Car News

Rolls-Royce Reveals Cullinan, Brand's First SUV

It's been one of the least kept secrets in the luxury world. But that's to be expected from what the manufacturer called "the world’s most anticipated SUV." It's the first Rolls-Royce SUV, and the Cullinan offers big. Big everything. Style, power, size, and, of course, big luxury.

Rolls-Royce has gone to great lengths to let buyers know how luxurious, how special, and, most importantly, how exclusive this vehicle is. For example, it doesn't have a simple tailgate, it has The Clasp. It's still a tailgate, but it's a two-part bustle rear that is intended to visually show where the luggage goes. Think of it as the modern equivalent of the rear of a 1940s Silver Wraith.

"We knew we had to offer our clients what they couldn’t find in the SUV market," said Rolls-Royce Cars CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös. "They do not accept limitations or compromises in their lives." Rear seat passengers are offered a choice of Lounge or Individual seating. Lounge is a three-person rear seat, intended for families who need the passenger space. That configuration allows the seats to fold, although it doesn't offer a flat rear load floor, which may be an issue if you're bringing home "a Mark Rothko from the Art Gallery or a newly discovered artefact from the latest archaeological dig," as Rolls puts it. But hey, that's what courier services are for.

Most luxury cars will give you heated seats, and some even a heated armrest. The Cullinan heats the door armrest, center console, rear armrests, and even the rear C-pillar in case the rear passenger's head is too close to the door that it gets a chill. The dashboard is a newly developed box grain leather that is intended to look like the materials used in high-end Italian handbags. It's also water resistant because Rolls-Royce actually expects owners to take this vehicle very far off-road.

The Individual configuration separates the two rear seats with a fixed console. That console holds a drinks compartment with Rolls-Royce whisky glasses and decanter, along with champagne flutes and a fridge. The seats move in nearly every way imaginable. Inspired by early auto travel, when the owner's luggage was sent ahead and not crammed in the boot, the Cullinan seals off the cargo area from the passenger cabin with a glass partition. This seals off the cabin to keep passengers in climate-controlled comfort even if the luggage compartment is open. No chill or heat for occupants of this ride while the bellhop loads the suitcases.

The Cullinan name comes from the Cullinan Diamond. The 3,106 carat (621.35g) diamond is the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found. It was cut into several stones, including the 530 carat Cullinan I, which is the largest clear cut diamond in the world. That stone is part of the Crown Jewels of the UK, and several of the other large stones are part of the Queen's own collection. This SUV is set to be the jewel of the super-luxury buyer's collection.

Rolls-Royce has built the Cullinan on its new Architecture of Luxury aluminum platform. The architecture is able to be scaled up and down for future Rolls models, including those with electrified power. Here, it was made higher and shorter, as well as modified to suit the tailgate.

Under the bonnet of the Cullinan is a 6.75L V12 that produces 563 hp and what Rolls calls "just the right level of torque at the lowest possible revolutions." That means 627 lb-ft at a very low 1,600 rpm.

The SUV uses an adaptive and self-levelling air suspension that reacts to body and wheel movements, but also information from cameras looking at the road surface. Four-wheel steering is added to improve agility and stability. The suspension lowers 40 mm to allow easy access and will raise up for off-road.

If the Cullinan's all-wheel drive system detects a wheel losing grip, the air suspension will actually work to push that wheel down forcing it into the surface and allowing it to transfer more torque. Rolls calls it Magic Carpet Ride off-road. Push the button marked Everywhere, and the Rolls will attempt to go, well, anywhere.

While many of these vehicles are destined to be fully autonomous, and by that we mean chauffeured, it will have a full range of driver aids. Like night vision with wildlife and pedestrian warnings, panoramic cameras with helicopter view, radar cruise control, and lane guidance. The infotainment system is touch-sensitive, a first for Rolls, and allows trail map views.

The Cullinan will also be available with cargo-area modules for different activities. Want to go fly fishing today, have that module loaded into the trunk. Rock climbing? Pop that one in tomorrow. Even one for volcano surfing. The motorized modules hold everything needed for that activity.

Rolls-Royce's first SUV is expected to enter production later this year, with deliveries to start by the end of December.