence meant) rather than a recreational off-roader, but such is the march of evolution.

Thus we arrive at the Cullinan, Rolls’ first 4x4. However, it would be wrong, apparently, to refer to this as an SUV. Named for the largest diamond ever discovered, the Cullinan rises above (literally and figuratively) such new-money considerations as a sports utility vehicle. Instead, this is an all-terrain, high-sided motor-car. That’s motor-car, never merely car. Rolls has clearly not lost its way with words.

“The super-luxury lifestyle is evolving and Rolls-Royce is in the lead. Luxury is no longer an urban concept. More and more it is about embracing and experiencing the wider world. Our customers expect to go everywhere in luxury, effortlessly and without compromise, conquering the most challenging terrain to enjoy life’s most enriching experiences, wherever they may be,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive of Rolls-Royce.

Under the skin of the Cullinan, is a Phantom. Rolls’ biggest saloon was relaunched last year, riding on the new all-aluminium ‘Architecture Of Luxury’ which will go on to underpin all future Rolls-Royce models, and which owes less and less to various BMW models (although, thanks to Beemer’s ownership of the great British brand, there’s a lot of Munich under this skin too).

That means that the Cullinan also uses the Phantom’s mighty 6.75-litre V12 engine, with outputs of 571 bhp and 850Nm of torque, delivered at a lowly 1,600rpm. It drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Off-roading

The suspension is closely related to that of the Phantom, too. It uses air springs, and a five-link rear setup, but automatically sinks down by 40mm when you come to a stop, to ease the strain on monied knees and lower backs. The doors open and close electrically (and the Cullinan keeps the trademark rear-hinged ‘coach’ doors) and that suspension can, at its highest possible setting, allow the Cullinan to wade through more than half-a-metre of standing water. Inside, while the cabin looks and feels very similar to that of the opulent Phantom, there is the addition of an innocuous button marked ‘off-road.’

In the back is where you’ll find the biggest deviation from Rolls tradition, though. You can choose from two seating layouts. There’s a ‘lounge’ setup that uses a simple three-person rear bench seat, but for the first time in a Rolls-Royce, this one split-folds (electrically, natch). Or you can choose individual rear seats, divided by a massive centre console that contains a decanter, crystal glasses, and a fridge. Because of course it does.

Behind those seats, though, is the biggest change ever for a series production Rolls-Royce. The boot. It swallows between 560-600-litres, but the unique part is the huge glass divider.

You can optionally have what Rolls calls the ‘Recreation Module’ - this is a series of bespoke drawers and storage compartments, dedicated to your favoured outdoor pursuit, whether that be “fly fishing, photography, rock climbing, snowboarding, parascending, kite boarding, base jumping, volcano boarding or simply sitting and taking in the view” says Rolls.

It’s not short on tech, either, raiding the BMW parts bin for such as Night Vision and Vision Assist including daytime and night-time Wildlife & Pedestrian warning; Alertness Assistant; a 4-Camera system with Panoramic View, all-round visibility and helicopter view; Active Cruise Control; Collision Warning; Cross-Traffic Warning, Lane Departure and Lane Change Warning; an industry leading 7x3 High-Resolution Head-Up Display, WiFi hotspot, and of course the latest navigation and entertainment systems.

Price? How much have you got on you? It will be more expensive, in terms of list price, than the €550,000 Phantom, but that’s a pointless metric. Hardly a single Rolls rolls down the line at the factory next to the Goodwood race course that hasn’t had its price doubled by options and bespoke fixtures. The average Cullinan could easily top €1-million once you’ve paid your VAT and VRT. Better start searching for the next-biggest diamond.

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