Following three years of teasers, speculation, and spy shots, Rolls Royce has at long last unveiled its first ever SUV, the 2019 Rolls Royce Cullinan which aims to bring Bentayga fighting power, luxury, and opulence to the growing elite luxury SUV segment.
Taking its name after the largest single diamond ever discovered on the planet, the Cullinan is a symbol of the future for Rolls Royce, which was once known for being exclusively a manufacturer of traditional automobiles. Even Rolls Royce officials realized that there was a sizable profit to be made in SUVs, and have adjusted accordingly by bringing the Cullinan to production. Just don’t call it an SUV in front of Rolls Royce officials, who still insist that their crowning achievement is “an all-terrain high bodied car”versus a mere SUV.
The exterior styling of the Cullinan is in short, what would’ve happened if the Phantom sedan was given a set of velvet lined stilts to stand on, but that’s not a bad thing. The front fascia is where the Phantom DNA is most apparent, and it looks strikingly elegant, especially when viewed from head on. The side profile is a bit blander, but it does transition to the rear end which is arguably the one glaring flaw with the Cullinan’s suit of clothes. Here, the motif is also very Phantom like, but the taillights look somewhat tacked on, and don’t flow nearly the same way the Phantom’s do.
The rear fascia however, does feature an expansive rear hatch. Fittingly in Rolls speak, it is known as “The Clasp” and is a nod to the bygone era when luggage was strapped to the outside of the car versus taking up valuable passenger space in the cabin. It is operated automatically via the key fob, and reveals a 19.77 cubic foot cargo area which can expand to 68.25 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. This is enough room to swallow a wide range of cargo, with Rolls pointing out that it has enough volume “For a Mark Rothko painting from the art gallery, or a newly discovered artifact from the latest archaeological dig.”
Granted, not many Cullinans will find their way to archaeological digs, but the few lucky archaeologists or other wealthy customers fortunate to have the budget to add one to their garage will be rewarded with a world class interior that is packed to the gills with luxury features. Acres of wood, leather and metal trim are scattered throughout, and it still offers many of the traditional touches that buyers have come to expect from a proper Rolls Royce offering. This is especially apparent when you slip into the rear seats. Rolls Royce will be offering two different seating arraignments for Cullinan owners to choose from. The first is the Lounge Seat layout which is unarguably the more functional of the two, and can hold three passengers in a traditional bench layout, which can be electrically folded to suit a wide range of needs.
The more elaborate and most luxurious alternative is the Individual Seat layout. Here, the third friend gets to stay home, and is replaced with a massive rear console that is equipped with Rolls Royce branded whiskey glasses, decanter, champagne flutes, and a large refrigerator. The chairs themselves are divided by this console, and offer passengers individual adjustments. The drivers seat is just as special, and in addition to digital instrumentation, the Cullinan is also the first Rolls Royce offering to receive a touch sensitive infotainment system, with a Spirit of Ecstasy branded controller available for easier navigation through its various menus.
Rolls Royce’s SUV is built on the so called “Architecture of Luxury” platform which also underpins the current generation Phantom sedan. The all aluminium platform sheds weight, and uses components that are reconfigured into a spaceframe layout which enhances stiffness and the overall handling manners of the Cullinan. Rolls Royce engineers also wanted to ensure that the company’s “Magic Carpet Ride” trait would be felt in all kinds of terrain. To achieve this, they heavily tweaked the existing air suspension and added larger air struts to help cushion blows from rocks and obstacles, as well as a revamped front suspension. 22-inch wheels are standard issue on the Cullinan, and they look quite impressive, especially when paired with certain exterior colors.
Under the hood is Rolls Royce’s familiar 6.75 liter biturbo V12 engine which makes 563 horsepower and has been heavily tweaked for Cullinan duty. Some of these revisions were designed to deliver “just the right level of torque” which in this case is a whopping 623 lb-ft of torque. This is an improvement from a bygone era when Rolls Royce did not use formal horsepower figures, and instead said it was “sufficient.” Transmission tech is unknown, but look for it to have the same satellite assisted eight speed automatic that also sees duty in the Phantom. Rolls also did not reveal a 0 to 60 figure, but did subtly slip that this 5,848 lb behemoth has a top speed of 155 mph, which is very impressive.
Rolls Royce is confident that buyers will push their Cullinans beyond the challenging turns of the mall parking lot claiming that “Anything should be possible.” This includes activities such as fly fishing, photography, rock climbing, snowboarding, rock climbing, parascending, kite boarding, base jumping, and even volcano boarding (don’t try that last one at home kids.)
“History set our precedent, and today Rolls-Royce answers its call to action,” Torsten Muller-Otvos, Rolls’ CEO. “Our answer to the visionaries, adventurers, explorers and those who believe in the supremacy of liberty is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.”
Pricing for the 2019 Rolls Royce Cullinan starts at a lofty $325,000 which is higher than its key rival the Bentley Bentayga, as well as other rivals like the Range Rover. Look for options to easily push that figure past $400,000 with the $500,000 barrier potentially with in reach when fully loaded. In the meantime, Rolls Royce has released two snazzy videos highlighting the Cullinan in full detail which can be seen below.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.