Is it possible to ignore a Rolls-Royce?
With their commanding presence and iconic design, these are pretty much yachts for the road. Driving a Rolls-Royce, even an SUV like the Cullinan, is an interesting experience — you shouldn’t expect anything less from a vehicle that starts at around $325,000. While some argue that making an SUV tarnishes the legacy of Rolls-Royce, it’s clear that the most renowned British luxury automaker enjoys having an additional vehicle to offer, especially one with more capability, ground-clearance, and space. Here are a few interesting things that stood out during our test drive of the 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
Huge is an understatement. The Cullinan is massive. For reference (not a comparison), its 210-inch length sits right between the regular wheelbase Cadillac Escalade and the extended wheelbase model. In fact, the Cullinan has the same wheelbase as an extended wheelbase Caddy. Keep in mind that the Cullinan can hold five people at its maximum, while the Escalade is a three-row vehicle. The Cullinan is also plenty wide, and 79 inches tall, which is too tall for some parking garages. To take photos of the engine bay, I had to resort to getting on my tippy-toes!
Fortunately, there is some air suspension trickery offered to raise or lower the car for easier entry and exit, I suppose getting into parking garages counts too.
Nautical Interior with Wood Trim
While wood-paneled wagons, vans, and trucks have long been exiled to the memories of automotive enthusiasts, the material still finds its way into the cabin of many vehicles in an attempt to make them seem upscale and fancy.
See Also: Bentley Bentayga V8 Review
Some automakers use open-pore wood, others gloss it over, some just use wood-looking plastic. I’ll go out on a limb and say that all wood looks fake in comparison to the stunning wood accents found in the Cullinan. The trim is presented center stage on the dashboard of the Cullinan, accenting the vents and clock, which look gorgeous, like jewelry when seen all in unison.
The Softest Leather Ever
Kudos must go to the leather as well. You’ll find clever use of leather accents throughout the interior, but the backrest of the seat has been crafted from a single piece of leather, which looks fantastic. The leather feels luxurious and has an amazing texture. It’s said that Rolls-Royce uses leather from bulls rather than cows so there are no stretch marks in the grain.
I’ll admit, however, that the front seats aren’t very plush or soft, but are at least supportive, suggesting that they’d be good for a long drive.
The Cullinan, of course, has heated seats, but it ups the ante with heated front door armrests, console lid, rear side armrests, rear center armrest, as well as the lower portion of the C-Pillar. Is the Cullinan the perfect luxury SUV for the cold winters?
It’s Ultra Quiet
Fire up the car and you’ll hardly hear or feel the big 6.75-liter V12 engine. Once you get going, road noise and wind noise are also eerily missing. The Cullinan has fantastic noise isolation, thanks to a sedan-like design that separates the passenger compartment from the cargo area. Most SUVs and hatchbacks leave this space open, which impacts the way sound and noise travels through the cabin, but the Cullinan separates the two areas with a divider that absorbs the noise and keeps the cabin quiet. Open and close the doors, and you’ll hear such a dramatic difference. It’s freakily quiet, even when you pick up speed, you’ll barely hear it.
The Engine is Glorious
That 6.75-liter V12 engine is something else. This twin-charged engine somehow gets the 6,000-lb (!!) Cullinan to highway speeds in five seconds. Rationally speaking, that seems impossible. How can something so big and heavy get going so quickly without a rocket attached to it? Well, that motor is making over 560 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. The torque peaks almost immediately, at 1,600 rpm so the vehicle always feels like it’s about to take off.
The sensation of being pinned back in your seat isn’t the same as other big, powerful engines. There’s a very specific way the Cullinan builds speed and wooshes away. Look at the speedometer and suddenly you’re at or above the speed limit. It’s a complete contrast from the visceral, immersive experiences that other high-horsepower cars have. You feel nothing and there is no sensation of speed.
That motor is paired to an eight-speed automatic and an all-wheel-drive system, the latter being a first for Rolls-Royce.
It Doesn’t Dance, but Has Smooth Moves
It probably makes sense that a vehicle that weighs 6,000 lbs and is the size of a house isn’t the most agile, but it’s still surprisingly boat-like on the road, with delayed transitions that can catch you off guard. On the other hand, the way it isolates and mitigates any road feel is pretty amazing. A big car like this can crash harshly on rougher roads, but the Cullinan feels like it’s barely touching the road, but floating over it instead.
This is thanks to the air suspension system that delivers what Rolls-Royce calls a Magic Carpet Ride. To accommodate the extra size and weight of the Cullinan, the suspension system has been radically redone for this model, with larger air struts with more air volume. This is designed to help the Cullinan also perform off-road if needed.
It Has Weird Doors and Hatch
The Cullinan, like the other Rolls-Royce vehicles, features some peculiar doors, specifically the rear coach (or suicide-style) doors that swing outwards from a rear hinge. Furthermore, the doors are all powered, so closing the door is done with the touch of a button inside the car or via a sensor on the outer door handle. That’s helpful since reaching for the door handle from your comfy Rolls-Royce seats isn’t easy.
The hatchback of the vehicle is also quite odd, featuring a split tailgate. The tailgate is split into two pieces horizontally, which isn’t the most practical format. It can make reaching into the cargo area a bit of a stretch too. From the cargo space, there are several buttons to help fold or raise the rear seats, if you need additional space. The rear headrests even position themselves smartly to prevent leaving an imprint on the leather.
Is the Cullinan the most family-friendly Rolls-Royce out there? I don’t trust kids with keeping the interior of a $325,000 luxury SUV clean. But there’s space galore and the rear-hinged rear doors should make installing child seats easier. The Cullinan even lowers to let kids into the vehicle.
With its impressive air suspension, big torquey engine and all-wheel drive, the Cullinan could fare decently in some off-road conditions including sand, mud, snow, and gravel. There’s even an off-road setting to help prepare the car for those situations. Rolls-Royce also boasts that the car has 540-mm of wading depth. I’d definitely be worried about causing the slightest imperfection on the expensive car’s exterior, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.