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
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!