Go­ing off the beaten track in real lux­ury

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE -

The turn of the last cen­tury was an ex­cit­ing time for many; a time of in­ven­tion, dis­cov­ery and ex­plo­ration, and also when the mo­tor car was in its in­fancy.

In 1905, elec­tric cars were shar­ing city streets with horse­drawn car­riages and in Eng­land, two chaps called Charles Rolls and Henry Royce were form­ing a new com­pany to sell their own brand of lux­ury au­to­mo­bile.

Mean­while, in the small min­ing town of Cul­li­nan, in SA, the big­gest di­a­mond ev­ery dis­cov­ered was be­ing dug out of the ground. At more than 3,100 carats it was even­tu­ally cut up by a spe­cial­ist in Am­s­ter­dam who, it is said, fainted when he first struck the pre­cious stone. Two of the big­gest stones to come from the Cul­li­nan di­a­mond are in the Crown Jewels.

Since then the mo­tor car has evolved but Rolls-Royce has now cre­ated a ve­hi­cle that the com­pany says al­lows own­ers to have their own ad­ven­tures to dis­cover in lux­ury, and we drove it around Jack­son Hole, Wy­oming in the US.

The Cul­li­nan is the brand’s first SUV and it was a project that Alex Innes of the de­sign team told us many at the com­pany grap­pled with ini­tially.

He says the Cul­li­nan needed to be set apart from other Roll­sRoyce mod­els but still re­tain some fa­mil­iar­ity. Up front it has what he calls a “vis­ual tough­ness” while the side pro­file is dom­i­nated by a three-box de­sign, es­sen­tial to cre­ate sep­a­rate ar­eas for pas­sen­gers and then for the lug­gage space. The lat­ter can be separated by a glass par­ti­tion and you can also have seats which slide out from be­neath the floor to al­low you to sit and watch a game of polo or just look out over the veld.

In­ter­est­ingly, the chrome pieces along the side pro­file aim to mimic the run­ning boards on the orig­i­nal Sil­ver Ghost. Clever de­sign, but there’s more be­cause the bot­tom of the doors curve over the side sills to pre­vent dirt gath­er­ing on the sills that could come off on your clothes when you climb in or out in car.

Not that this needs to be a full off-roader. Cus­tomers asked for an SUV but they don’t need it to be able to go ev­ery­where; they have other off-road ma­chin­ery for that. They want a Rolls they can put the kids and the dogs in. In Wy­oming, they prob­a­bly want to put in a few hunt­ing ri­fles too.

The Cul­li­nan is ca­pa­ble though. It sits on the new Ar­chi­tec­ture of Lux­ury plat­form that de­buted with the lat­est Phan­tom but sits much higher. It has the same 6.75l V12 be­neath that mas­sive bon­net, which sends 420kW and 850Nm to all four wheels for quoted per­for­mance fig­ures of 0-100km/h in 5.2 sec­onds and a gov­erned 250km/h top speed. Power’s fed to the wheels through a sim­ple sys­tem which can be ac­cessed by one but­ton. Push it and the sys­tem does ev­ery­thing for you, but you can also choose be­tween six dif­fer­ent modes.

Ac­cord­ing to Caro­line Kris­mer, en­gi­neer­ing project leader for Cul­li­nan, it is not about do­ing heavy off-road stuff, but rather pro­vid­ing the best com­fort when off the beaten track. It does this well, thanks to air sus­pen­sion fea­tur­ing fric­tion op­ti­mised air struts and ad­di­tional sta­bil­i­sa­tion bars. Even on 22inch wheels with all-weather tyres, it tack­led some de­cent hill work on Snow King moun­tain.

The tagline for the car is “Ef­fort­less Ev­ery­where” and it cer­tainly is. The en­gine barely breaks a sweat and it cruises on and off road with ease. At times it felt un­real, rid­ing on a rock­strewn track be­ing led by the Spirit of Ec­stacy atop the grille.

It did feel lux­u­ri­ous though, which is not sur­pris­ing be­cause ev­ery­thing in­side is about that Rolls-Royce ex­pe­ri­ence. It is hand­crafted us­ing the best leather, the best wood and the best ma­te­ri­als. It’s op­u­lent, even ex­quis­ite in places.

The Cul­li­nan is not go­ing to beat a Range Rover on the real off-road stuff, it hasn’t been engi­neered to. It’s made to drive up and down sand dunes, to tra­verse shal­low rivers and to ex­plore for­est tracks, but mainly it has been engi­neered to do so in ul­ti­mate lux­ury.

De­liv­er­ies be­gin in Novem­ber 2018 and it is POA.

The ‘sui­cide’ rear doors open back­wards in quin­tes­sen­tial Rolls-Royce style. Left: The sump­tu­ous in­te­rior can be or­dered with racy red up­hol­stery.

NAT­U­RAL HABI­TAT: Un­mis­tak­ably Rolls-Royce in styling, but built to take on the bushveld.

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