Cruising Rolls-Royce Cullinan
There’s something pretty special about driving the Rolls Royce Cullinan. Rolls likes to call it ‘waftability’, but there’s more to it than that. As noted in our Phantom drive a week ago, we also had the opportunity to cruise a Cullinan as part of the recent Rolls roadshow and while it was a short drive, it was enough to form a few opinions.
Cullinan is a big car. Very big. There cannot be many bigger cars than this throughout history. Cullinan is also a clear detour for the ultimate luxury brand with a quite controversial twist, considering that not everyone approves how Rolls-Royce squeezed its traditional design cues into a monster SUV.
But I argue that one — Cullinan probably better represents the form of most classic Rolls limos with that long nose ahead of a long cabin that ends abruptly at the back. Booted Rollers only ever happened in the ‘sixties, which was halfway through the brand’s history anyway. And not that looks make much of a difference in this neck of the woods.
The has brand also moved to a significantly younger owner profile, so the Cullinan owner will be someone who wants to replace that Range with a truly exclusive SUV, drive their Rolls-Royce every day and take it on family adventures, while also being driven in the Cullinan, if and when they need to. Not just be driven every time.
Rolls-Royces have also long dealt with atrocious roads — or none at all since great-grandpa was just a lad, so where Cullinan really differs is that it is the first ever four-wheel drive Roller. It also rides on bespoke (RR loves that word!) aluminium spaceframe architecture that will eventually see all Rolls-Royces adapt, as the brand distances itself from common BMW platforms.
So, while Cullinan shares its platform with Phantom, it is shorter, wider and taller and can lift a further 40mm up in off-road mode versus its saloon sibling. It rides on revised double-wishbone front and five-link rear air suspension and Cullinan shares
Phantom’s 420kW 850Nm 6.75-litre biturbo V12 turning an eight-speed automatic gearbox with sat-nav assisted gear selection (you cannot interfere there!) and uses BMW xDrive-influenced (for want of a better word) four wheel-drive.
An electronically controlled clutch behind the gearbox delivers between 50 and 100% of that V12 power to the rear axle, with the rest fed to the front. There are open differentials at each end — Cullinan rather uses brake torque vectoring to stop individual wheels from spinning and can tow a 2500kg braked trailer, but Rolls promises 3500kg soon.
There’s the choice of a standard split-folding three-person rear bench seat or two individual reclining chairs, with a fridge, a humidor or whatever else you want between and to reduce noise, is glass partitioned from the 560-litre load bay accessed by a split tailgate. Talking access, the cabin is closed by suicide doors that quickly thud closed at the press of a button.
The driving position of our splendid baby-blue upholstered white Cullinan proved imperious with an even taller view over the bonnet and good visibility to a clear view of the road ahead and around. The Cullinan driving experience is superb, from its near silent nuclear V12 to a brilliantly smooth ride, accurate steering and a responsive throttle.
That ‘waftability’ brings more than usual, yet still impressively compliant roll. Cullinan is stable and eerily silent, although it does move around the vertical axis a little more than Phantom does — as it should. Rolls’ version of iDrive infotainment system is quite splendid too.
Prod it and Cullinan responds — that turbine-like V12 thrusting forward in total defiance of its 2730kg stature. It’s good for a 5-second 0-100 after all and while its power meter masks its revs, we understand that power peaks at five grand. Cullinan’s fuel readout does scare the normal mortal, but who should care, really! Rolls claims a hefty 341g/km CO2.
Not sure how far off-road the average Cullinan will ever go, so that’s a moot point and our drive excluded anything beyond the worst bits of the R45. And don’t ask the price — they'll only entertain such questions if they know you are keen and able to acquire one, but don't expect too much change from eight bar.
Not that many of us will ever spend that on a car, but if I were up to it, owning a Cullinan would be quite a hoot!