Road Le­gal

Top Gear (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Sud­denly the be­he­moth of an SUV looked less rude, less ‘chavvish’ and far bet­ter suited to its role as an uber­lux­ury go-any­where limou­sine, in the vein of the Range Rover – with its posh­ness level turned up sev­eral hun­dred

lev­els.

It has fi­nally hap­pened. The Sport Util­ity Ve­hi­cle mad­ness has def­i­nitely gone over the side of a cliff and right into an abyss of ex­cess. Ex­cess of what, you may ask? Well, pri­mar­ily ‘util­ity’ that will never, ever be used.

This train of thought started quite frankly, with the big­gest – and I do mean that quite lit­er­ally – launch for the month of May. Rolls-Royce, the pur­vey­ors of the stateliest lim­ou­sines known to man un­leashed onto the automotive world, the Cul­li­nan.

Named af­ter the world’s largest di­a­mond ever dis­cov­ered, this car was quite un­like any other that Rolls-Royce has ever made. Within a model range com­prised ex­clu­sively of lim­ou­sines of great ex­cess, grace­ful coupes and lush con­vert­ibles with fold­ing roofs com­prised of fab­ric so thick it kept the riff raffs of the out­side world at bay as well as any met­al­roofed au­to­mo­bile.

Yes, au­to­mo­bile, for you never re­fer to a Roller as merely a ‘car’. It’s an au­to­mo­bile. Or a con­veyance. Or at worst, a car­riage of high net worth in­di­vid­u­als. But never, ever just a ‘car’.

But I di­gress. The Cul­li­nan.

The spec­i­fi­ca­tions of this car make for some pretty in­trigu­ing read­ing. The car mea­sures over five me­tres in length, and over two me­tres in width, with a wheel­base that stretches al­most 3.5 me­ters.

To put things into per­spec­tive, the re­cent­ly­launched Range Rover Ve­lar, it­self not ex­actly a com­pact lit­tle thing, is al­most half a me­tre

SHORTER and al­most half a foot nar­rower than the new Rolls. It’s a barn house on wheels, quite lit­er­ally.

OK. Maybe not a barn house. Be­cause in­side the Cul­li­nan, it’s all busi­ness as usual for a car bear­ing the Spirit of Ec­stasy on the bon­net. Lush leather, fine wood trim and wool car­pets so thick it lit­er­ally swal­lows limbs whole are all stan­dard is­sue, though this be­ing a Rolls means if any­thing doesn’t strike your fancy, the boys at Good­wood will be more than happy to cus­tomise a Cul­li­nan to your ex­act spec­i­fi­ca­tions. It’s Down­ton Abbey then.

And the ex­cess con­tin­ues un­der the long prow up front. This be­ing a Rolls, it’s not JUST a bon­net. It’s a door­way to what has to be the most un­can­nily smooth en­gine ever pro­duced. Still sized at the com­pany’s tra­di­tional ‘Six-and-Three-Quar­ter’ litre ca­pac­ity, the BMW-de­signed twin-turbo V12 nicked from the Phan­tom smoothly dishes out 563bhp and a gear boxshred­ding 850Nm of torque, en­abling this near-3 tonne au­to­mo­bile to whisk it­self and its well-heeled oc­cu­pants all the way to an elec­tron­i­cally-gov­erned 250km/h top speed.

No 0-100km/h fig­ures from Rolls-Royce. There never has been. There prob­a­bly never will. Such crude mea­sure of per­for­mance is sim­ply be­yond the com­pany.

What may be a touch crude though is the

Cul­li­nan’s shape, at least to th­ese eye at first. When the launch videos and pho­tos started cir­cu­lat­ing around the in­ter­net and amongst us mo­tor­ing folks, the one car that was con­stantly fea­tured was a Cul­li­nan painted a lurid shade of red, matched to gun­metal grey wheels.

This se­ri­ously did the Roller no favours. If you’re ever in the mar­ket for one, DO NOT or­der your Cul­li­nan in this colour and wheel com­bi­na­tion. It reeked a bit too much of Rus­sian mafia, not enough English gen­tle­men’s club. Some­thing about the colour and the shape of the car just didn’t gel. There’s prob­a­bly a very good rea­son why peo­ple sel­dom paint palaces red.

As more and more press ma­te­ri­als started be­com­ing avail­able, it be­came pretty ev­i­dent that the Cul­li­nan is a very colour-sen­si­tive au­to­mo­bile. A sec­ond set of pic­tures – fea­tur­ing a Cul­li­nan in a taste­ful shade of metal­lic grey matched to chrome al­loy wheels – proved a damn sight bet­ter look­ing to th­ese eyes.

Sud­denly the be­he­moth of an SUV looked less rude, less ‘chavvish’ and far bet­ter suited to its role as an uber-lux­ury go-any­where limou­sine, in the vein of the Range Rover – with its posh­ness level turned up sev­eral hun­dred lev­els.

So yeah. As I type this piece out on my trusty HP note­book, I’m com­ing to terms with the Cul­li­nan’s shape. Heck, I’m even start­ing to like it. The idea of a Rolls-Royce that can po­ten­tially take you any­where is a very ap­peal­ing thought – if I were ever in the mar­ket for a nearRM3mil­lion ve­hi­cle. But here’s where the log­i­cal side of me starts to scream a bit.

Nay. A lot, ac­tu­ally.

You see, the Cul­li­nan joins a grow­ing col­lec­tion of SUV’s from very posh man­u­fac­tur­ers. Bent­ley is prob­a­bly to blame for this, as the race for ul­tra-lux­ury brands to em­brace the SUV bodystyle really started with the Ben­tayga – never mind that it was es­sen­tially a tarted-up Audi Q7.

In quick suc­ces­sion, Maserati launched the Le­vante, Lam­borgh­ini launched its trag­i­cally-named Urus and of course, Rolls gave us the Cul­li­nan. And this is just the be­gin­ning. Fer­rari has made it quite pub­licly known that it is work­ing on a “high-rid­ing” sports car, whilst Mercedes’ May­bach divi­sion is look­ing at a vari­ant of the up­com­ing GLS that it in­tends to throw ev­ery lux­ury trick they have in their books at.

Mind you – none of th­ese cars will be cheap. The Cul­li­nan right now sets the bench­mark, with its eye-wa­ter­ing price tag for a ‘stan­dard’ ve­hi­cle, but even the Maserati Le­vante – ar­guably the cheap­est of the lot here – runs a price tag that sits just a shade un­der the RM1 mil­lion mark.

Which thus begs the ques­tion – how much ‘util­ity’ will the own­ers of th­ese cars get from their vastly over-en­gi­neered steeds?

It’s said that the Cul­li­nan – like the Ben­tayga – is a gen­uine off-roader ca­pa­ble of tack­ling any­thing you care to throw at it.

Rolls-Royce even went to great lengths to de­velop a be­spoke ac­tive air sus­pen­sion sys­tem that not only pro­vides class-lead­ing wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion, but is able to ‘push’ a wheel into the ground when it senses a wheel los­ing trac­tion. The R&D cost for this wouldn’t have been cheap.

But se­ri­ously, ask your­self this: how many Rolls Royce own­ers will ac­tu­ally NEED this tech? I can say with al­most ab­so­lute cer­tainty that the num­ber is a grand to­tal of zero in Malaysia. This is af­ter all, a coun­try where Range Rovers a quar­ter of the price tra­verse noth­ing more tax­ing than the car park of Mid Val­ley Mega­mall. And while I’m on the topic – a Lam­borgh­ini Urus off road­ing. Can you even FATHOM that im­age in your head?

So here’s my gripe with this whole SUV-mad­ness in the ul­tra-lux­ury realm. The ‘Util­ity’ bit in the SUV name really is wasted on th­ese cars. If I REALLY had the money and needed a way to get from my man­sion in Kenny Hills to work in the gleam­ing tow­ers of KLCC and then to a spot of off-road ad­ven­ture af­ter a full-day of mak­ing mil­lions, I’d prob­a­bly be far bet­ter off with a chauf­feured Mercedes

S-class and a Land Cruiser on standby.

Just imag­ine what I could do with the mil­lions left over!

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