The long tease is over. Rolls-Royce has lifted the veil on its highly anticipated Cullinan, a new super SUV that promises to shift the landscape in this burgeoning market.
Rolls-Royce’s so-called “high-sided vehicle” circumvents the familiar sport utility verbiage and uses new language to describe its supersized model, which takes visual cues from the flagship Phantom and applies them to a tall-standing, light, off-road-capable package. As such, the prevailing style is one of imposing and surprising modernity, like a rolling riff on the marque’s Parthenon grille. Though its exterior silhouette is relatively linear, upright, and inflected with more than a bit of refined restraint, the cabin reveals impressive swaths of mirror-matched veneers, wraparound leather surfaces, and niceties like an available fixed rear center console with a refrigerator, a whiskey decanter and glasses, and Champagne flutes.
The interior distinguishes itself with a strong sense of occasion. Touch one of the stainless-steel door handles, and the vehicle drops by 1.5 inches, beckoning you into its opulent space. The rear doors open backward and can shut themselves via a small button, à la Rolls’s sedans and coupes. A glass partition separates the cabin from the 21.1-cubic-foot luggage compartment, while the brand’s first folding rear-seat configuration transforms the Rolls-Royce pavilion seating position into a flat, cargo-friendly layout. Rolls-Royce has dubbed its rear liftgate “the Clasp” because it opens in two sections, enabling a party-friendly, rear-facing seat setup.
The Cullinan’s driving dynamic appears to be consistent with Rolls-Royce’s 114-year-old ethos of “waftability”—that is, effortless forward propulsion and a magic carpet ride. Thanks to the Phantom-sourced 6.75-liter, twin-turbo V-12 engine producing 563 hp and 627 ft lbs of torque, the Cullinan should deliver effortless acceleration in spite of its nearly three-ton curb weight. And while not quite as rugged as some of its counterparts, Rolls-Royce’s new sport ute promises civilized travel over gravel, grass, or mud with a best-in-class wading depth of 21.2 inches. Press the “Everywhere” button, and the Cullinan configures its all-wheel drive and four-wheel steer system for low rpm adventure crawling.
Where does this put the Cullinan in relation to its competitors? While we can’t pass final judgment until we’ve turned a wheel in the stately SUV, it’s clear that the Cullinan comes in as the most expensive production SUV on the market, besting the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus with its starting price of $325,000. With more players poised to dive into the market (specifically Aston Martin and Ferrari), Rolls-Royce will certainly have to play in a more crowded field. Until then, the Cullinan has carved itself a tidy niche that does a proper job of introducing some welcome adventure into Rolls-Royce’s repertoire.