When Rolls-Royce announced three years ago that it would launch the Cullinan, it did so because its customers around the world had asked it to build ‘the Rolls-Royce of SUVs’ – with luxury, performance and usability not seen before in the SUV market.
Many of these customers were younger, very successful individuals heavily engaged in the experience economy, and they wanted a Rolls-Royce that would take them ‘to the ends of the Earth in ultimate luxury’.
The Cullinan is a Rolls-Royce as never seen before. When Sir Henry Royce said “strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it”, he could have had Cullinan in mind.
These new, younger and more adventurous customers wanted a Rolls-Royce that would take them completely off the beaten track and reward them with ‘life’s most enriching experiences’. What they didn’t want was a vehicle with compromises such as increased cabin noise due to the ‘two-box’ formula; shared platforms that affect performance and comfort; the choice of being good either on-road or off-road; or a lower, more featureless SUV that blends in and becomes just another car.
Making luxury ‘Effortless, Everywhere’ (as this car’s slogan goes) engendered an evolution in Rolls-Royce’s approach to creating an authentic Rolls-Royce SUV.
For the first time a Rolls-Royce has an opening tailgate, called ‘The Clasp’. In a nod to the era when luggage was mounted on the exterior of the motor car, so the occupants did not travel with their belongings, the rear profile of Cullinan is a two-part, ‘D-Back’ format, with the bustle denoting the place of the luggage. ‘The Clasp’ opens and closes in its two sections automatically at the touch of the key fob button.
The rear passenger compartment has been designed to offer the best seat in the house for the owner’s particular needs. Two rear configurations are offered – Lounge Seats or Individual Seats.
The Lounge Seat configuration is the more functional of the two options. With space for three passengers in the rear, it will likely be more attractive to families. The rear seats also fold down – a first for Rolls-Royce.
To increase practicality, both seat backs can be folded completely, creating a flat load area or in a 2/3 and 1/3 split. Rear passengers can still travel with a long load or use the carpeted seat back as an occasional table on which to rest their personal items.
The Individual Seat configuration offers the ultimate luxury: the two individual rear seats are separated by a fixed rear centre console incorporating a drinks cabinet with Rolls-Royce whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes and refrigerator. The seats also move in a number of planes to offer ‘ultimate comfort’ while travelling in the rear.
Cullinan ‘awakes’ at the touch of the unlock button on the Bespoke key; it lowers itself by 40mm to make entry effortless. One touch on the sensor on the exterior door handles will see the doors automatically close.
Touch the start button and the car elevates to its standard ride height.
All information is clearly communicated by the latest generation of digital instruments: the central information screen is touch sensitive, allowing the driver to quickly select functions, map views and vehicle set-up. This portal can also be controlled from the controller on the central console with the ‘Off-Road’ button, Hill Descent Control button and Air Suspension height adjustment controls.
Other equipment includes Night Vision and Vision Assist including daytime and night-time Wildlife & Pedestrian warning; Alertness Assistant; a 4-Camera system with Panoramic View, all-round visibility and helicopter view; Active Cruise Control; Collision Warning; Cross-Traffic Warning, Lane Departure and Lane Change Warning; an industry leading 7×3 High-Resolution Heads-Up Display, WiFi hotspot, and the latest Navigation and Entertainment Systems.
The engineering team created a drivetrain that would bring Rolls-Royce’s famous ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ off-road.
“The drivetrain system we engineered for Cullinan had one key job to do,” explains Caroline Krismer, Engineering Project Leader for Cullinan. “To bring the famed Rolls-Royce ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ to all other terrains possible, while ensuring class-leading on-road behaviour in the SUV sector.”
This is achieved by self-levelling air suspension. Through a re-engineering of the existing air suspension system, the strengthening of drive and prop shafts, the inclusion of drive to the front wheels as well as the back and the complete reworking of the new 6.75 litre twin-turbo V12 Rolls-Royce engine to deliver the right level of torque (850Nm) at the lowest possible revolutions (1,600rpm), the engineering team ensured Cullinan “will take owners to places no modern Rolls-Royce owner has travelled in luxury before”.
The suspension varies the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system – reacting to body and wheel acceleration, steering inputs and camera information. A new double-wishbone front axle and 5-link rear axle deliver control over lateral roll and shear forces as well as agility and stability, as does the addition of four-wheel steering, all contributing to “incredible drivability and nimbleness”.
When driving off-road, the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system uses an air compression system to actively push down any wheel it detects losing traction to ensure every wheel is constantly in contact with the ground and maximum torque is being provided to all wheels.
Once engaged, the driver can finesse the off-road setting to glide over any situation, whether it be rough track, gravel, wet grass, mud, snow or sand delivering all 850Nm of torque to all four wheels without interruption.
Says Giles Taylor, Director of Design, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “The label SUV is now applied to anything with a two-box silhouette and the least suggestion of going off tarmac. We envisioned an authentic, three-box all-terrain high-bodied car with a convention-challenging design and absolute capability that would satisfy the adventurous urges of our clients.”
Inside, the cabin of Cullinan combines ‘Rolls-Royce luxury with simple, symmetrical functionality’.
The centre stack is framed by hand-finished metal pillars that bridge the upper fascia and middle console; the upper fascia is clad in a newly developed contemporary ‘Box Grain’ black leather.
Supporting this upper section is a strong band of wood that is moulded in three-dimensions to flow out to the centre stack, whilst the entire dashboard is protected by leather pads on top and at the bottom.
The 6.75 litre twin-turbo V12 Rolls-Royce engine delivers 563bhp/420kW and 850Nm/627lb ft of torque to the all-new all-wheel drive, all-wheel steer system ‘needed to overcome any challenge’.
Says Torsten Muller-Otvos, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, “The launch of a new Rolls-Royce model is always a seminal moment in the luxury industry. Today we are setting a new standard by creating a new class of motoring and motor car for customers who are well-connected, highly mobile and have a global perspective. They want a new type of motor car that gives them unbounded access in ultimate luxury. Their sense of adventure and daring demands a “go-anywhere in ultimate luxury” motor car that will both take them to and meet them at the pinnacle of life. Cullinan is that motor-car.”
Peter Schwarzenbauer, Chairman of Rolls-Royce and Member of the Board of the BMW Group, adds: “From the very beginning the design team treated this brand new Rolls-Royce as a unique, high bodied car. With global customer expectations in mind, our aim was two-fold – realise a presence to match the magnificent capability of Cullinan, whilst setting sector defining standards for luxury and elegance. We know that many of our luxury patrons pursue sports or leisure hobbies that require precisely this type of go anywhere vehicle – Cullinan’s design gesture had to possess an immediate sense of effortless accomplishment.”
“The label SUV is now applied to anything with a two-box silhouette and the least suggestion of going off tarmac. We envisioned an authentic, three-box high-bodied all-terrain car with a convention-challenging design and absolute capability that would satisfy the adventurous urges of our clients.”