Bred Rolls : Rolls-Royce Cullinan Driven [review]

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Selective breeding lets the Rolls-Royce Cullinan shine bright like a diamond… even in the rough

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming - If you think in terms of ‘either/or’ and ‘black/white’, you’re unlikely to be the sort of clientele Rolls-Royce is targeting with the Cullinan. Such cars are additions to the garage ensemble – part of the 50 shades of grey – and never compromises.

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After all, there’s no reason why you can’t own a Dawn, Wraith, Phantom and Cullinan at the same time, in addition to the merry menagerie of exotics, assortment of grocery/school errand cars and collectible classic cars. It’s not about looking for that unicorn Swiss Army Knife of cars to fulfill all your needs, but instead, having an assortment of cars to suit your different needs...

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Such is the rarefied segment of owners the Cullinan operates in that there’s no concern about trifles like fuel consumption, emissions, ’Ring times and going sideways (although it did on gravel!) – much less the pseudo-sartorial sensibilities of folks who think they have a finger on the pulse of taste.

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Luxury has evolved beyond staid and stuffy limos, and I think the Cullinan is a natural extension to the Rolls-Royce portfolio, which already includes lux-limo, Grand Tourer, Convertible and flagship super-sized/super-lux über-limo, and that’s in addition to the ‘sportier’ Black Badge iterations.

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After all, true luxury is about freedom, and this includes not giving a rat’s bottom about what other people think – it's an attitude, almost a nonchalant one. Besides, if you’re in a position to drop a buck-and-a-half easy with options in Singapore (or the equivalent of £835k) on a car without blinking, you can probably ignore the white noise of tut-tutting head-shakers.

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So then, what you should concern yourself with is this: the Cullinan will waft you anywhere and everywhere in the familiar decadent opulence the brand is renowned for, hence the ‘Effortless, Everywhere’ tagline.

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This isn’t some badge-reengineered shortcut into the rarefied realm of luxury motoring either, and the Cullinan soars loftily above the likes of the Bentayga and Urus, but this is also reflected in its price. However, we have to confess that until we’d seen and touched it (im)properly in the flesh, we still nursed a nagging doubt it would turn out like the Bentley… except it didn’t.

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Named for the largest uncut diamond ever found in the ‘wild’ – if you’re wondering, that’s 3,106.75 carats uncut – the imposing Cullinan is the brand’s first ‘High Bodied Vehicle’, or SUV to everyone else, if only because Rolls-Royce is loathe to use the ‘S’ word. Like its customers though, a brand like Rolls-Royce doesn’t need to apologise, or even justify its actions to the taste committee, because it’s in an enviable position to have transcended mere car-building into the universe of dream-building.

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The brand’s customers know exactly what to expect with Rolls-Royce, regardless of the forms its cars ultimately take, and the Cullinan is no different – that’s one of the great things about selective breeding.

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What’s more, like the Dawn and Wraith, we reckon a proportion of these cars will be self-driven (as opposed to chauffeur-driven)… and for the Cullinan, in the ‘rough’ no less, which partly explains why we’re in the ‘roughs’ of Jackson Hole in Wyoming – we can experience the Cullinan in what could become its natural element.

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Like the Phantom II, the 2.6-tonne Cullinan is the second Rolls-Royce to be built on the brand’s ‘scalable’ all-aluminium ‘Architecture of Luxury’ chassis, and is powered by a twin-turbo’d 6.75-litre V12. However, such technical nitty-gritty, or trying to pick-out BMW bits as some are pedantic enough to do, is to miss the point of such a fantastic beast entirely, as you’ll miss the forest for the trees.

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In fact, there isn’t an array of complicated knobs and switches to work the off-road function as you venture into the wilderness, just one button… simply marked ‘Off-Road’, or the ‘Everywhere’ button, as it’s referred to internally.

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Regardless of whether it’s parked at the Amangani resort or out in the wilds, there’s a regal dignity to the Cullinan that sees it exude a majestic road presence.

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With Eleanor, the Spirit of Ecstasy, perched atop its prominent hand-polished stainless steel grille, the Cullinan stands out from the crowd and is far larger-than-life, even though it is far from the biggest vehicle in the environs around Jackson and the Grand Teton, which is teeming with rumbly, oversized Tonka trucks.

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The Cullinan is not a small car by any stretch of the imagination – the 3295mm wheelbase alone is already 175mm longer than the Range Rover Vogue Long Wheelbase. In full load-lugging mode, the Cullinan boasts a load length of 2245mm and will accommodate up to 1930-litres (the standard boot is 560-litres) with the rear seats folded flat and parcel-shelf removed, so it doesn’t just look the part of a utility vehicle, it is one.

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The plushly padded cabin is a fabulous space to be in once the suicide-style rear doors swing open (electronically, if you so choose). The car even drops on bended knee by 40mm to allow easy ingress/egress and thanks to the flat floor design, you step into the Cullinan, as opposed to unceremoniously clambering up into the car as you typically would for such activity vehicles.

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You won’t even have to worry about staining your clothes on the way in/out, because the doors close well over the lower sills so any dirt is left on the outer door shell and won’t transfer onto your clothes as you leave/enter.

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At first, you’ll feel slightly guilty for getting her dirty during a commute through the rough and tumble, but trust us, the Cullinan is more than up for it. Thankfully, the Cullinan never feels cumbersome to wield in tight confines, thanks to the active rear-steer system – at speeds of up to 90km/h, it’ll steer the rear wheels at up to 3º in the opposite direction to the front wheels to create a virtual short wheelbase effect.

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Despite the active and passive dynamic aids, everything is distilled to the most basic stop-and-go functions, because it is an instrument with which you explore and experience the world, not stomp it into submission.

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The ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ has been adapted for ‘off-road’ use and delivers surprisingly sublime comfort as you venture off-the-beaten-path and over all but the rockiest roads – on-road, it is beyond reproach, particularly as you waft about on the 850Nm of torque that is on-tap from just 1600rpm.

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(Starlight Headliner was specc'd on the Ghost that took us to the airport)

Naturally, you can spec the magical Starlight Headliner on the Cullinan, but we wouldn’t, because we’d much rather be enjoying the view of the natural constellations through the optional panoramic glass-roof… and with the Cullinan, you’ll even be able to clamber over rocks and ruts to get to the best vantage point.

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Shutting the doors envelopes the occupants in a hermetically-sealed cocoon, which allows for intimate discussions even on the move, and you’ll never have to raise your voice above a conversational level. As expected, the attention to detail and level of finishing are exquisite, with a goodly amount of electronica that never falls into the trap of over-the-top one-upmanship.

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Because Rolls-Royce is more about indulgence than embellished excess, there aren’t facetious gesture controls and the like that exist for the sake of being there. Instead, there are intuitive features that you actually will use, such as day/night vision wildlife/pedestrian warning and all-round/helicopter view for instance. The latter was particularly useful when we had to make multiple-point turns in the tighter corners while teetering over long drops off the edge during our drive down from Snow King Mountain!

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The front fascia is simply appointed, yet boasts elegantly ornate detailing if you scrutinise the minuatie, with a solid tactile feel to every touch-point that is closer to artisanal, as opposed to flat-packed furniture.

batch jl57668 1(Bench seating for three)

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(Two-seater with centre console; glass partition behind the seats isolates passenger cabin from storage hold)

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Two rear seating configurations are available: a bench for three, as well as a two-seater that comes with fixed glass partition in the back to separate cargo hold from passenger cabin – isolating the cabin keeps it at an optimum temperature in extremely cold/hot climates when the tailgate is open.

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The Cullinan’s distinctive ‘D-back’ silhouette is a whimsical throwback to the external trunks for touring purposes found on Rolls-Royce cars from the 1930s, but this also distinguishes the Cullinan from the rest of the crowd with its three-box form.

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(Viewing Suite module)

For the Cullinan, ‘Recreation Modules’ can be commissioned: these standalone storage ‘cassettes’ support the owners’ different recreational pursuits and can be slotted into a special cavity in the trunk when needed; each Recreation Module contains a motorised drawer that contains the equipment relating to specific activities, be it drone-flying, r/c car racing or simply a pair of seats from the ‘Viewing Suite’ module.

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Why do some find it so hard to conceive of a luxurious oversized off-roader in which to explore the off-roads of the Great Outdoors, or to trawl the huge expanse of your ranch deep in ‘Marlboro Man’ country? It is this newfound sense of adventure and joie de vivre that Rolls-Royce has injected into the Cullinan – very apt considering the brand breaks new ground with the car as it taps into a younger buying demographic.

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A diamond, one of the most valuable things on earth, is created under intense pressure, and the Cullinan definitely shines as bright as one… especially in the rough.

PHOTOS Rolls-Royce / David Khoo

ROLLS-ROYCE CULLINAN
Engine 6750cc, V12, twin-turbo
Power/rpm 563bhp/5000rpm
Torque/rpm 850Nm/1600rpm
Transmission 8spd auto
0-100km/h 5.2secs
Top Speed 250km/h

Fuel Consumption 15l/100km
CO2 341g/km
Price From S$1,268,888 w/o COE & options

David Khoo
Author: David Khoo
David is a big petrolhead who has been dabbling in the car trade since 2001 and currently oversees Top Gear Singapore. His stories often take an eclectic slant from the predictable, and he's able to craft a compelling read that lets you see the cars (often old!) in a new light.