Cullinan: Embodying the Spirit of Ecstasy?

With car manufacturers phasing out passenger cars in favour of bigger, more profitable SUVs, it only makes sense that even the highest of luxury brands are chasing this market. Porsche, Bentley, and Mercedes-Benz have already established their positions in the SUV world. And now the world’s pinnacle of luxury, Rolls-Royce, has an off-road-worthy “truck” to call its own. It’s named Cullinan, and its mission is to bring Rolls-Royce’s version of perfection — and perhaps a bit of opulence — to every corner of the globe.

Rolls-Royce knows its strengths, so the Cullinan doesn’t deviate much from the company’s current road cars. Its Spirit of Ecstasy, that iconic hood ornament, flies over the trademark Pantheon grille; bespoke umbrellas rest inside the door frames; and its available options are limited only by your imagination…and bank account.

Many of the Cullinan’s key mechanical bits are shared with other Rolls-Royce vehicles as well. It rides atop a modified version of the company’s “Architecture of Luxury” aluminum space frame, features a twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre V12 engine rated at 570 horsepower, and effortlessly glides through gears via an automatic ZF 8-speed transmission.

But the Cullinan is supposed to be a “truck,” so Rolls-Royce set upon outfitting this vehicle with the goods needed to do “truck-y” things. This SUV is the first-ever all-wheel drive vehicle from Rolls-Royce, and that all-wheel drive system is activated with the simple push of the singular “OFF ROAD” button. Once engaged, cameras, sensors, and a host of other smart technologies shift power to whichever wheels need it most, helping deliver maximum traction. This mode also causes the oversized air suspension to raise the Cullinan by 40 mm for extra ground clearance. But this is a Rolls, of course, so that suspension also does an incomprehensible amount of calculations per second to ensure that the Cullinan delivers the pillow-y soft ride one expects from the brand — even when the terrain is less than hospitable.

Rolls-Royce is so adamant about proving the Cullinan’s off-road-worthiness that it took a prototype vehicle across three continents and 12,000 miles, all to prove that its SUV can handle the tough stuff. But let’s be honest: the only dirt this thing will ever see is a bit of mud from the local polo field. People will buy into the Cullinan for the level of luxury it promises, and it comes as no surprise that this Rolls-Royce offers it in spades.

We can talk about the soft leather that fills the cabin, the beautiful wood trim, or even the polished wood and glass that make up the bulk of the SUV’s touch points. But instead we’ll talk about the place this SUV truly shines: the rear.

The base $375,000 (USD) Cullinan comes with the same standard two-row seating found in other SUVs. But opt for the individual rear seating configuration and things get way, way nice. Two recliners flank a centre console that serves as the SUV’s drinks cabinet. In addition to a refrigerator, this console also includes bespoke crystal champagne flutes, whiskey glasses, and a fine crystal whiskey decanter. Helping further insulate rear-seat passengers from the troubles of the outside world is a glass-enclosed partition that separates the passenger area from the rear cargo space.

But that’s not to say that Rolls-Royce skimped on the SUV’s cargo area — just the opposite, in fact. A single button press initiates a ballet of mechanical wizardry in the rear, transforming the Cullinan’s two-piece rear gate into what Rolls calls “The Viewing Suite.” Panels lift, slide, and twist out, revealing two leather seats and a cocktail table — perfect for those times when one just wants to do a bit of people watching on the streets of Monaco.

With its combination of capability and supreme luxury, we dare say that the Cullinan could be the best vehicle ever produced by Rolls-Royce. Not that our proclamations matter; Rolls-Royce is sure to sell as many as it can build. So just as the Cayenne gave Porsche a license to print money, expect the Cullinan to do the same for Rolls-Royce.


Justin Kaehler
Justin Kaehler is a Los Angeles-based writer, photographer, and auto enthusiast who has been sharing his passion for cars for over 15 years.