With the Rolls-Royce Cullinan set to enter showrooms across the globe later this year, SUV Authority was invited to a preview of the new SUV before the first customer cars are delivered.
While this isn’t a full drive review – that will come later – we were allowed access to the car before it hits the road in production spec. Of course, we couldn’t say no to the opportunity to sample some of its features.
We caught up with this UK specification Cullinan while it was doing a tour of Australian dealerships, with the new super-luxury off-roader sitting at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Perth.
The first thing that strikes you is its size. It’s a similar length to the Rolls-Royce Ghost, but because it’s both wider and taller, it cuts an imposing figure even while sitting still.
Though it uses the same 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12 and eight-speed automatic as the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Cullinan doesn’t actually share the same platform. The name “Architecture of Luxury” which was applied to the underpinnings of both cars, actually refers to the method of creating the aluminium space-frame, rather than the actual platform itself.
This means the Cullinan has a bespoke platform, and the same method of building will apply to all future Rolls-Royce vehicles, which is why you’ll see that all forthcoming models will have the “Architecture of Luxury”.
Walking around the Cullinan, you can clearly see that it’s a Rolls-Royce, but it has been imbued with its own personality. While in photos it can come across as a little gaudy, it’s in the metal that the proportions make sense.
The large cab and long bonnet could look awkward, but thanks to the sloping rear glass and tailgate that has been extended outwards slightly, it works. There’s also a lovely little detail where the Rolls-Royce logo sits slightly proud of the rest of the tailgate.
The tail lights are also a work of art, with rectangular simplicity, yet enough detail to make you look twice. And at the front end, the laser lights which project beams 600 metres down the road, have their own “eyebrow” daytime running light signature.
Ian Grant, Global Client Sales Manager for Rolls-Royce, took the time to take us through a guided tour of the super-luxury SUV.
Grant says that the Cullinan is the less formal Rolls-Royce, pointing out the exposed tailpipes and a reduced amount of brightwork at the rear of the vehicle. There’s also practicality, with the chrome bump strip positioned on the lower part of the door extending outwards enough to protect the door’s bodywork.
We asked to see the car raise and lower from its parked position to its raised position and in very Rolls-Royce-like fashion, there’s no hurry to the way it prepares itself for off-road duties.
Instead, the compressor very quietly carries out its task, with the Cullinan slowly climbing to the desired height, creating its 233mm off-road ground clearance. You can see the height in the photo above.
Then, once you park the vehicle, it will lower itself, ready for its occupants to disembark more easily, sitting at 153mm ground clearance. In fact, the whole suspension movement can be up to 220mm as the Cullinan pushes each wheel into the ground to seek out more grip.
This particular example was painted in Infinity Black, with Mandarin pin-striping to match the orange interior accents. And while orange inside sounds a bit gaudy, it actually works. But if we were speccing one, let’s just say we’d probably leave the mandarin out of it.
The Cullinan you see here was designed for the Australian market, but because there isn’t Australian Design Rules approval for the towbar as yet, it is a UK specification vehicle. However the Australian market has influenced all Cullinans, with a three-point Isofix system being introduced on all models, as opposed to the standard two-point system.
Rolls-Royce has fitted the Cullinan with what it calls the “Flagbearer” system which reads the road ahead and prepares the suspension for what’s to come.
For example, if it detects a pot-hole, it will soften up slightly to account for the hit and then re-stiffen once the car has gone over it. And with 21-inch wheels are standard, and 22-inchers as an option, the stereo camera setup will have its work cut out for it.
The all wheel drive system is an adaptation of BMW’s X-drive system, with the Cullinan using a electronically controlled multiplate clutch to supply the front wheels with drive when required. The system will send drive to all four wheels at speeds of up to 60kmh, after which it will revert to rear wheel drive as there would be enough momentum to carry the Cullinan through.
To head off road, Rolls-Royce says it’s a one-press system. Simply push on the “Off-Road” button and the vehicle readies itself. It lifts up, sorts out the all wheel drive system and gets the traction control sensors prepared for changes in surface grip.
But if you want to, using the rotary infotainment controller, you can specify different off-road modes, such as with and without stability control – very useful if you’re getting into some deep sand.
There are also some very nice (and practical) touches as well. The doors actually seal much lower than the openings to ensure that the sill panels are always clean and free of mud or dust to prevent the occupants’ clothing from being soiled if they brush against the sill.
All the touch points are heated. That’s not just the steering wheel and the seats. We’re also talking about centre armrests and elbow rests on the doors as well. And yes, the seats are ventilated, so they can be cooled.
You may have read about the Viewing Suite, which allows two people to sit on the tailgate in their own seats, which unfold from a housing sitting in the trunk. We learned that it is actually a dealer fit option, so can be fitted to the car at a later stage, which is handy if you decide that you want to start taking your kids to soccer.
Even without the Viewing Suite, the tailgate can hold up to 250kg, so you can make yourself comfortable whenever you need to.
The Cullinan comes with its own bespoke audio system with the company setting up an audio division to create a new sound system for each individual model. Couple that with USB-C connectivity and you’ve got your tunes sorted.
There’s a glass partition in the back which enables the trunk to be opened, without the fear of exhaust fumes entering the cabin, or the outside temperature influencing the inside temperature. Very clever indeed.
The scuff plates have been designed to be easily removed, too, so if they get scratched while you’re climbing that rugged trail, you can simply head to a dealer and get it replaced.
Inside, the Cullinan has been made very tactile. The emphasis on open pore woodgrain is clear, and the seats are as smooth and soft as you’d expect from a Rolls-Royce.
Look up and you’ll find a panoramic sunroof, but don’t expect to see Cullinans with a starlight roof lining. Remember, this is the less formal Rolls-Royce.
The Cullinan is also reading the road ahead and behind, in readiness for a crash. If someone is approaching you from behind and doesn’t appear to be slowing down, the car will flash its hazard lights to alert the oncoming driver. If that doesn’t work, the brake lights will also light up and flash.
If a crash is predicted, though, the car will tension the seatbelts, adjust the seat positions and get itself ready to mitigate the impact. Fortunately, we didn’t test out that aspect of the safety system, but it’s nice to know it’s there if you need it.
There are also radar sensors to watch traffic ahead, cameras to track the lane and night vision to enable you to see humans or animals in the distance.
As you’d expect, the quality is first class. It’s massive, comfortable and built to perfection, and yes, you can have a solid gold Spirit of Ecstasy if you want it. Production of customer vehicles only started this month, so expect to see them hitting the roads later this year.
Photos: Jan Glovac Photography