The automotive equivalent to “glamping” – glamourous camping – the 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan allows the extravagance to continue even after the asphalt ends. For those who can’t tell the difference between Baby Duck and Dom Pérignon, the Cullinan is an exercise in unnecessary opulence, but it was nonetheless introduced to provide an element of utility for those with the utmost means.
How many people have had their day ruined because a Rolls-Royce wasn’t capable of off-roading? Solving a problem that may seemingly only exist for the one percent of humanity who need not burden themselves between the triviality of needs and wants, the Cullinan transcends mere luxury into the world of Ultra Luxury. Either way, the driving experience is unlike any vehicle you’ll encounter on the planet.
So, what exactly is a Cullinan? More like whom, or where. Thomas Cullinan was the chairman of the mine in Cullinan, South Africa, where the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found was unearthed in 1905. Weighing in at 3,106.75 carats, the diamond now resides in the British Crown Jewels collection.
Visually reminiscent of a London taxi cab, the massive greenhouse offers a panoramic view, that is, until you close the power-operated privacy curtains. No, these aren’t merely sunshades, these are actual curtains. Regardless of where you stand on the styling, or the rationale behind the Cullinan’s mere existence, the demand is far outweighing the supply. Automotive News recently announced that despite the expansion of production capabilities and an increased workforce, the British manufacturer can’t assemble them fast enough. Pricing starts at C$399,000 – though nobody purchases a “base” Cullinan. Each vehicle that leaves the Goodwood facility is so unique that the brand considers them to be one-offs. Indeed, with the customization options available it is unlikely that any two units that have been fabricated are remotely similar.
One doesn’t simply climb into a Rolls-Royce, one must nobly ingress. This occasion finds you immersing yourself into an environment of fine materials like buttery-smooth leather, open-pore royal teak, and bespoke lambswool floormats that could hide golf balls in their luxurious depths. Given the otherwise opulent interior, the front dual climate thermostat switches, gear lever, and turn signal stalk felt conspicuously out of place in their lack of quality. Presumably the person signing the cheque would be sitting in the back rather than the driver’s seat, and so would never know the difference.
Closing the Spirit of Ecstasy–embossed, power-assisted driver’s door brings a profound thud, the eerily quiet interior becoming as muted and peaceful as a sealed sarcophagus. It caused me to equalize my ears as if I were scuba diving. Chances are that you won’t be towing a boat or making runs to the local garbage dump in a Rolls, but a button brings life to a potent, yet whisper-quiet 6.7L twin-turbocharged V12 quite capable of doing so. 571 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque is channelled to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic Satellite-Aided Transmission (SAT). Introduced on the Wraith, GPS positioning determines roads and their current conditions in real-time. This data is then used to determine and anticipate the most suitable gear selection. You won’t feel it happening, which is entirely the point.
Seemingly effortless acceleration and the absence of sound create an eerie sensation of speed, as if you’re watching the world go by in virtual reality rather than experiencing it. Average fuel consumption is listed as 15 L/100 km but I can’t imagine that question ever coming up. Suspension is so indescribably smooth and supple that bumps and potholes are imperceptible, yet handling somehow feels precise and engaging thanks to independent air suspension, cornering brake control, and active rear-axle steering. Based on my limited time in the vehicle, its light off-road capability seems adequate without sacrificing any Rolls-Royce on-road civility.
Life is full of challenges. For some, the struggle may be to keep a roof over their heads or food on the table for their families, while for others, the fact that their current luxury vehicle doesn’t have enough ground clearance to make it to their private helipad makes for an inconvenience that seems almost inhumane. It need not be stated that those looking for a serious full-time off-roader should obviously look elsewhere, but that’s not to say the 2,660 kg (5,864 lb) Roller is only worthy of chauffeuring the offspring to Montessori. Higher ride height and ground clearance means you need not worry about scraping bumpers or scuffing paint should you occasionally encounter an unpaved road en route to your luxury lake house or private country escape.
Standard equipment includes the power-retracting Spirit of Ecstasy grille ornament, self-levelling wheel centres, front and rear park distance control, heated power front seats, panoramic glass sunroof, keyless access, power open/close luggage compartment, soft-close latches for all doors, laminated glass with climate control glazing, and full leather interior.
Options on my tester included active cruise control, Park Assistant, head-up display, a rear theatre configuration, a bespoke clock, monogrammed headrests, wheel-matched centre caps, picnic tables, contrast seat piping, illuminated treadplate, rear compartment side curtains, and Rolls-Royce bespoke audio system, bringing the as-tested price tag to just over $505,000 CDN.
Cited as “The most versatile, family-oriented, fun-to-drive super-luxury SUV available today,” I can’t see that there is much to consider in the form of cross-shopping. The less expensive and less powerful Bentley Bentayga is likely the only production option that comes close in capability, luxury, and price tag, but the Cullinan is truly in a class all its own. Why would you purchase a $500,000 SUV capable of traversing terrain reserved for off-road vehicles when 99 percent of owners will never stray off the tarmac? Because you can.