Rolls-Royce took the wraps off its first SUV in London today, revealing to the world a $325,000 machine it promises will be as robust off the road as it is regal on it.That’s a lot to ask, given the stout new Cullinan clocks in at over 5,800 pounds, 400 more than both Bentley’s Bentayga and the long-wheelbase Range Rover, its closest competitors.
It’s also longer and wider than those SUVs. Plus, it rides on 22-inch wheels with narrow sidewall tires that won’t do it any ride-quality favors off-road. And its exterior details, like a flashy chrome grill and dainty hood ornament scream Rodeo Drive more than they do Dakar Rally.
The world’s preeminent luxury carmaker hasn’t revealed the engineering tricks that will let the Cullinan float down trails, but it’s a safe bet that the key lies in the suspension. The Cullinan will use an adapted version of the computer-controlled self-levelling air shocks Rolls-Royce puts in its Wraith, Ghost, and Phantom road cars. The upgrade includes larger air struts with greater air volume to better manage impacts and the persistent jostling of the chassis on rough terrain. And the system will actively push down the wheels when it senses they have broken contact with the ground, helping maintain traction.
To keep its three tons of excess moving, a 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V12 engine will deliver 562 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque to whatever wheels need it. It can do that even at just 1,600 rpm, likely giving the Cullinan respectable low-speed finesse as it tackles rocks and other off-road challenges. Multiple modes will help drivers dial-in the specific terrain, though the car’s automatic settings will likely master most of what a typical Rolls owner might subject it to—maybe the beach, probably not the Rubicon.
The Rolls seems to match the Range Rover on ground clearance (the automaker has not provided the exact dimensions), but not its swimming ability. The Cullinan can handle 21-inch deep water. That’s certainly respectable, and beats the Bentayga by half an inch, but it’s nothing compared to the 35 inches the Rover can roll through. The Bentayga takes its revenge on top speed (187 mph, trouncing the Cullinan’s 155). And Rolls is unlikely to match the Bentley’s 0-60 mph time of 4 seconds.
On the other hand, the Rolls has—depending on your tastes, of course—a sharper and more sophisticated overall design, so no matter what you get up to, you’ll look quite a bit better doing it.
Just, for the sake of the proletariat, have it washed down when you’re done. The world really doesn’t need any mud-splattered Rolls-Royces proving that everything is better when you’re loaded.