Rolls-Royce debuts its 1st SUV, the RM1.3m Cullinan

It’s the granddaddy of them all


Rolls-Royce has officially entered off-road territory. Today, the Goodwood-based, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) brand debuted the US$325,000 (RM1.28 million) Cullinan, its first SUV.

Named after the largest diamond discovered to date, the vehicle is the latest in a long line of six-figure big rigs from the world’s most prestigious automakers. It is also one of the last major luxury automakers to add one: In April, Lamborghini unveiled its US$200,000 Urus; Bentley showed its US$200,000 Bentayga V8 late in 2017.

“At this point in the history of automotive design, SUVs have become homogenous and ubiquitous,” Giles Taylor, Rolls-Royce’s director of design, told reporters. “The label SUV is now applied to anything with a two- box silhouette and the least suggestion of going off tarmac. (So) we envisioned an authentic, three-box, all-terrain, high-bodied car with a convention-challenging design and absolute capability that would satisfy the adventurous urges of our clients.”

In a series of YouTube videos created with National Geographic, the BMW Group crown jewel has been “tested to destruction” all over the planet. It has been expected to be among the bigger, more stately, luxury SUVs to arrive, but the automaker has released few details since announcing the vehicle three years ago.

There is ample information now: It’s huge. The Cullinan stands 6ft (1.83m) off the ground — four inches (15.24cm) taller than its closest competitor, the Bentayga. At 5,864lbs (2659.87kg), it’s more than 500lbs heavier than the Bentayga, too. Angular sides and that high, flat top make it look more imposing than the rounded Bentayga or even Lamborghini’s crouching, super-sporty Urus.

Its front grille has the same steel vertical slats and flat, stark form as the one on the new Rolls-Royce Dawn, but it’s elevated to regal height in the new SUV. (The Cullinan can wade in water up to 21 inches high, again beating the Bentley equivalent.) Futuristic light-emitting diodes surrounding each headlight give it a slightly new, rectangular shape.

The first thing you notice, though, are the four doors, which close in the traditional coach format. A rear tailgate automatically opens in two sections with the touch of the key fob button. Massive 22-inch rims flank each of its four corners.

Inside, the Cullinan offers space sufficiently broad and open to fit a regent and retinue though officially, it can seat only up to five people. The rear seat comes in two configurations, with two cockpit-style seats in the rear or a single lounge seat that allows seating for three — or, when folded down, up to 600 litres (21 cu ft [0.59 cu m]) of storage space, equal to that of the Urus. That’s enough to hold a small dog house or a week’s worth of safari-style luggage.

Rolls-Royce has also made a new, smaller and thicker steering wheel for the Cullinan, augmented with a high-resolution, heads-up display and all the technology expected in the family: Night vision, including daytime and nighttime wildlife and pedestrian warning; an alertness assistant that helps avoid drowsy driving; a four-camera parking system with panoramic view, all-round visibility and helicopter view; active cruise control; myriad crash-avoidance systems; WiFi; and the standard navigation and entertainment systems.

As expected, from hints the company dropped in recent months, the Cullinan comes with a 6.75-litre, twin-turbo V12 engine that gets 563hp and 627lb-ft (86.69 kg-m) of torque. This is the same engine Rolls-Royce put in the Phantom, which also shares the SUV’s aluminium-intensive platform.

The famous “magic air ride” feel that rendered the Phantom peerless is present here, too. It’s been re-engineered by adding larger air struts with greater air volume and by strengthening the drive and prop shafts to cushion blows from the toughest terrain — though it’s most of the buyers of this epic SUV probably won’t be taking it to Moab.

All-new, all-wheel drive (AWD) and an all-wheel steering (AWS) system — the first in Rolls-Royce history — come standard. Top speed is 155mph.

If you’ve got the funds, you might have a chance at getting your hands on the Cullinan — unlike the Lamborghini Urus, which has already sold out its first two years of production. Early sales are expected to include 20% to 30% bespoke orders, which push up the price immensely. The petrol-guzzler tax, estimated to be roughly US$5,000 for that 18.8 miles per gallon rating, will also apply. Deliveries begin early next year. — Bloomberg