Rolls-Royce Cullinan review: the bar is raised for luxury SUVs
The V12 engine-powered new model starts at a hefty £272,000
From the outset, Rolls-Royce was unequivocal in its mission to make the ultimate go-anywhere luxury motor car - the Cullinan is, after all, named after the largest diamond ever discovered.
Admittedly, the new model’s looks can have a “Marmite” effect: the shiny pantheon grille with the Spirit of Ecstasy perched atop are unlikely to be features that potential buyers expect to see on a 4x4. But there is no denying that this exquisitely crafted car transports its occupants in sumptuous luxury, and having used the Cullinan as my everyday vehicle for a week, I have become fond of its looks too.
As one of the world’s most expensive SUVs - it starts at around £272,000 and the one that we tested costs £298,875 - it’s clearly not for everyone. Indeed, as well as the price tag, you’ll probably want to have your life pretty well in order. For instance, the rear-seat middle console has no less that two drinks cabinets, one refrigerated, which doesn’t lend itself to school runs or packing for a big family holiday (admittedly, the console is optional and you can have three standard seats instead that allow you to put the boot down - but you get my point).
However, if you do have the necessary funds, and want to be seated more comfortably than you ever have before, this new Roller could be just the ticket.
Sublime ride comfort
The Cullinan is powered by a whopping V12, 6.75-litre engine that produces 563 bhp. And with an exhaustive list of technical and design features, there’s sizable implications for weight and efficiency. This car is some 2.7 tonnes and will achieve 18.6mpg, yet will still propel you from zero to 60 in just 5.1 seconds.
The engine is extremely quiet, and application of power is very smooth thanks to the eight-speed gearbox, so driving it in everyday scenarios and on motorways is a breeze. The Cullinan won’t win awards for high-speed cornering, but ride comfort is sublime. There is an off-road button too, although we didn’t get the opportunity to test it.
Inside, the Selby Grey leather seat is unquestionably the most comfortable I have ever sat on in a car. All of the seats in the Cullinan are heated and cooled, with integrated massage function. The headrest actually works as a headrest too: you can cruise on the motorway with your head resting on it, which is rarely actually the case but makes drives much more relaxing.
Reports from my passengers indicate that the back seats equal the front seats for comfort, and they’re adjustable as per the front as well. The cabin is swathed in Open Pore Blackwood, with cool vintage-style chrome push-pull knobs for the air vents. Unlike many other more contemporary counterparts, the dash is laden with buttons and the info screen is on the smaller side, but this set-up is rescued by having Apple CarPlay, so you can access Google Maps and Spotify etc to keep you on track and amused.
The “coach” doors will, of course, close themselves by simply gesturing with a gentle tap on the handle, and you can close them from a button on the dash too.
Room for your chilled bottle of Dom…
The model we tested included the two drinks cabinets in the back, with whisky decanter and glasses, as well as a refrigerated cupboard with flutes for a bottle of vintage Dom Pérignon. And at the press of a button, picnic-style tables will lower and generously sized screens angle out from the back of the front seats, allowing passengers to watch live TV, as well as movies from USB and DVD player.
There is an enormous panoramic sunroof, and the floor carpets are supremely thick and soft, yet the car is still up to date in terms of tech, with heads-up display, four-camera system with panoramic and helicopter view, plus night-vision camera that picks out anything living as bright yellow on the screen - it was pretty good actually.
The Cullinan also includes features such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning, but there is no self-driving capability unlike in many other top-end SUVs, such as the Audi Q8 and the Volvo XC90, so this was a notable omission. On the other hand, Rolls-Royce has opted for USB-C charging points, which is ahead of the curve, but there are also cigarette lighter charging options too.
The boot is on the smaller side, at 560 litres, but there is a glass partition to shield the passengers from temperatures or noises when the boot is open. This is less practical if you’re prone to transporting oversized gear, and you can’t carry a pet in the boot. On the other hand, you’re unlikely to be using the Cullinan to move house, and the split-screen tailgate is split screen for hosting drinks at a point-to-point, for example.
At first, I wasn’t hugely drawn towards to the Cullinan’s looks. However, over the course of my time with it, my opinion drastically changed to the point of really quite liking this distinguished vehicle. The split tailgate is a really nice touch, the car is wonderfully quiet and easy to drive, and it is exceptionally comfortable to sit in. The finish is exquisite inside and out, and it looked great in the Adriatic blue colour we had it in too.
This could well be the most expensive, comfortable and eye-catching car I will ever drive. Each time I got behind the wheel, I couldn’t help but feel a little special. Indeed, the Cullinan has raised the bar for luxury SUVs - and if you have the wealth and are looking for the ultimate and most comfortable SUV, this is probably for you.