When Rolls-Royce announced in 2015 that it would launch Cullinan, it did so in the knowledge that 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 high-net-worth individuals who are heavily engaged in the experience economy, and wanted a Rolls-Royce that would take them to the ends of the Earth in ultimate luxury.
Automotive mobility has always been a fast moving and dynamic business, with new concepts – such as SUVs – appearing with great regularity. But those new concepts need to be perfected in order to be adopted by those customers who will accept no compromise – the patrons of true luxury. Hence the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
“History set our precedent, and today Rolls-Royce answers its call to action,” comments Müller-Ötvös. “Our answer to the visionaries, adventurers, explorers and those who believe in the supremacy of liberty is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.”
What is Cullinan?
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is Rolls-Royce as it’s 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.
“We knew we had to offer our clients what they couldn’t find in the SUV market,” continues Müller-Ötvös. “They do not accept limitations or compromises in their lives. They are the new pioneers, and for them it’s about their sense of adventure and daring in how they live their experiences. This approach to life demands a motor car that can go-anywhere in ultimate luxury and style – Rolls-Royce style. Hence Cullinan.”
It was clear that 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 as ubiquitous as an SUV 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.
“Cullinan is luxury in its purest form blended with perfect practicality and off-road capability,” comments Müller-Ötvös. “Effortless, Everywhere is not just the promise behind Cullinan. It’s the fact.”
Making luxury Effortless, Everywhere engendered an evolution in Rolls-Royce’s approach to creating an authentic Rolls-Royce SUV. The most obvious sign of this was the radical rear of Cullinan.
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 of Rolls-Royce Cullinan 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.
The seats fold electronically in a number of configurations by pressing the appropriate button in the boot or rear door pocket. One press sees each backrest effortlessly fold down, whist at the same time moving the headrests upwards to avoid making an imprint on the seat cushion. Both seat backs can be folded completely, creating a flat load area or in a 2/3 and 1/3 split, increasing practicality even further. Rear passengers can still travel with a long load, or use the carpeted seat back as an occasional table on which to rest their precious personal items.
For those who intend to transport large items back from their adventures, the rear of Cullinan offers a large amount of space in different arrangements.
The rear compartment or boot area offers a standard 560 litres of space, growing to 600 with the parcel shelf removed. Furthermore, the base of the rear seats sits higher than the boot floor, so even with both rear seats folded, the items in the boot cannot slip forward and are safely contained, unlike in any other SUV. But for those wishing to carry a long item back from their trip – whether it be a Mark Rothko from the Art Gallery or a newly discovered artefact from the latest archaeological dig – a loading length of 2245mm and load capacity of 1930 litres is accessed by electronically raising the boot floor to meet the seat base, allowing the item to slide through effortlessly.
Rolls-Royce’s investment in making the rear of Cullinan effortlessly and ultimately practical has the side benefit of offering a loading length longer than a Range Rover Vogue Extended Wheelbase. A very practical Rolls-Royce indeed.
Knowing that the Rolls-Royce customer expects to bespoke his or her Cullinan, a second rear configuration is offered.
The Individual Seat configuration is for those who value the ultimate luxury an SUV can offer over practicality. 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 whilst travelling in the rear.
One final feature brings Rolls-Royce’s ultimate level of luxury to this configuration of Cullinan, creating the first truly “three-box” SUV. Inspired by the age when one never travelled with one’s luggage, a glass partition isolates the passenger cabin from the luggage compartment, creating an inner ecosystem for the occupants. In addition to enhanced and class-leading silence within the cabin, a further benefit becomes clear in the hottest and coldest of environments. Thanks to the sealed cabin created by the glass partition wall, the occupants can remain in the optimum temperature even when the luggage compartment stands open.
Rolls-Royce Cullinan awakes at the touch of the unlock button on the Bespoke key, or indeed by simply reaching out to its beautifully tactile stainless steel door handle. It lowers itself by 40mm to make entry effortless as the iconic Rolls-Royce coach doors stand open to welcome driver and passengers to their adventure.
Having stepped directly into the cabin, thanks to the wide aperture of the doors and completely flat floor, driver and passengers press the door closing button to seal themselves within the sanctuary of Cullinan’s cabin. Or one touch of the sensor on the exterior door handles will see the doors automatically close themselves from outside.
A touch of the start button then elevates Cullinan 40mm to its standard, commanding ride height, placing its occupants in the perfect position from which to see the world as it drives off.
The driver instantly recognises Rolls-Royce Cullinan as a driver’s car thanks to its thicker, smaller steering wheel. It’s heated, pliant rim hints at epic voyages which Cullinan is all too eager to begin, whilst heated and ventilated seats mean passengers will be perfectly acclimatised. From their commanding position at the helm of Cullinan, all equipment and technology is clearly seen and reached by the driver.
All information is clearly communicated by the latest generation of digital instruments, with the displays themselves designed with clear and beautiful virtual needles, Rolls-Royce jewellery-like chaplets and clear lettering.
The central information screen is for the first time touch sensitive, allowing the driver to quickly select functions, map views and vehicle set-up whilst on the trail. This portal can still be controlled from the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy controller which nestles on the central console with the ‘Off-Road’ button, Hill Descent Control button and Air Suspension height adjustment controls.
A host of other cutting-edge technology makes Rolls-Royce Cullinan the most technologically advanced car of its type in the world. Further 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 Head-Up Display, WiFi hotspot, and of course the latest Navigation and Entertainment Systems.
For those not behind the wheel, the world’s most spectacular scenery is to be seen from a privileged position. Those in the rear sit higher than those in the front of the car on Rolls-Royce’s Pavilion Seating, enjoying grandstand views of their surroundings thanks to the large glazed area of Cullinan’s side windows and industry-leading panoramic glass roof. And if they wish to locate themselves or their latest far-flung discovery, they can zero in on their location on the rear touchscreen map.
Also, no photographic opportunity will be missed as all electronic devices can be charged via the five USB ports around the cabin, whilst phones can be wirelessly charged in the front of the cabin.
Arriving at their remote destination, the occupants can descend without dirtying their trouser legs as both front and rear coach doors wrap low under the sill of Cullinan, ensuring that all dirt remains on the outside of the door. A feature only Rolls-Royce would have considered.
Authentic Rolls-Royce engineering – everywhere
“The proposition of this car is an engineering masterpiece, its off-road capability, whilst maintaining the world-famous ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ of Rolls-Royce,” comments Müller-Ötvös. “When we began engineering this car, these were the guiding principles.”
Key to the creation of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV was the Architecture of Luxury – Rolls-Royce’s proprietary all-aluminium architecture.
The Architecture of Luxury really comes into its own in creating Cullinan. The engineering team behind Cullinan adapted the Architecture of Luxury to the design template of a high-bodied car laid down by Giles Taylor and his design team thanks to its innate adaptability.
It was designed and engineered from the ground up in such a way as to be scalable to the size and weight requirements of different future Rolls-Royce models, including those with different propulsion, traction and control systems, thus underpinning the long-term future product roadmap.
Rolls-Royce Cullinan uses this new architecture in a wholly different manner to deliver an iconic design and presence, uncompromised comfort, space and usability, cutting edge technology and the peerless on-road and off-road driving experience and capability.
The component parts of the base architecture were reconfigured into a spaceframe that was higher and shorter whilst also delivering a completely new feature never seen before on a series production Rolls-Royce – a tailgate.
The all-new aluminium sub-structure delivers extraordinary car body stiffness for exceptional ‘best-in-class’ functional performance on rough terrain whilst offering better ride comfort.
The ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ taken off-road
The integration of new technologies into the architecture was also key to ensuring the fundamental quality of Cullinan as Effortless, Everywhere. The engineering team began by creating 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.”
Rolls-Royce’s celebrated Magic Carpet Ride impresses off-road as well as on-road thanks to the new lighter architecture, and the latest generation of self-levelling air suspension. Through a thorough re-engineering of the existing air suspension system – including adding larger air struts with more air volume to cushion the blows of the toughest of terrains – the strengthening of drive and prop shafts, the inclusion of drive to the front wheels as well as the back for the first time in Rolls-Royce history, and the complete reworking of the new 6.75 litre twin-turbo V12 Rolls-Royce engine to deliver just the right level of torque (850Nm) at the lowest possible revolutions (1,600rpm), the Rolls-Royce engineering team has ensured Cullinan will take owners to places no modern Rolls-Royce owner has travelled in luxury before.
The suspension makes millions of calculations every second as it continuously 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 astounding levels of control over lateral roll and shear forces and deliver incredible agility and stability, as does the addition of four-wheel steering, all contributing to incredible drivability and nimbleness.
In the case of 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.
“Put simply, what makes the car great on-road makes the car great off-road,” concludes Krismer.
The final piece of the puzzle of ensuring that the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is Effortless, Everywhere is one single button. Known within Rolls-Royce as the ‘Everywhere’ button, one single push is all it takes to harness all the aforementioned peerless Rolls-Royce engineering and unleash all of Cullinan’s off-road capability.
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. And faced with deep snow, sand or the need to ford streams, Cullinan delivers the deepest wading depth of any super-luxury SUV at 540mm thanks to its highest ride height.