The Rolls-Royce of SUVs is an opulent high-riding cruiser on wheels.
Announced for the first time three years ago, it is finally here. The “world’s most anticipated SUV” and the first-ever high-riding model from Rolls-Royce, the Cullinan, shows its face to the world wearing a name inspired by the largest single-piece diamond ever discovered on the planet. The British luxury automaker actually describes it as “an all-terrain high-bodied car” – and we can’t agree more.
The Rolls-Royce of SUVs is targeting wealthy buyers with an appetite for a powerful, super luxury, and practical sport utility vehicle. The company wants to attract the “younger, very successful high-net-worth individuals who are heavily engaged in the experience economy” by perfecting the already popular formula of a premium SUV.
With the profile of its rear end, the first-ever Rolls to feature an opening hatch, which is called The Clasp, makes a nod to the era when luggage was mounted on the exterior of the car in order to free up more space for the passengers in the cabin. Needless to say, it’s operated automatically at the touch of the key fob button and opens up a cargo area of 560 liters (19.77 cubic feet). With the rear seats folded, the load capacity raises to 1930 liters (68.15 cubic feet) – enough volume for “a Mark Rothko from the Art Gallery or a newly discovered artefact from the latest archaeological dig.”
Speaking of the rear seats, probably the most comfortable place in the Cullinan is exactly the rear passenger compartment, which will be offered in two different configurations. The Lounge Seat layout is the more functional of the two and has space for three passengers in a traditional bench-style single seat, which can be electrically folded in a number of configurations. The Individual Seat configuration offers the ultimate luxury with two separate chairs, divided by a massive rear center console incorporating a drinks cabinet with Rolls-Royce whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes, and refrigerator.
The driver’s seat is equally impressive. Despite being the place where most likely chauffeurs will sit, it has heating and ventilation, to ensure the driver is perfectly acclimatized. In front of his eyes is Rolls-Royce’s latest generation digital instrument cluster, while a central position on the dashboard is taken by the first-ever touch-sensitive display in a model from the automaker. The infotainment system can also be controlled through the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy controller on the center console.
On board is an array of safety and assist systems, which should make the Cullinan “the most technologically advanced car of its type in the world.” The standard equipment includes night vision system, a four-camera view system with panoramic view, all-round visibility, and helicopter view, collision warning, cross-traffic warning, lane departure and lane change warnings, WiFi hotspot, and many more. Five USB ports can be used to charge electronic devices, while mobile phones can be wirelessly charged in the front of the cabin.
Rolls-Royce’s first SUV is based on the so-called Architecture of Luxury all-aluminum platform, which also underpins the Phantom. Designed from the ground up, it uses components reconfigured into a spaceframe, which should deliver “extraordinary car body stiffness for exceptional 'best-in-class' functional performance.”
“The drivetrain system we engineered for Cullinan had one key job to do,” Caroline Krismer, Engineering Project Leader for the Cullinan, explains. “To bring the famed Rolls-Royce ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ to all other terrains possible, while ensuring class-leading on-road behaviour in the SUV sector.”
The system Krismer is referring to is the self-levelling air suspension, a heavily re-engineered version of the already existing air suspension of the company, which makes millions of calculations every second to adapt itself to the road. Larger air struts with more air volume have been added to cushion the blows of the off-road terrains, and the front axle suspension layout has been completely redesigned. The Cullinan rides on 22-inch wheels.
Power comes from the familiar 6.75-liter biturbo V12 engine of the marque, which has also been revised and now delivers “just the right level of torque” – 627 pound-feet (850 Newton-meters) at low 1,600 rpm. Peak power is 563 horsepower (420 kilowatts), channeled to all four wheels through a new all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering system.
The top speed of the 5,846-pound (2,660-kilogram) SUV is electronically limited at 155 miles per hour (250 kilometers per hour), while data for the 0-62 mph (0-100 kph) sprint is not provided by Rolls-Royce. Average fuel consumption? Not that it matters, but just for the protocol – 18.8 miles per gallon, or approximately 15 liters per 100 km.
Rolls-Royce is positive the Cullinan won’t be used only on asphalt. Anything should be possible - fly fishing, photography, rock climbing, snowboarding, parascending, kite boarding, base jumping, and even volcano boarding. “History set our precedent, and today Rolls-Royce answers its call to action,” Torsten Muller-Otvos, Rolls’ CEO. “Our answer to the visionaries, adventurers, explorers and those who believe in the supremacy of liberty is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.”
The starting price of the Cullinan for the U.S. market is $325,000.
Gallery: Rolls-Royce Cullinan Debut
Cullinan at a glance
- The most anticipated car of 2018 and, quite possibly, the most anticipated Rolls-Royce of all time.
- Named after the largest diamond ever discovered which now resides in the British Crown Jewels.
- An all-terrain high-bodied car that makes the idea of authentic, luxury off-road travel a reality for the first time. Luxury travel is now Effortless, Everywhere.
- Contemporary and functional design ensures Cullinan gains iconic status in the face of increasingly bland SUV designs.
- The first “three-box” car in the SUV-sector. Cullinan’s rear partition wall creates a distinct environment for passengers, separated from the luggage compartment.
- The most practical of Rolls-Royces. Cullinan is the most versatile, family oriented, fun-to-drive super-luxury SUV available today.
- The second new Rolls-Royce to sit on the all-new aluminium ‘Architecture of Luxury’, Cullinan is the most technologically advanced, and only purpose-built, luxury SUV in the world.
- Tested to destruction all over the planet, Cullinan is an incredibly capable off-roader that sees the development of the ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ for off-road enjoyment, without sacrificing any Rolls-Royce on-road behaviour.
- Cullinan offers a suite of Bespoke features developed specifically for the many various lifestyles of its owners including the Viewing Suite and the Recreation Module.
- The 6.75 litre twin-turbo V12 Rolls-Royce engine delivers 563bhp/420kW and 850Nm/627lb ft of torque to the all-new all-wheel drive, all-wheel steer system needed to overcome any challenge.
- A century-long pedigree of adventurous quests and campaigns successfully carried out across all terrains thanks to the luxury offered by a stout vehicle that was swift, stealthy and dependable. “A Rolls in the desert is above rubies” – T.E. Lawrence.
When Rolls-Royce announced three years ago that it would launch Cullinan, it did so in the knowledge that its customers around the world had asked it to build “The Rolls-Royce of SUVs”, with luxury, performance and usability not seen before in the SUV market. Many of these customers were younger, very successful high-net-worth individuals who are heavily engaged in the experience economy, and wanted a Rolls-Royce that would take them to the ends of the Earth in ultimate luxury.
Automotive mobility has always been a fast moving and dynamic business, with new concepts – such as SUVs – appearing with great regularity. But those new concepts need to be perfected in order to be adopted by those customers who will accept no compromise – the patrons of true luxury. Hence the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
“History set our precedent, and today Rolls-Royce answers its call to action,” comments Müller-Ötvös. “Our answer to the visionaries, adventurers, explorers and those who believe in the supremacy of liberty is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.”
What is Cullinan?
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is Rolls-Royce as it’s never seen before. When Sir Henry Royce said, “Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it”, he could have had Cullinan in mind.
“We knew we had to offer our clients what they couldn’t find in the SUV market,” continues Müller-Ötvös. “They do not accept limitations or compromises in their lives. They are the new pioneers, and for them it’s about their sense of adventure and daring in how they live their experiences. This approach to life demands a motor car that can go-anywhere in ultimate luxury and style – Rolls-Royce style. Hence Cullinan.”
It was clear that these new, younger and more adventurous customers wanted a Rolls-Royce that would take them completely off the beaten track and reward them with life’s most enriching experiences. What they didn’t want was a vehicle as ubiquitous as an SUV with compromises such as increased cabin noise due to the “two-box” formula; shared platforms that affect performance and comfort; the choice of being good either on-road or off-road; or a lower, more featureless SUV that blends in and becomes just another car.
“Cullinan is luxury in its purest form blended with perfect practicality and off-road capability,” comments Müller-Ötvös. “Effortless, Everywhere is not just the promise behind Cullinan. It’s the fact.”
Making luxury Effortless, Everywhere engendered an evolution in Rolls-Royce’s approach to creating an authentic Rolls-Royce SUV. The most obvious sign of this was the radical rear of Cullinan.
For the first time a Rolls-Royce has an opening tailgate, called ‘The Clasp’. In a nod to the era when luggage was mounted on the exterior of the motor-car, so the occupants did not travel with their belongings, the rear profile of Cullinan is a two-part, ‘D-Back’ format, with the bustle denoting the place of the luggage. ‘The Clasp’ opens and closes in its two sections automatically at the touch of the key fob button.
The rear passenger compartment of Cullinan has been designed to offer the best seat in the house for the owner’s particular needs. Two rear configurations are offered – Lounge Seats or Individual Seats.
The Lounge Seat configuration is the more functional of the two options. With space for three passengers in the rear, it will likely be more attractive to families. The rear seats also fold down – a first for Rolls-Royce.
The seats fold electronically in a number of configurations by pressing the appropriate button in the boot or rear door pocket. One press sees each backrest effortlessly fold down, whist at the same time moving the headrests upwards to avoid making an imprint on the seat cushion. Both seat backs can be folded completely, creating a flat load area or in a 2/3 and 1/3 split, increasing practicality even further. Rear passengers can still travel with a long load, or use the carpeted seat back as an occasional table on which to rest their precious personal items.
For those who intend to transport large items back from their adventures, the rear of Cullinan offers a large amount of space in different arrangements.
The rear compartment or boot area offers a standard 560 litres of space, growing to 600 with the parcel shelf removed. Furthermore, the base of the rear seats sits higher than the boot floor, so even with both rear seats folded, the items in the boot cannot slip forward and are safely contained, unlike in any other SUV. But for those wishing to carry a long item back from their trip – whether it be a Mark Rothko from the Art Gallery or a newly discovered artefact from the latest archaeological dig – a loading length of 2245mm and load capacity of 1930 litres is accessed by electronically raising the boot floor to meet the seat base, allowing the item to slide through effortlessly.
Rolls-Royce’s investment in making the rear of Cullinan effortlessly and ultimately practical has the side benefit of offering a loading length longer than a Range Rover Vogue Extended Wheelbase. A very practical Rolls-Royce indeed.
Knowing that the Rolls-Royce customer expects to bespoke his or her Cullinan, a second rear configuration is offered.
The Individual Seat configuration is for those who value the ultimate luxury an SUV can offer over practicality. The two individual rear seats are separated by a Fixed Rear Centre Console incorporating a drinks cabinet with Rolls-Royce whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes and refrigerator. The seats also move in a number of planes to offer ultimate comfort whilst travelling in the rear.
One final feature brings Rolls-Royce’s ultimate level of luxury to this configuration of Cullinan, creating the first truly “three-box” SUV. Inspired by the age when one never travelled with one’s luggage, a glass partition isolates the passenger cabin from the luggage compartment, creating an inner ecosystem for the occupants. In addition to enhanced and class-leading silence within the cabin, a further benefit becomes clear in the hottest and coldest of environments. Thanks to the sealed cabin created by the glass partition wall, the occupants can remain in the optimum temperature even when the luggage compartment stands open.
Cullinan awakes at the touch of the unlock button on the Bespoke key, or indeed by simply reaching out to its beautifully tactile stainless steel door handle. It lowers itself by 40mm to make entry effortless as the iconic Rolls-Royce coach doors stand open to welcome driver and passengers to their adventure.
Having stepped directly into the cabin, thanks to the wide aperture of the doors and completely flat floor, driver and passengers press the door closing button to seal themselves within the sanctuary of Cullinan’s cabin. Or one touch of the sensor on the exterior door handles will see the doors automatically close themselves from outside.
A touch of the start button then elevates Cullinan 40mm to its standard, commanding ride height, placing its occupants in the perfect position from which to see the world as it drives off.
The driver instantly recognises Cullinan as a driver’s car thanks to its thicker, smaller steering wheel. It’s heated, pliant rim hints at epic voyages which Cullinan is all too eager to begin, whilst heated and ventilated seats mean passengers will be perfectly acclimatised. From their commanding position at the helm of Cullinan, all equipment and technology is clearly seen and reached by the driver.
All information is clearly communicated by the latest generation of digital instruments, with the displays themselves designed with clear and beautiful virtual needles, Rolls-Royce jewellery-like chaplets and clear lettering.
The central information screen is for the first time touch sensitive, allowing the driver to quickly select functions, map views and vehicle set-up whilst on the trail. This portal can still be controlled from the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy controller which nestles on the central console with the ‘Off-Road’ button, Hill Descent Control button and Air Suspension height adjustment controls.
A host of other cutting-edge technology makes Rolls-Royce Cullinan the most technologically advanced car of its type in the world. Further equipment includes: Night Vision and Vision Assist including daytime and night-time Wildlife & Pedestrian warning; Alertness Assistant; a 4-Camera system with Panoramic View, all-round visibility and helicopter view; Active Cruise Control; Collision Warning; Cross-Traffic Warning, Lane Departure and Lane Change Warning; an industry leading 7x3 High-Resolution Head-Up Display, WiFi hotspot, and of course the latest Navigation and Entertainment Systems.
For those not behind the wheel, the world’s most spectacular scenery is to be seen from a privileged position. Those in the rear sit higher than those in the front of the car on Rolls-Royce’s Pavilion Seating, enjoying grandstand views of their surroundings thanks to the large glazed area of Cullinan’s side windows and industry-leading panoramic glass roof. And if they wish to locate themselves or their latest far-flung discovery, they can zero in on their location on the rear touchscreen map.
Also, no photographic opportunity will be missed as all electronic devices can be charged via the five USB ports around the cabin, whilst phones can be wirelessly charged in the front of the cabin.
Arriving at their remote destination, the occupants can descend without dirtying their trouser legs as both front and rear coach doors wrap low under the sill of Cullinan, ensuring that all dirt remains on the outside of the door. A feature only Rolls-Royce would have considered.
Authentic Rolls-Royce engineering – everywhere
“The proposition of this car is an engineering masterpiece, its off-road capability, whilst maintaining the world-famous ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ of Rolls-Royce,” comments Müller-Ötvös. “When we began engineering this car, these were the guiding principles.”
Key to the creation of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV was the Architecture of Luxury – Rolls-Royce’s proprietary all-aluminium architecture.
The Architecture of Luxury really comes into its own in creating Cullinan. The engineering team behind Cullinan adapted the Architecture of Luxury to the design template of a high-bodied car laid down by Giles Taylor and his design team thanks to its innate adaptability.
It was designed and engineered from the ground up in such a way as to be scalable to the size and weight requirements of different future Rolls-Royce models, including those with different propulsion, traction and control systems, thus underpinning the long-term future product roadmap.
Cullinan uses this new architecture in a wholly different manner to deliver an iconic design and presence, uncompromised comfort, space and usability, cutting edge technology and the peerless on-road and off-road driving experience and capability.
The component parts of the base architecture were reconfigured into a spaceframe that was higher and shorter whilst also delivering a completely new feature never seen before on a series production Rolls-Royce – a tailgate.
The all-new aluminium sub-structure delivers extraordinary car body stiffness for exceptional 'best-in-class' functional performance on rough terrain whilst offering better ride comfort.
The ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ taken off-road
The integration of new technologies into the architecture was also key to ensuring the fundamental quality of Cullinan as Effortless, Everywhere. The engineering team began by creating a drivetrain that would bring Rolls-Royce’s famous ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ off-road.
“The drivetrain system we engineered for Cullinan had one key job to do,” explains Caroline Krismer, Engineering Project Leader for Cullinan. “To bring the famed Rolls-Royce ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ to all other terrains possible, while ensuring class-leading on-road behaviour in the SUV sector.”
Rolls-Royce’s celebrated Magic Carpet Ride impresses off-road as well as on-road thanks to the new lighter architecture, and the latest generation of self-levelling air suspension. Through a thorough re-engineering of the existing air suspension system – including adding larger air struts with more air volume to cushion the blows of the toughest of terrains – the strengthening of drive and prop shafts, the inclusion of drive to the front wheels as well as the back for the first time in Rolls-Royce history, and the complete reworking of the new 6.75 litre twin-turbo V12 Rolls-Royce engine to deliver just the right level of torque (850Nm) at the lowest possible revolutions (1,600rpm), the Rolls-Royce engineering team has ensured Cullinan will take owners to places no modern Rolls-Royce owner has travelled in luxury before.
The suspension makes millions of calculations every second as it continuously varies the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system – reacting to body and wheel acceleration, steering inputs and camera information. A new double-wishbone front axle and 5-link rear axle deliver astounding levels of control over lateral roll and shear forces and deliver incredible agility and stability, as does the addition of four-wheel steering, all contributing to incredible drivability and nimbleness.
In the case of driving off-road, the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system uses an air compression system to actively push down any wheel it detects losing traction to ensure every wheel is constantly in contact with the ground and maximum torque is being provided to all wheels.
“Put simply, what makes the car great on-road makes the car great off-road,” concludes Krismer.
The final piece of the puzzle of ensuring that the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is Effortless, Everywhere is one single button. Known within Rolls-Royce as the ‘Everywhere’ button, one single push is all it takes to harness all the aforementioned peerless Rolls-Royce engineering and unleash all of Cullinan’s off-road capability.
Once engaged, the driver can finesse the off-road setting to glide over any situation, whether it be rough track, gravel, wet grass, mud, snow or sand delivering all 850Nm of torque to all four wheels without interruption. And faced with deep snow, sand or the need to ford streams, Cullinan delivers the deepest wading depth of any super-luxury SUV at 540mm thanks to its highest ride height.
Designing a force of nature
“At this point in the history of automotive design, SUVs have become homogenous and ubiquitous,” comments Giles Taylor, Director of Design, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “The label SUV is now applied to anything with a two-box silhouette and the least suggestion of going off tarmac. We envisioned an authentic, three-box all-terrain high-bodied car with a convention-challenging design and absolute capability that would satisfy the adventurous urges of our clients.”
Working with the Architecture of Luxury, Taylor and his team designed the car he knew would meet expectations. Iconic design, proper Rolls-Royce proportions inside and out, and uncompromised levels of luxury.
"One of the first benefits of the Architecture of Luxury to the design of Cullinan was the ability to place the wheels and create a unique roofline silhouette that would give Cullinan an immediate sense of Rolls-Royce pedigree,” comments Taylor. “This gave Cullinan the commanding stance of a warrior, immediately communicating its strength and power, whilst at the very same time allows effortless entry and exit from the rear cabin."
This strength and power are immediately apparent from the face of Cullinan. Key features such as lights and air intakes are deep set into the bodywork, whilst strong vertical and horizontal lines create a powerful visage, with the prominent brow of a Saxon warrior created by the line that runs across the top of the pantheon grille and ‘eyebrow’-like daytime running lights. This approach lends a toughness of expression to the front of Cullinan.
The grille is created from hand-polished stainless steel, but for Cullinan it is set slightly proud of the surrounding bodywork that pushes it up and forward. The Rolls-Royce badge and Spirit of Ecstasy ride significantly above the line of the wing, giving them a unique vantage point.
Away from the face of Cullinan the vertical lines that run from the A-pillars down along the raised bonnet edge, down the side of the grille and into the metal skid plate below emphasise the height of the car and its dominant character.
From the side, the purposefulness of Cullinan is clear. There is an uncompromising sheerness of the typical Rolls-Royce long bonnet profile, with the bonnet itself seen to be set higher than the wings of the car to communicate greater toughness.
The line then rises quickly on the A-pillar to resolve in an ultimate height for Cullinan of 1,836mm, a height accentuated by the glass to metal ratio as seen from the side. From just over the B-pillar, the roofline becomes quite fast and drops away to the even faster rear glass which resolves in an elegantly protruding boot lid that reminds one of the D-Back Rolls-Royces of the 1930’s, some of the last of the marque to still carry their owner’s luggage on a shelf outside the car.
Taylor’s famous rotating line then takes the eye back towards the front of Cullinan as it shoots forward through the 22-inch wheel hubs to give it a beautiful balance, whilst the depth of the side profile is optically broken up by a most authentic and honest piece of metal, like a Saxon spear, that flies down the lower door surface and gives the whole side of the car a beautiful sense of tension.
The rear view of Cullinan continues the theme of functionality, with the design reduced to a functional baseline. Any jewellery is subdued. So for instance, the Rolls-Royce badge stands on its own smaller plinth separate and above a thin metal finisher over the number plate housing. The design theme for the rear lights also remains simple as two narrow upright units house all the lights and are minimally adorned by thin narrow strips of jewellery at their centre. A final mark of functionality are the exposed metal exhaust pipes and skid plate, both reminding one of Cullinan’s power and ability.
Inside, the cabin of Cullinan combines authentic Rolls-Royce luxury with simple, symmetrical functionality to express the car’s inherent strength. Whether the fascia and centre stack of the dashboard or the arm rests on the doors, structural horizontal and vertical elements underpin the interior design.
The centre stack is framed by hand-finished metal pillars that bridge the upper fascia and middle console, giving it a sense of robustness, whilst also suspending the horizontal elements of the fascia to give a more commanding feel.
The upper fascia is clad in a newly developed contemporary ‘Box Grain’ black leather – a durable and water resistant boarded leather similar to that used in Italian high-end luggage and handbag design. It gives the fascia a sense of width as it runs across its upper segment, allowing the jewellery-like elements of clock and air vents to stand out beautifully.
Supporting this upper section is a strong band of wood that is moulded in three-dimensions to flow out to the centre stack, whilst the entire dashboard is protected by leather pads on top and at the bottom. The top pad is fashioned in a wing like fashion, suggesting muscularity and movement, as well as the functionality of a cockpit.
Finally, the seats in Cullinan have a bold, confident character, showcasing Rolls-Royce quality and craftsmanship. Designed to suit the more casual and dynamic quality of Cullinan, they feature a simple but modern horseshoe graphic which emphasises the supportive bolsters of the seat. These new seats also showcase Rolls-Royce’s mastery of leather craft as this entire backrest panel has been crafted from a single piece of leather to pick out a highly three-dimensional surface.
All areas throughout the interior that are now heated include the front door armrests, front centre console lid, lower C-Pillar, rear side armrests and rear centre armrest.
One life, many lifestyles
Driving to your remote location is simply the first part of the adventure in a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Further enjoyment awaits in the shape of a Rolls-Royce Recreation Module.
Imagine the scene. Having chosen your adventure you call down to your garage. “Jason, we’re going to go drone racing today. Can you load the Drone Module into the Cullinan?” Downstairs, Jason selects the Drone Racing Module from the rack containing several other Recreation Modules that the owner has had commissioned from Rolls-Royce to satisfy his or her preferred recreational pursuits.
Fly fishing, photography, rock climbing, snowboarding, parascending, kite boarding, base jumping, volcano boarding or simply sitting and taking in the view, anything is possible thanks to the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collective. Easily slotted and plugged into the boot of Cullinan, each Recreation Module contains a motorised drawer housing the equipment and paraphernalia specific to each Cullinan owner’s pursuits. When the owner is ready to play, it presents itself.