Rolls-Royce may have been late to the sports utility vehicle (SUV) party by launching the Cullinan only in 2018, but doing so has its advantages. Letting its closest competitors enter the market first has helped Rolls-Royce avoid the same pitfalls and allowed it to plan around them. The result is a high-bodied all-terrain vehicle—as the marque prefers to call it—that is ultra luxurious but highly functional.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan was named after the world’s largest gem-quality rough diamond (3,106 carats), and the stones cut from it are today in the possession of Queen Elizabeth II of England. However, its name is a radical departure for Rolls-Royce, which had traditionally been using names with a spectral theme—think Phantom, Ghost and Wraith.
In many ways, the SUV is a perfect fit for Rolls-Royce. The generally boxy, upright appearance and oversized dimensions of an SUV match the general styling of the marque’s fleet perfectly. And while the purpose of this genre of car may have began as a mud-slinging, spartan 4 x 4, the SUV has since evolved into quite the opposite, with some of the latest models in the market looking very distinguished and posh indeed.
Styling-wise, the Cullinan shares the same new, all-aluminium platform as the Phantom, but its frame sits higher and is shorter than that of Rolls-Royce’s flagship model. The SUV also sticks to the signature “suicide” doors that are used for its siblings as well, thus differentiating it from the burgeoning horde of luxury SUVs. But while it features an elegant design that is instantly recognisable, the Cullinan might well be the sportiest looking Rolls-Royce in decades.
In addition to the levels of refinement and comfort that Rolls-Royce owners expect, the Cullinan has some serious off-road capabilities. The car is equipped with four-wheel drive and a high-riding chassis, which gives it a high ride height and a wading depth of 540mm to allow it to progress through some pretty demanding terrain. But it stands to reason that the more expensive the SUV, the less likely an owner is going to ever attempt a river crossing in it. Nonetheless, the Cullinan features the latest in air suspension technology, which provides active, variable ground clearance that also maintains the classic “magic carpet ride” experience that Rolls-Royce is famous for.
For my driving experience with the Cullinan, Rolls-Royce had courageously plotted a lengthy off-road drive that would showcase the car’s cosseting ride, even on the rough trails of the Grand Teton National Park in the US state of Wyoming.