Rolls-Royce Cullinan: Off-road super luxury redefined
It is not the first time that Rolls-Royce has come late to a party and it probably won't be the last either. But when the folks at Goodwood do decide to make their presence felt, everything else that is called super luxury seems to just blur into the background.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is the first ever SUV from the uber-luxury carmaker and it has the RR stamp of superior engineering all over it. Other than something like a million 'name it and you bet it's there' features, one of the things that particularly stood out is how this 2,660kg behemoth handled on the asphalt and off it. Contrary to the popular image of a chauffeured car, this RR is one that owners would probably love to drive themselves.
A test drive organised by Rolls-Royce and Al Jenaibi International Automobiles last week started off with a video of the Cullinan being pushed to the edge in the deserts of Arabia and the highlands of Scotland by professionals whose driving abilities far exceed those of the average offroad enthusiast including your editor's. However, we found that there was no need to try out anything extreme with this SUV, which was more than capable of handling the offroading many of us do every once in a while.
On the winding road to Jebel Sifah and a moderately inclined off-road trail behind Yiti beach, the Cullinan was the epitome of a well-oiled machine. Its 563bhp engine purred on gently – I had to strain my ears to hear it inside the cabin - an amazing 850Nm of torque coming into play at 1,600rpm as it ate up inclines that would have had normal 4WDs with low gear ratio options growling loudly.
Activating the new forward cameras on the gravel track brought up live video of what the massive 22” wheels were about to encounter over the next few seconds – this can be just a tyre saver or at times even a lifesaver on treacherous trails.
No levers or rotary knobs to choose between mud, sand, snow and gravel, no low gear ratios to fret over, no locking differentials to switch on at critical moments – offroading was as simple as pressing an aptly named button on the central console and turning the steering wheel right to get off the blacktop.
The new four-wheel steering system (the rear wheels can turn up to about 3°), originally pioneered by Japanese sports car makers in the ’90s but refined only in the last couple of years, translates to tighter turning circles and better stability than expected. It can take you by surprise the first couple of times you turn round a corner.
The Cullinan continues with another hallmark of Rolls-Royce cars - near total silence inside the passenger cabin. Foam-filled tyres reduce rolling noise, while over 100kg of sound deadening material in the body and 6mm double glazed glass makes it arguably the most silent SUV in the world.
One could go on with the superlatives but at the end of the day, this is a car that will be owned only by a very select few. And for them, RR is pulling
out all the stops. What is not available in the RO180,000 base model is yours to have for tens of thousand rials more via the famed RR bespoke programme that will completely personalise your transport. Fancy picnicking in the Al Hajar mountains after your board meeting – well, RR will put in two picnic seats that automatically extend from the cavernous boot along with a side table in between. Want the seats and the dash to match that favourite nail polish of yours? Sure, you can get that done too.
According to Rolls-Royce, it has been nothing short of a dream run for their ‘King of SUVs’ even in the pre-launch period. There has been so much interest that it has now stopped taking orders for 2019 deliveries and a 2020 delivery is the earliest that Goodwood can promise you.
Rolls-Royce's Cullinan SUV is named after the largest gem-quality diamond found till date – a 3106 carat diamond discovered in 1905 in a South African mine.
Cullinan features night vision and vision assist including daytime and night-time wildlife and pedestrian warning
What is four-wheel steering? By moving the wheels on the front and rear axles out of phase with each other, you can effectively ‘reduce’ the wheelbase of the vehicle, making it easier to turn in tight spaces. Moving in-phase does the opposite, stretching out the wheelbase to improve stability.
The Ferrari GTC4Lusso, Lamborghini Aventador, Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7 and the BMW X5 are some of the other vehicles to feature some form of four-wheel steering.
Cullinan engine specs
Engine/cylinders/valves: 6.75 lt/12/48
Power output @ engine speed: 563bhp/571PS (DIN)/420kW@5,000 rpm
Max torque @ engine speed: 850Nm @ 1,600rpm