In­stant so­lu­tion to un­sealed palace drive­ways

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - STEPHEN CORBY

Rolls’ new plu­to­crat for un­paved places

THE PRICE tag isn’t the only thing ab­surdly large about a Rolls-royce. Mak­ing them look and feel big­ger and more im­pres­sive than ev­ery other car has al­ways been a core prin­ci­ple. Ask, or per­haps force, its de­sign­ers to pro­duce an SUV like the Cullinan, then, and you’re go­ing to end up with some­thing that would be­lit­tle a be­he­moth.

As one crayon-wielder ad­mit­ted, they ba­si­cally looked at the ba­sic, two-box de­sign of other modern lux­ury SUVS and de­cided it wasn’t big enough (and nor was the 7 Se­ries plat­form BMW of­fered), so they built an all-new, unique three-box de­sign that’s meant to cap­ture “ca­pa­bil­ity and el­e­gance”.

It cer­tainly cap­tures at­ten­tion – at 5341mm long, 2164mm wide and 1835mm tall it would want to – and never more so than when it’s plough­ing down a steep dirt track in Jack­son Hole, Wyoming, straight at a bunch of baf­fled hik­ers. It must have felt like a par­tic­u­larly aris­to­cratic house was about to run them down.

I would say I was sur­prised by just how ca­pa­ble the Cullinan was when thrown at some steep and rocky chal­lenges, but any­one who’s driven a modern Range Rover knows just how in­cred­i­ble and bizarre the mix of lux­ury with off-road abil­ity can be.

What’s im­pres­sive here is how sim­ple the big Rolls is to use. Ap­par­ently the brand’s buy­ers like these cars to be a ‘detox’ from their busy, su­per­car-ad­dled lives, so you get no shift pad­dles, no man­ual trans­mis­sion con­trol, and a one-touch ‘Off-road’ but­ton.

Every­thing else is taken care of by the com­pany’s first all-wheeldrive sys­tem and a sur­feit of power and torque from a mas­sive 6.75-litre, twin-tur­bocharged V12 mak­ing 420kw and 850Nm, which ar­rives at just 1600rpm. Put your foot down and all that nose rears at the sky, it’s fab­u­lous.

Rolls also claims to have equipped the Cullinan with its fa­mously waft­ing ‘magic car­pet’ ride, no mat­ter what you throw it at. Sure enough, it’s al­most sur­real in its qui­etude and float­i­ness on sealed roads, but even ac­tual magic can’t to­tally si­lence the clat­ter of gravel roads.

It’s also on loose stuff like that where the Cullinan’s light and airy steer­ing feel is just slightly dis­con­cert­ing, be­cause you’re not en­tirely sure of what your wheels are up to.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, though, this seem­ingly in­evitable Rolls SUV de­liv­ers on its mis­sion state­ment of be­ing ‘Ef­fort­less, Ev­ery­where’, and no doubt will achieve the com­pany’s goal of be­ing hugely prof­itable.

The first year’s pro­duc­tion is al­ready sold out, de­spite a re­as­sur­ingly large price tag start­ing at $685,000.

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