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Rolls-Royce Cullinan Review: Towering Glitz

The Cullinan, perhaps like many things worth talking about, is a divisive subject, especially for those who have known the brand for many decades. It is the first SUV to come from Rolls-Royce, although the company is keen to point out that the celebrated British military figure, Lawrence of Arabia, brought armoured Rolls-Royces through rugged war-torn lands more than a century ago. Even if Rolls-Royce has a lineage of producing all-terrain vehicles, it is certainly an unusual sight to see the typical Rolls-Royce features being applied to an SUV shape. It is not unsuccessful, but it is also something that takes getting used to. 
OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
29 Sep 2019
The Cullinan is larger-than-life, affording a vantage point for passengers that is akin to sitting in a royal horse carriage.
What we like:
pros
Ride comfort
pros
Refined V12 engine
pros
Practicality in a Rolls-Royce
What we dislike:
cons
Conservative and divisive looks
cons
Lengthy options list

The Cullinan, perhaps like many things worth talking about, is a divisive subject, especially for those who have known the brand for many decades. It is the first SUV to come from Rolls-Royce, although the company is keen to point out that the celebrated British military figure, Lawrence of Arabia, brought armoured Rolls-Royces through rugged war-torn lands more than a century ago. Even if Rolls-Royce has a lineage of producing all-terrain vehicles, it is certainly an unusual sight to see the typical Rolls-Royce features being applied to an SUV shape. It is not unsuccessful, but it is also something that takes getting used to.

I do mean that in a good way. It is unlike anything else on the road, even when taking the Bentley Bentayga into account. The Cullinan is larger-than-life, affording a vantage point for passengers that is akin to sitting in a royal horse carriage. Look to the car idling next to Cullinan at the traffic light and you would be forgiven for mistaking a BMW 5 Series sitting low on the road as a slinky sports car.

However, it is not just its sheer presence that intrigues the viewer. One can clearly tell that Rolls-Royce has taken pains to ensure it is not just another SUV churned out in the millions these days. So while the exterior is somewhat conservative on most counts, it does have some unique features - take the protruding boot lid for instance, which harks back to the Rolls-Royces of old where luggage used to be strapped to the back of the car’s exterior. This contributes to the ‘three-box’ philosophy that, in theory, separates the passenger cell from the luggage cell - in four-seat versions by way of a partition wall. The result of this is a genuinely private space at the rear seats; it even has the curtained large C-pillar to shield prized occupants from prying eyes.

Lest you feel Rolls-Royce got too conventional, they also ensured that the coach doors were left intact. A party piece now is the ability to close the doors automatically from the outside with just a light tap on the handles.

Inside

Immediately your feet is cosseted by the soft lambswool floor mats, a comforting Rolls-Royce trademark. Although the interior may look familiar in some places from other Rolls-Royce models, it does feel differentiated enough. Coming as standard on dashboard surfaces is something that resembles Saffianoleather, not dissimilar to the material used to make expensive women’s handbags. It feels durable, tough and high quality. The open pore Blackwood trim is also bold and yet beautiful.

The seats are supremely comfortable and I wondered when was the last time my bum felt so pampered. They can come ventilated and with a massage function too, as did our test car. Wrapped in soft buttery leather, they’re delicately cushioned and simply delightful to be on.

The organ stop aircon vents are nice old-school touches, but there are definitely hints of modernity if you look close enough. The infotainment screen is now thoroughly modern and is touch sensitive as well, although oddly it doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a glaring omission. The instrument gauges are also semi-digital now, while the car comes with a full suite of driver assistance systems that are shared with the BMW Group.

The Drive

The Cullinan is the second car to be built on the new Rolls-Royce platform called the Architecture of Luxury, the first being the Phantom. Being my first time trying out this platform, I came away thoroughly impressed with it.

Quite convincingly, the new chassis supercedes the ride comfort of the previous Phantom and is easily on another level when compared to something like a Ghost. This is due to the fact that Rolls-Royce fitted larger air struts with more air volume to the Cullinan’s suspension. This is meant to cushion the harsh blows of going off-road, but it pays dividends on the road as well. The result is an utterly serene cruise, steamrolling humps with ease and erasing all road imperfections. If I were to pull out the cliche now, it is really a magic carpet ride.

Yes, body roll is evident, more so than any other modern Rolls-Royce, but one is not perturbed by it. The self-levelling function is effective enough in managing this, but it is also the four wheel steering, standard on all Cullinans, that give a new-found agility to the car. It will not carve canyons but it is certainly wieldy enough to be driven a little enthusiastically down a narrow country road.

Another highlight was the engine. Delivering 563bhp and more importantly 850Nm from 1,600rpm (100rpm less than Phantom), it makes one wonder why the world is doing away with petrol engines. Stupendously tractable and utterly silent, it is the perfect companion in the urban crawl or on the open highway. Being a similar engine to the one in the Phantom, it is also fantastically quiet and a step forward from the previous V12 it replaced.

You may be wondering how usable the Cullinan really is for day-to-day errands. We took the car to JEM for lunch, went into the underground car park and slotted ourselves in a lot. It was surprisingly easy and straightforward. With the 360-degree view cameras, parking was a cinch and the car stayed within its lot!

The Cullinan, Rolls-Royce says, really ought to be driven and is certainly no disappointment if the driver was asked to take a day off.

Our Thoughts

The Cullinan is essentially operating in a class of its own. So it only makes sense to talk about it in reference to other Rolls-Royces, and in that regard it compares very favourably. At press time, the list price of the Cullinan sits just above Ghost. Yet, it offers a whole new chassis and a reworked engine. The ride comfort and effortless is more Phantom than Ghost, and it offers even more practicality than both.

It is more approachable, less serious and yet gives the Rolls-Royce experience a thoroughly modern interpretation. For a burgeoning family, this might be the best choice for an everyday car, at least until the new Ghost arrives, scheduled to be revealed sometime next year.

Credits: Words: CW Wong - Pictures: CW Wong & Ethan Choo

Cars in this article
Rolls-Royce Cullinan 6.75 (A) 2019

Rolls-Royce Cullinan 6.75 (A) 2019

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