Test drive: Codelia Mantsebo reviews the new Rolls-Royce Cullinan
Travel and lifestyle writer Codelia Mantsebo takes the brand new Rolls-Royce Cullinan off-roading.
Rolls-Royce’s new flagship SUV has joined the luxury 4×4 in-crowd, but let this be clear — the Rolls-Royce Cullinan won’t be stealing any sales from Land Rover and all the others, this car is a whole new tier of luxury vehicles. The Rolls-Royce of SUVs has arrived.
First, it was the Bentley Bentayga, then the Maserati Levante, and the Lamborghini Urus and now it’s the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. The luxury SUV is on the rise, and Rolls-Royce has certainly taken their time joining the high-end 4×4 market. But don’t mistake this car for a statement-maker for the moneyed or an impromptu monster-truck made out of the fear-of-missing-out — this car is a force to be reckoned with. It’s taken eight years to build this masterpiece, and it’s evident in the car’s design, performance, and versatility.
A lot of people — journalists and enthusiasts — are defining the Rolls-Royce Cullinan as far too big (some have gone as far as to compare it to The Simpsons’ Canyonero). In terms of size, the Cullinan does make a big impression, it’s 5.3m long, 2.1m wide, and 1.8m tall — there is no getting around its size. However, the car is aptly proportioned and not as large as one might think — lengthwise, it’s smaller than the Phantom, and it’s actually shorter than Range Rover’s SVAutobiography.
While you’ll have to climb up into the car (it lowers itself by 40mm to make stepping in and out a little easier), its size is only relative. The Cullinan hides its size well from behind the wheel, thanks to its expansive windscreen and large, sweeping windows offering incredible visibility all round. A top-class hi-res head-up display projects information such as speed and navigation onto the windscreen to keep your eye from distractions so you can enjoy the driving experience without straining your eyes, while a 10.25-inch HD screen is fitted in the dash.
Strategically placed cameras offer a 360-degree view around the car for assistance with manoeuvres, with functions such as helicopter view parking, and blindspot monitoring where you can virtually ‘walk around’ the car while it’s parked — you won’t really need to twist and turn your neck to manoeuvre a car this size. Also, a ‘flagbearer’ stereo camera system integrated into the windscreen reads the road ahead for bumps and potholes for the smoothest possible ride, and if (for some reason), the size of the car still intimidates you, the Spirit of Ecstasy in front makes a vital reference point for where the Cullinan ends.
Naturally, the elevated driving position makes you feel much more commanding on the road, but it’s when you start driving that you realise where this car excels — in its driving experience.
First impressions behind the wheel; it’s an incredibly silky-smooth drive. With its twin-turbo 6.75-litre V-12 engine, the car runs eerily quiet on the move. Unwanted road, tyre, and wind noise levels are exceptionally well suppressed, thanks to its specially engineered Continental tyres and laminated high-frequency absorbing windows. With more than 100kg of soundproofing around the body, the near silence of the Cullinan is unmatched.
No other car can pleasure your senses like a Cullinan. Whether behind the wheel or sat second row at the back, being in a Rolls-Royce Cullinan is a surreal experience. While on the move, the car has a somewhat supernatural sense of serenity — you could be blindfolded and still know it’s a Rolls-Royce just by feel. You will smell it. You will feel it. You will hear it. I tested it out and went for a ride with earplugs in — the feel of the car and the views from its panoramic windows made this an utterly remarkable experience. In my mind, this is what a modern-day ‘magic carpet’ ride would feel like.
Weighing in at 2660kg unladen, the Cullinan is deceptively fast, accelerating from zero to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds, while the top speed is limited to 155mph. Even at high speeds, the Cullinan appears to float over bumps, while the thick steering wheel remains consistently light and responsive.
With the Cullinan gliding over the road, you can get around complicated corners and sharp turns with ease, and in off-road mode, the Cullinan will actively push the wheels down for maximum traction on whatever surface. The hill descent control option offers maximum stability and advanced power distribution that you won’t even need to press the brake pedal. The car also comes with sensors to aid manoeuvring — features include night vision and vision assist including daytime and night-time animal and pedestrian warning.
The Cullinan is as luxurious off-road as it in on flawless tarmac. The four-wheel-drive system makes this car easy to drive on every landscape and safely manoeuvre in the tightest spots. The 4×4 is designed to climb mountains and wade rivers without too much difficulty. ‘Tested to destruction’ in some of the world’s toughest terrains, the Cullinan will take you to the ski slopes, tackle grass and gravel, skate over ice, snow, and mud, and manoeuvre on any other off-the-beaten-track just as well as it can take you to the supermarket or the school run, all while sitting in perfect comfort and providing an almost undisturbed experience.
The car’s size means there’s plenty of space inside. You can fit the Cullinan with either a traditional five-seat layout with power-folding rear seats (a Rolls-Royce first) or a four-seater version. The five-seat layout comes with three rear seats that can be folded down for more space (never mind the 560-litre boot), while the four-seater’s middle seat is replaced by a hand-crafted centre console containing a Champagne cooler, a drinks cabinet, champagne flutes, whisky glasses, and a decanter, along with reclining private-jet-style pavilion seats.
A glass partition separates the passenger compartment from the boot (also keeping it warm and quieting outside noise while the boot is open). The rear seats offer a higher seating position with grandstand views from the side windows. And of course, the fine leather heated (or cooled) seats include massage functions that can be controlled by the Spirit of Ecstasy digital dials or the pop-out iPad-style screens.
As per Rolls-Royce tradition, the back doors are rear-hinged, opening backwards, and can be quietly opened and closed by the touch of a button. An optional “Viewing Suite” is available, which by the touch of a button, two leather-clad chairs and a cocktail table emerge from the boot so you can enjoy breathtaking vistas, possibly a picnic, or a polo match, all from the rear of the car.
Talking about what standard equipment a Rolls-Royce has is almost pointless as almost everything is included; in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, Rolls-Royce bespoke audio (18 speakers for a 360-degree acoustic experience) and high-definition 12-inch touch screen monitors.
The Cullinan’s interiors are every bit of Rolls-Royce, finished in exquisite hand-stitched leather, mirror-finish wood, super-soft lambswool foot mats, and milled-aluminium accents. Like all Rolls-Royces, the list of bespoke options for the Cullinan is endless. The Rolls-Royce team at Goodwood will fit pretty much anything the owner desires, however unique.
Named after the largest, most precious diamond ever found, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is worthy of its name. Luxurious and arguably the most silent SUV in the world, the Cullinan has no rivals. Dynamic, graceful, and refined, the new 4×4 raises the bar in the high-end SUV sector; it’s truly the diamond-standard of SUVs.
The Cullinan starts at £250,000 but you will easily get over the £300,000 mark once you add customisation.
For more information visit rolls-roycemotorcars.com