The Crown Jewel of SUVs – Rolls-Royce Cullinan
With long histories in building exclusive, high-end cars for some of the world’s wealthiest people, Lamborghini, Bentley, Maserati and Rolls-Royce have all, in recent years, introduced SUVs into their product line-ups to claim their stake in the rapidly growing market. We take a closer look at the newest one that is now available locally - the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
Reaping the rewards, the SUVs from these luxury-car makers have all been glorious successes thus far – the Bentley Bentayga, the Lamborghini Urus, the Maserati Levante, and the latest arrival in SA, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Watching their success and soon to jump onto the SUV bandwagon will also be Aston Martin and Ferrari with their own respective DBX and Purosangue high-riders.
Needless to say, these brands aren’t responsible for the creation of the ‘luxury SUV’ segment. Automakers like Porsche, Jeep and even Land Rover have long been offering comfortable, well-specced, capable off-roaders for over a decade. What we can give to these luxury-car makers is the ultra-exclusivity of their SUVs and even with the highest price tiers, they are outselling their sedan and coupe counterparts.
These ultra-SUVs are offering buyers, aside from the obvious exclusivity, more practicality and higher levels of performance.
Just three days ago, reports from the US have related that demand for high-end SUVs has been unbelievable, notably among younger buyers. It was also said that when Rolls-Royce launched their very first SUV last year, buyers were willing to pay more than the Cullinan’s $325,000 base price for early order placements.
At the moment demand for the Cullinan is so high that Rolls-Royce doesn’t even need to offer an incentive or discount to rope buyers in.
Most expensive SUVs in SA
According to the 2019 South Africa Wealth Report, these are the top 10 most expensive SUVs in SA with approximate pricing:
Rolls Royce Cullinan: price not officially disclosed but can expect to start from R10 million
Bentley Bentayga: R5.7 million
Range Rover SV Autobiography: R4.2 million
Lamborghini Urus: R3.5 million
Mercedes-AMG G63 Edition 1: R3 million
Porsche Cayenne Turbo: R2.2 million
BMW X6: R1.2 million
Range Rover Velar: R1.1 million
Volvo XC90: R1 million
Jaguar F-Pace: R950,000
So, what is so special about the Cullinan?
Well for starters, it’s thee most expensive vehicle I have ever, and will ever have driven in my life. It is also the most expensive vehicle on the local market so naturally you know it must be equipped with only the best of everything. Aside from that, it's also the British luxury automaker's first-ever SUV.
According to Rolls-Royce, the Cullinan is an all-terrain high-bodied car that makes the idea of authentic, luxury off-road travel a reality for the first time. Since it is the most practical product in Rolls-Royce’s portfolio, it’s built to be the most versatile, family-oriented, fun-to-drive super-luxury SUV available on the market today. It's big and tall and measures in at almost 19 feet in length.
Furthermore, it is named after the largest diamond ever discovered which now resides in the British Crown Jewels. This diamond was originally found at a mine in Gauteng in 1905.
Drive and Performance
When it arrived in SA about two months ago, I didn’t expect to get the keys, I thought I was just going to be taken for a drive. But when we stopped next to the gas station and Marek Letowt, Rolls Royce SA Brand Manager, said to me, “Ok, you can jump into the driver’s seat now”, I literally froze.
I remember thinking “Oh my God, is this really happening!?” I looked outside from the passenger’s seat to see everybody watching us and then it hit me that I need to get out and swop over. So, I got out and walked around the car, reached for the driver’s door handle and then glimpsed up again, feeling very nervous, and the bystanders with their phones out taking videos and pics of an SUV they may never see again, didn’t help. I got in, pressed a fancy button so the big, heavy door could close itself and began making my necessary driver adjustments. Feeling a bit imperious in the driver’s seat, I then took off slowly, because I mean, you’re not quite sure how much immediate-kick this +R10 million car will have at its accelerator.
The drive was amazing, but I was so, so nervous throughout the entire trip. Just to be behind the wheel of something that exclusive, and also knowing the drivers in Joburg, I spent more focus silently praying that nothing ungodly happens, rather than taking it all in and getting a proper feel of its performance. But what I can tell you is, it really does feel like you’re floating in the Cullinan. The drive is absolutely smooth and it has an excellent hold to the road. It’s grip and turning circle for something that big and hefty is unreal, that’s because of its perfectly weighted steering that adjusts according to the speed of the car.
My daily is a sports car that I have to take sideways over a speed bump, so now when approaching one in the Cullinan and began slowing down, Letowt said to not touch the brakes and leave the Cullinan to do its thing. With much hesitancy, I didn’t touch the brakes and conquered the speed bumps like it was mere dirt in the road. Its suspension will adjust to the road you’re on as it’s all satellite aided. The systems and tech in the Cullinan will have the road mapped out way ahead of your visibility.
The Cullinan is powered by a reworked version of the engine in the Phantom, a twin-turbo, 6.75-litre V12, that puts out maximum power of 420 kW and peak torque of 850 Nm from 1600 rpm. This power is sent to the all-new all-wheel drive, all-wheel steer system which can turn to three degrees for greater agility at low speed and for enhanced stability at faster velocities. The Cullinan is the first Rolls-Royce in the automaker’s history to have a driven front axle and power goes to all four wheels in a 50/50 split.
The transmission is a smooth, satellite-aided ZF eight-speed automatic that can also be found elsewhere in the Rolls-Royce range. While the Cullinan is quick and accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 5.2 seconds, it’s a vehicle that prefers to make determined but regal progress. And as you float along the road, you are seduced by its refinement and the near absence of engine, wind or road noise.
Inside the Cullinan
There are many things about the cabin of a Rolls that will pull your attention in all directions but the one thing that had me, forgive the girl in me, was the super-plush lamb’s wool carpets that cover the floor. I could lose my palm in those carpets that’s how thick and soft it is.
nnecting the centre console and fascia are real metal pillars, and metal accents surround the dash and cabin. The centre console is also made up of ‘box grain’ leather, which I want to say is a unique feature, because not only is it the most expensive leather you can get in a car, but it’s also done by hand. Then again, what isn’t unique in this car!? This leather extends to the door and even to the key.
You can also opt to mix the metal with some wooden elements in your dash, natural, open-pore and the wood is not glossed. The steering wheel from the Phantom is said to be a little chunkier in the Cullinan and this is because the Cullinan is made for its owners to drive, opposed to the Phantom where those owners have chauffeurs to pilot it.
he link to aviation is also quite strong in the cabin as can be seen from the power reserve gauge and there is no rev counter in a Rolls-Royce. The instrument dials also have exquisite graphics while the media system has a touchscreen display. This is paired to a Bespoke audio system developed by Rolls-Royce.
pace and Comfort
Rear seat passengers sit higher than the front seat passengers and depending on what the owner requested from the two seat configurations available, rear passengers can relax in Lounge Seats, a bench seat that accommodates three passengers and better suited for families, or can lavish in their own Individual Seats.
ith the Individual Seats option comes a business class set-up that separates two seats with a Fixed Rear Centre Console that incorporates a drinks cabinet with Rolls-Royce whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes and a refrigerator. The rear seats also move in a number of ways to offer its rear-seat passengers the ultimate comfort.
Adding to the convenience factor, rear seats can fold electronically in a number of configurations by a mere press of a button in the boot or in the rear door pocket. When activated, each backrest effortlessly folds down while the headrests move upwards simultaneously to avoid making an imprint on the seat cushion. Both seat backs can be folded completely, creating a flat load area or in a 2/3 and 1/3 split, increasing practicality even further.
With all seats and everything in place, the Cullinan offers a boot capacity of 560 litres which extends to 600 litres with the parcel shelf removed. Since the base of the rear seats sit higher than the boot floor, items in the boot won’t shift around and slip forward. The boot floor can also be raised electronically to meet the seat base allowing for longer and bigger items to slide into the boot effortlessly. With the floor raised and seats down, a loading length of 2245mm and load capacity of 1886 litres becomes possible.
Viewing Suite and the Recreation Module
The rear compartment of the Cullinan can be specified with the Recreation Module which fits a motorized drawer into the car that houses the equipment and paraphernalia specific to each Cullinan owner’s pursuits, be it fly-fishing, photography, rock climbing, snowboarding, you name it. When the owner is ready to play, their equipment will present itself, which would have been already commissioned from Rolls-Royce.
The Viewing Suite is probably the most popular feature on the Cullinan which is also an optional extra that stores a pair of folding leather-clad rear-facing seats and a cocktail table in a special section in the boot and gracefully deploys automatically at the touch of a button.
Rolls-Royce cars are all big and heavy and even if you struggle with the concept of a hefty Rolls SUV, there’s no arguing with the execution here. The British automaker’s products are infinitely greater than the summation of its parts, and the Cullinan is part of an extraordinary engineering continuum. This is luxury at its finest.