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The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is revealed at a recently-opened dealership in Vancouver.Jonathan Evans

It is said that when Joseph Asscher, the greatest diamond cutter of his day, struck the blow that split the colossal 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond in two, he fainted afterwards. The counterrumour supposes Asscher to be of sterner stuff, and has him cracking Champagne in celebration of the most famous piece of work he would ever perform: the creation of the Great Star of Africa, the largest diamond in the British Crown Jewels and, indeed, the world.

At the recently opened Rolls-Royce dealership in Vancouver, the first in Canada as a stand-alone enterprise, the atmosphere was much more the latter. Corks popped, the bubbly flowed down a pyramid of Champagne glasses and a silver-painted performer arched herself forward into a graceful, life-size representation of the Spirit of Ecstasy. It was just the festive atmosphere you’d expect as Rolls-Royce welcomed the Cullinan, the new jewel in its crown.

For the rest of the luxury market, the Cullinan is a hammer blow that leaves only glittering fragments behind. This SUV is an absolutely massive beast: 5.3 metres long, 2.2 metres wide, 2.7 tonnes of West Sussex pride. Hyah, Cullinan! Hyah!

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The Cullinan was introduced in Vancouver with a lavish celebration.Jonathan Evans

Before we get to the appointments of this cathedral on wheels, it’s worth peeling back the skin to see what makes the Cullinan so unique. Unlike would-be rivals such as the Bentley Bentayga and, perhaps, the Lamborghini Urus, Rolls-Royce’s latest model isn’t simply a commoner draped in ermine robes. Instead of taking a shared mass-production platform and improving the drivetrain and luxury appointments, the Cullinan is based on a Rolls-Royce-specific aluminum architecture shared only with the new Phantom. Next to it, the 30-cm shorter Bentayga is basically King Ralph.

Motivating power is more than adequate, thanks to a 6.75-litre, twin-turbocharged, V-12 engine that produces a peak of 563 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 revolutions a minute. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic, and for the first time in a Rolls-Royce, power is transferred to all four wheels. Height-adjustable air-suspension is standard, there’s a terrain-selection button labelled “Everywhere,” and were that not enough, Cullinan is capable of wading through water at a depth of up to 540 millimetres.

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The doors open to a luxurious interior that will have Range Rover owners blushing.Jonathan Evans

Rolls-Royce claims that the Cullinan is its first SUV, but that’s of course not really the case. In the early days of the company, when tarmac was but a distant glimmer on the horizon, supreme capability is what built Rolls’s reputation in the first place. In 1907, an enterprising entrepreneur named Frank Norbury threw away the toolkit of his Silver Ghost, locked the bonnet and then proceeded to drive through the rough and rutted mountain passes of the Western Ghats, travelling from Bombay to Kolhapur. The maharajahs of India were impressed and, instantly, a Rolls became the car to have for rugged terrain.

Later, there were the armoured Ghosts, notably used by Lawrence of Arabia and in the Irish Civil War. One of the latter, Sliabh na mBan, is still in service with the Irish Army, and is fully operational: She fires her weapon each year, as required, at the artillery range, making her the oldest commissioned motorized military vehicle in the world.

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The interior features wood veneers, silver switchgear and high-end leather.Jonathan Evans

While Rolls-Royce insists that only imagination and cost are the limit to its bespoke program, you have to imagine that fitting a belt-fed Vickers .303 to the Cullinan is probably out of the question. However, the split rear tailgate does contain a sliding recreation module, which could be fitted with a brace of shotguns should you wish to partake in a little pheasant shooting.

Further, open the Cullinan’s coach doors and reveal an interior that’ll have Range Rover owners grinding their teeth. It’s not just the book-matched wood veneer, nor the polished silver switchgear, nor the effortless push-button closing doors nor the leather that comes from cows apparently raised on a diet of massages and Oil of Olay. It’s every accoutrement combined, and then sprinkled with little touches like furled umbrellas in the doors, heated armrests and a rear centre console that includes a refrigerator and drinks cabinet.

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The rear console sports a refrigerator and drinks cabinet.Jonathan Evans

All these elements are crafted with a laborious and unhurried process, one that’s more about getting things perfect rather than pleasing impatient customers. Demand for the Cullinan already outstrips supply, with just 25 vehicles initially destined for the Vancouver market and 100 for Canada through 2019.

“We plan to build one less than the market demands,” said Pedro Mota, president of Rolls-Royce North America.

Mota points out huge opportunity for growth, with some 70 per cent of Cullinan owners being new to Rolls-Royce ownership. Those who would formerly buy a Range Rover for presence and capability now have a new ultimate choice.

The cost, as expected, is considerable: $370,500 to start, and ordinarily Rolls-Royce owners will add around 10 per cent to 15 per cent to the price of an ordered vehicle with options. As you’d also expect, most of these well-heeled buyers are not used to waiting, with one new owner recently making a flight to London just to get a better look at the Cullinan.

But wait they must. The Cullinan may be surprisingly quick thanks to its tremendous torque, but its parent company has lasted by being methodical and slow to react. While Rolls-Royce has hinted at electrification in the future, it will, for the present, continue with business as usual, albeit now in a larger, more capable form.

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The Cullinan is priced at $370,500 before additional options.Jonathan Evans

As for OpenRoad, the dealership group that poured millions into opening this new dealership, asserting itself at the top of the food chain is simply forward-thinking business. In previous interviews with The Globe and Mail, president Christian Chia has expressed concern about the potential for the automotive industry to be disrupted by autonomous vehicles and car-sharing technology.

Rolls-Royce owners are unlikely to share their cars. They don’t have to. At some point in the future, when the roads of the world are filled with whizzing boxes that you can summon with a command, the last privately owned cars are very likely to be carrying the Spirit of Ecstasy on their nose.

As for the immediate future, Rolls-Royce has struck and split their stone, revealing a diamond for the rough. They are right to crack the Champagne today, as their new creation has essentially no competition. The moneyed will line up around the door. The rest of us may wish to purchase a lottery ticket.

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