Going off the beaten track in real luxury
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.