Rolls-Royce Cullinan up close
If the Queen is reading this – hello Ma’am – we have the perfect Balmoral runabout: the new Cullinan
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
THEY SAY IT’S PERFECT FOR TAKING THE KIDS TO SCHOOL. ISN’T THAT WHAT NANNIES ARE
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