Following four years of testing and teasing, Rolls-Royce revealed the Cullinan on May 10 in typically modest fashion, dubbing the SUV – yes, SUV – the most anticipated car of 2018 and “quite possibly, the most anticipated Rolls-Royce of all-time.”
Rolls-Royce is introducing all-wheel drive to its product line, along with an exterior design meant to separate the Cullinan from the “homogenous and ubiquitous” appearance shackling the SUV segment that is now so prevalent that it accounts for better than 70 per cent of automotive sales in Canada.
Earlier preview materials from the British company referred to the camouflaged version as a “high-sided car.” But a press brief issued this week gradually eased into use of the acronym, SUV, first describing the Cullinan as an “all-terrain high-bodied” car, one distinguished from the run-of-the-mill both by design and a “three-box” structure that separates back-seat passengers from the luggage compartment.
Ultimately relenting, Rolls finally states in the brief that the Cullinan is the “most technologically advanced, and only purpose-built, luxury SUV in the world.” So there you have it. There are holdouts no longer. Rolls-Royce has built a SUV, joining Bentley, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche et al in the segment. And yes, for the first time, a Rolls-Royce comes with a tailgate.
“The label ‘SUV’ is now applied to anything with a two-box silhouette and the lest suggestion of going off-tarmac,” director of design Giles Taylor says, in a statement. “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.”
Offered for $370,000 in Canada, the Cullinan is powered by a 6.75-litre, twin-turbo engine delivering 563 horsepower and 627 lb-feet of torque. Running on premium fuel and built on all-new aluminum substructure, the Cullinan is capable of 250 km/h, and claims average (highway/city) fuel consumption of 15 L/100 km.
Unlike the majority of SUVs, it’s built for off-roading, having been tested worldwide in multiple weather and road conditions. “The drivetrain we engineered for Cullinan had one key job to do,” engineering project leader Caroline Krismer says, in a statement. “To bring the famed Rolls-Royce magic carpet ride to all other terrains possible, while ensuring class-leading behaviour in the SUV sector.”
A push of the “everywhere” button sends full torque to all four wheels instantly, enabling the Cullinan to take on everything from mud and gravel to snow and sand. Testing occurred in the Sahara, Arctic, Kalahari, Death Valley, Scottish Highlands and the unspecified “wastes of Canada.”
Structural improvements include lighter architecture, self-levelling air suspension, larger air struts, strengthened drive and prop shafts.
The design started by combining wheel placement and a roofline silhouette to create “an immediate sense of Rolls-Royce pedigree,” Taylor says. According to Rolls, features of the design include lights and air intakes set deeply into the bodywork. A line running across the pantheon grille and “eyebrow-like” running headlamps present “the prominent brow of a saxon warrior”. The stainless steel grille is pushed up and forward, and the badge and Spirit of Ecstasy are positioned above the line of the wing.
Body height of almost 1.84 m is accentuated by vertical lines from the A-pillars down along the hood edge and down the grille side into the metal skid plate below. The hood is raised higher than the wings to convey a certain toughness. From the B-pillars, the roofline falls quickly to a boot lid that is meant to evoke images of the D-Back Rolls of the 1930s, in which luggage was stored outside the vehicle on a shelf. Wheels are 22-inches, and the side profile is emphasized by a metal accent meant to conjure a Saxon sphere.
The interior consists of expected luxurious touches. Technology includes a suite of safety systems including a four-camera system with panoramic and helicopter views.
Rolls-Royce is targeting new, younger, stylish customers who live busy lives, love the outdoors, focus on family and are mobile.