Living large, Rolls-Royce style

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(May 20, 2018) When Rolls-Royce introduced the Cullinan, it referred to the luxury off-roader as “an all-terrain high-bodied car” and as the “first ‘three-box’ car in the SUV sector.” This makes it an SUV, but not an SUV at the same time; especially as there is a partition that separates the passenger and cargo compartments. Powered by a 6.75-liter V12 and built from aluminum, the all-wheel drive and all-wheel steer luxury off-road vehicle is named for the largest diamond ever discovered, and sold with the tag line: “Effortless, Everywhere.”

Like an early Jaguar E-Type, the Cullinan has a flat floor, though the similarities end there. Use the key fob or reach for the stainless steel door handles, and the car drops 1.57 inches to ease entry into the sumptuous cabin.

As with the Phantom, the rear doors are rear hinged, and — like the fronts — close electrically. The seats are heated and cooled, and the steering wheel is smaller and thicker, which, Rolls-Royce says, allows the driver to instantly recognize that the Cullinan is a driver’s car.

The rear compartment offers a choice of two seating arrangements, Lounge Seats or Individual Seats. Rolls-Royce claims the Lounge Seats are the most functional in that they offer space for three rear passengers, and are therefore more attractive to families. The seatback is split 1/3 – 2/3, and — in a first for Rolls Royce — can be folded completely flat to increase carrying capacity.

Of course, the base of the rear seat is higher than the load floor to keep items from rolling forward. However, the latter can be raised electrically to provide a flat surface for, “a Mark Rothko from the Art Gallery of a newly discovered artifact from the latest archaeological dig,” provided it does not exceed the Cullinan’s 88.4-inch loading length.

The Individual Seat configuration replaces the rear bench with two individual chairs separated by a fixed console. It incorporates a drinks cabinet with Rolls-Royce whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes and refrigerator.

In addition, a glass partition isolates the passenger and cargo areas, reducing noise and ensuring that passengers not only don’t have to travel in the same space as their luggage, they remain ensconced in climate-controlled comfort when the help loads or unloads the luggage area. If that’s not enough, in order to keep their trousers clean, the doors of the Cullinan wrap under the sill to ensure the dirt remains on the outside of the door.

Recreation Modules can be ordered from the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collection. These units can be outfitted for the owner’s recreational pursuits — fly fishing, rock climbing, snowboarding, drone racing, and base jumping are just a few of the examples Rolls-Royce mentions — and slotted and plugged into the load area.

Each contains a motorized door behind which is housed the paraphernalia specific to each pursuit. It suggest owners could have a number of these modules loaded on racks in the garage, ready for the help to plug one in at a moment’s notice.

On the technical side, the Cullinan reconfigures Rolls-Royce’s modular aluminum spaceframe, making it both shorter and taller, and fitting two items new to the marque: all-wheel drive and a liftgate. Both the driveshafts and halfshafts are stronger, and the existing air suspension system uses larger air struts with more air volume coupled with electronically controlled dampers.

This latter item uses an air compression system when the vehicle is off road to push any wheel it detects losing traction down to maintain ground contact. There’s a new double wishbone front suspension, a five-link independent rear, and rear-wheel steering to go along with a single ride control button that allows the driver to choose the perfect off-road setting.

Power is supplied by a BMW-derived 6.75-liter V12 producing 536 hp at 5,000 rpm and 626 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1,600 rpm. It’s enough to drive the 5,864-lb. Cullinan to a governed top speed of 155 mph. In addition, the Cullinan has an overall length of 210 in., width (including mirrors) of 85 in., unladed height of 72 in., and wheelbase of 130 in. Cargo volume (with parcel shelf removed) is 21.2 cu.ft., while the turning circle is 43.4 ft.

Pricing is expected to be equally generous, but — as the old saying goes — if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

The Virtual Driver