Rolls-Royce Cul­li­nan up close

If the Queen is read­ing this – hello Ma’am – we have the per­fect Bal­moral run­about: the new Cul­li­nan

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Words Gavin Green | Photography Char­lie Magee

SOON AFTER THE launch of the Bent­ley Ben­tayga – tech­ni­cal ti­tan, dy­namic marvel and styling dis­as­ter – I saw Land Rover’s de­sign boss Gerry McGovern. Gerry is prob­a­bly the world’s most cel­e­brated stylist of SUVs. His CV in­cludes the lat­est Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and the Ve­lar, re­cently voted World Car De­sign of the Year. He was suitably diplo­matic about the Ben­tayga’s looks, at least on the record. But he did say he thought it harder to de­sign a big SUV than a saloon or a sports car. ‘They have more phys­i­cal mass. It’s a bit like a per­son. The big­ger you are, the fit­ter you have to be to look good.’ How the Bent­ley stylists must agree. It took three de­sign di­rec­tors to get the look of the Ben­tayga ‘right’. I’m quite sure the Cul­li­nan, Rolls-Royce’s new XL-sized SUV, caused sim­i­lar headaches. How to com­bine bulk and beauty? How does a brand famed for el­e­gant sa­loons and coupes, with no track record of SUVs, cred­i­bly de­liver a go-any­where box that be­gan its life with the rather in­el­e­gant de­scrip­tion of ‘high-sided ve­hi­cle’?

The ‘e or­t­less ev­ery­where’ Rolls-Royce

But be­fore we dive into the style with Rolls-Royce’s ac­claimed de­sign direc­tor Giles Tay­lor, let us ex­am­ine what sort of car the Cul­li­nan is sup­posed to be. It is a very dif­fer­ent type of Rolls-Royce, and not just be­cause it’s an SUV, the com­pany’s first. True a Sil­ver Ghost was used by TE Lawrence in the deserts of Ara­bia, and by ma­hara­jas to hunt tigers in the jun­gles of In­dia. But for the past 80 or so years you’d be no more likely to see a Rolls-Royce in the rough than you would a trac­tor on the M1.

First and fore­most, in Tay­lor’s words, the Cul­li­nan is unashamedly a ‘big, tough, su­per-lux­ury’ SUV, de­signed to go any­where in supreme comfort. The en­gi­neer­ing goal was to blend the Phan­tom’s ‘magic car­pet’ ride with true off-road ca­pa­bil­ity. The mar­ket­ing mantra is ‘ef­fort­less, ev­ery­where’.

It is also an ev­ery­day, all-pur­pose Rolls: a four-sea­son 4x4, just as suited to Moscow snow as Mal­ibu sun, to the Dubai desert as a May­fair mews. Rolls talks with ap­par­ent sin­cer­ity about its su­per-rich ‘pa­trons’ go­ing on transcon­ti­nen­tal jun­gle or desert ‘ad­ven­tures’ in their Cul­li­nans, quaffing cham­pagne in leather-lined lux­ury cab­ins as they cross the Si­nai, Serengeti or Sturt Stony Desert. In re­al­ity, the big­gest off-road ad­ven­ture likely to be un­der­taken by the Cul­li­nan pa­tron is the odd muddy Scot­tish moor, the oc­ca­sional Dubai sand dune, or a slip­pery peb­ble drive­way in Sur­rey. But if pa­tron wants the 21st cen­tury equiv­a­lent of a ’20s ma­haraja tiger hunt, then Cul­li­nan can clearly de­liver.

It also has the widest cus­tomer base of any Rolls-Royce. An­glophile CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös even talks about it



be­ing ‘per­fect to take the kids to school’. This is surely for­eign lan­guage to the typ­i­cal Rolls-Royce pa­tron. Isn’t that what nan­nies are for?

‘It can be a fam­ily car, it can be a tra­di­tional Rolls-Royce,’ says Müller-Ötvös. ‘It can be fun or it can be for­mal. It can even be util­i­tar­ian. You can throw the dogs in the back, or the fish­ing gear.’ You can even tow a horse­box. This must be the first Rolls-Royce to of­fer a tow­bar.

The Cul­li­nan is named after the largest gem-qual­ity di­a­mond ever found. The two big­gest cuts are now part of the Crown Jew­els. Seven oth­ers are pri­vately owned by the Queen, no doubt a po­ten­tial Cul­li­nan cus­tomer for her San­dring­ham or Bal­moral ad­ven­tures. It will be priced just above Ghost, and well be­low Phan­tom – which means about £275,000. So that’s al­most dou­ble a Ben­tayga (from £135,000, or £162,000 as a W12). And get­ting on for three times a well-equipped Range Rover, un­less you let Spe­cial Ve­hi­cle Op­er­a­tions loose (an SVAu­to­bi­og­ra­phy LWB costs north of £160,000). 4

Sui­cide rear doors just like the lag­ship Phan­tom. Same lev­els of

lux­ury too

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