Home / Today Tech / 2019 Rolls Royce Cullinan first drive review: Elevating the SUV experience

2019 Rolls Royce Cullinan first drive review: Elevating the SUV experience

I’ve simply completed driving a Rolls Royce up a mountain, traversing damaged, rutted trails the whole manner. Even as I kind that sentence now, with the reminiscence recent in my thoughts, it looks as if a really unusual factor to say. At 1,500 ft vertical, Wyoming’s Snow King is not precisely K2, however it’s dwelling to the steepest ski run in the continental US — however that is a bit educational. Your common Rolls-Royce would have been left stymied by the bunny slope. Thankfully, Cullinan is not your common Rolls-Royce.

Rolls-Royce is a type of few manufacturers that has grow to be so iconic over the previous century and alter, that to say an merchandise is “the Rolls-Royce of…” is to say it’s the greatest in its class. So, then, is the $325,000 Cullinan really the Rolls-Royce of SUVs? After a day spent on- and off-road on this 6,000-pound brute of a Roller, it is definitely trying like a contender.

Tall Phantom?

Few manufacturers would have the confidence to present one thing as pedestrian as a car chassis a reputation like “The Architecture of Luxury,” however then that is Rolls-Royce and being evocative is what it is all about. Indeed, that what the firm calls the basis of its newest sedan, final 12 months’s Phantom VIII, and it is those self same underpinnings that sit between the Cullinan’s upright physique and the floor.

And you may simply see that household lineage. From a styling standpoint, Cullinan appears very very like a vertically elongated Phantom — not less than in passing. Look nearer, although, and you may see the new creases, traces and cues connecting that imposing and now even taller entrance visage to the distinctive and wholly new rear finish.

Indeed, it is the form of the hatch at the again that is most controversial from a styling standpoint, slotting in someplace between the pseudo-coupe development we’re seeing from many latest, luxury-minded SUVs and the full-fledged, sq. rear finish that adorns your common big-box utility machine. Taken as an entire, the Cullinan suits very effectively into the present Rolls-Royce aesthetic, however maybe lacks the innate great thing about a few of the firm’s finer machines.

That’s irrespective of to me, as a considerably utilitarian visage on a Sport Utility Vehicle is not a turn-off. Certainly, it is secure to say that is the most sensible Rolls-Royce ever. The cargo area of 21 cubic ft behind the rear seats is probably a bit restricted given the dimension of the factor, however you may configure the automobile with a folding, bench rear seat should you like. Once folded, most capability is 68 cubic ft.

Those are power-folding seats, after all, with buttons hidden in the suicide rear doorways and on the sides of the rear cargo compartment. Those seats do not flop down or groan noisily again into place. They slowly, gracefully pivot and tuck themselves away, and there is even an built-in ramp in the rear cargo bay that rises into place, overlaying the ugly hole between the flooring and the again of the rear seats.

The extra snug, if much less sensible, possibility might be the conventional configuration of separate, adjustable seats in the rear, that are spacious and plush and heated and cooled and so very, very snug that I am beginning to get drowsy simply fascinated about them. Wooden picnic cabinets built-in into the entrance seat-backs lengthen at the push of a button, revealing touchscreens to entry the infotainment system, together with full management of media, navigation and local weather.

The rear seats, then, are simply nearly as good as you’d count on on a Phantom however, as CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös advised me, 80 % of Rolls-Royce homeowners drive themselves, and certainly Cullinan is meant to be a machine for driving, not simply being pushed in.


Mind the gravel chips, Jeeves. 


On the path

That run up Snow King occurred simply 10 minutes after climbing behind the wheel of Cullinan for the first time. I would barely had time to get my mirrors adjusted earlier than I used to be scampering over rocks, that crystal Spirit of Ecstasy emblem on the nostril pointing towards the sky. Thankfully, Cullinan makes off-roading fairly simple.

Many premium SUVs current the driver with dozens of various traction modes, and certainly many SUV homeowners relish in the choice of simply the proper one. Cullinan has a single mode, accessed by a single button that claims “Off-Road.” Evocative? Not fairly, however the mission for all Rolls-Royce automobiles is to be easy, and certainly that is echoed right here. Press that single button and the automobile girds its loins, air suspension lifting about an inch and a half, and the traction-control system changing into extra aggressive. And then you definitely simply drive.

The automobile lacks any fancy locking differentials and does not provide something so crude as a selectable low-range switch case. But, with 627 pound-feet of torque obtainable at simply 1,600 rpm, it is fairly glad to claw its manner up very steep inclines at very low speeds, even on the bespoke, 22-inch, road-oriented Continental ContiSportContact 5 tires. The trails we climbed had been principally gravel, typically dry and, to be sincere, would not hassle most light-duty SUVs. However, few if every other automobiles may make the summit whereas providing that sort of consolation.

Cullinan coasted over the rocky trails and ruts with the sort of composure that some automobiles battle to take care of on clean asphalt. Yes, I may inform after I’d crested a very massive rock, however by no means as soon as did the automobile really feel challenged, and by no means as soon as did I really feel pressured — although my blood stress might have spiked a bit when the 360-degree cameras revealed we had been inches away from a sheer cliff.

The hill descent management made the journey again down simply as simple, the greatest menace being an area hiker who did not take too kindly to a sharing the path with a dozen or so luxurious machines.


Out right here, on the asphalt, the Cullinan is each bit a Rolls-Royce. 


Flagbearer on the street

Back on asphalt, it was time to actually see how the Cullinan carried out in what can be its typical playground, and from right here the huge SUV continued its easy efficiency. Most of the roads we crossed in the Jackson Hole, Wyoming space had been in excellent form, however neither stray potholes nor cattle guards may fluster the trip high quality. Rolls-Royce calls it Magic Carpet, and that is not hyperbole.

Part of that consolation is thanks to a different evocative little bit of branding, the so-called Flagbearer system that depends on stereoscopic cameras to learn the character of the street’s floor, adjusting the lively suspension each few milliseconds. Cullinan additionally borrows parent-company BMW‘s trick of utilizing GPS information to assist guarantee the trip is all the time prepared for the street forward.

But that is not to say you’re utterly remoted or, certainly, bored when sitting behind the wheel. The steering is gradual and light-weight, however there may be some really feel right here, and the brakes are progressive and strong. Drew Stearne from our UK workforce has spent a greater than his fair proportion of time rolling in varied Rollers, and he too was impressed by the automobile’s sense of engagement.

Most participating, nonetheless, is that motor. With 563 horses on faucet, step laborious on the accelerator and the Cullinan launches ahead in a manner that can put an enormous smile in your face. The eight-speed computerized, in the meantime, is totally invisible in its operation, providing the sort of smoothness and consistency most CVTs dream of.

Meanwhile, most EVs can be jealous of simply how serene the Cullinan is. It took a whopping 100 kilograms (220 kilos) of sound deadening materials to make it so. Worth it.


80 % of Rolls-Royce homeowners will sit right here, as an alternative of the rear seat. 



I may in all probability spend three,000 phrases simply describing the really feel of the switchgear in the Cullinan, how the vent-pulls transfer with exceptional heft and even the buttons really feel substantial, however I will not. Suffice to say, each floor is impeccably refined.

This refinement extends into lots of the automobile’s extra difficult programs. The adaptive cruise management, for instance, does not dazzle you with limitless data and warnings on the automobile’s digital gauges. Instead you get a easy carat on the speedometer indicating your present pace, with a bit purple or inexperienced line that paints the distance between your present velocity and what’s been deemed authorized in your present locale.

Dedicated buttons make it simple to alter the comply with distance, and do you have to stray out of your lane, the steering wheel subtly buzzes to warn you. There’s no annoying chime or harsh vibration, just a bit shake that appears to say “Pardon, but you may wish to apply a bit of steering angle.”

The solely place this breaks down considerably is inside the depths of the BMW iDrive-based infotainment system. On the floor it is clear and simple to make use of, nevertheless it’s nonetheless fairly simple to get misplaced in a sea of submenus right here. Thankfully, contact is now supported, so exiting out of mire is a bit bit simpler. 


Not your common kind of tailgating.

Rolls Royce

Heaters on the seats, entrance and rear in addition to lots of the surrounding surfaces, will toast your personal surfaces very quickly. They got here in fairly useful on our blustery take a look at day. And climbing into these seats is surprisingly simple. Though tall, the Cullinan does not sit as excessive on the street as you may assume. Narrow sills imply much less of a stretch to climb in, so you will not get no matter filth you had been simply driving via on the hem of these fabulous new designer denims you will in all probability by no means put on once more anyway.

And, should you actually need to decorate, Rolls-Royce will provide a collection of so-called “Recreational Modules” to fit into the rear hatch. The easiest one has a pair of seats that fold out for tailgating at the polo grounds, or a bit low-impact quail searching. Rolls plans to supply a collection of those modules to go well with an proprietor’s each need, even one for drone racing. You know, simply in case you wanted one more reason to need to strive drone racing.

2019 Rolls Royce Cullinan

Worthy of the Spirit.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow


The Cullinan begins at $325,000 in the US, however once you’re shopping for a machine like this the sky is really the restrict — except you truly are into drone racing, at which level you will should outline some new set of superior limits for your self. That’s an terrible lot of cash no matter your hobbies and professions, however on this section the idea of “value” is tough to outline, so Cullinan should be judged by itself deserves.

And these deserves are sturdy. Cullinan delivers all the similar poise and composure you count on from Rolls-Royce, now with rather more usability and, dare I say it, practicality. This may fairly be the one automobile that might take you mudding in the afternoon after which to the Met Gala that very same night — simply ensure you swing via a automobile wash alongside the manner.

Editors’ observe: Roadshow accepts multiday car loans from producers to be able to present scored editorial opinions. All scored car opinions are accomplished on our turf and on our phrases. However, for this characteristic, the producer coated journey prices. This is frequent in the auto trade, as it is extra economical to ship journalists to automobiles than to ship automobiles to journalists.

The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s editorial workforce are our personal and we don’t settle for paid editorial content material.

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