What we know so far about Rolls-Royce's decadent Cullinan SUV
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For many of us, Rolls-Royce's decision to produce an SUV was as depressing as it was inevitable. On the one hand, this manufacturer focuses on ultra-luxury vehicles for extremely high net worth individuals, and those customers demand jacked-up cars with as much enthusiasm as families of more modest means. On the other hand, many of us are hoping that the SUV fad is just that – a phase we're going through until we find a more refined body style to obsess over.
There's been a flurry of high-profile SUV launches, including the Jaguar E-pace and the Range Rover Velar. Britain has punched well above its weight in this segment, not least because of Land Rover's all-encompassing line-up, but in 2018 we might have built the 'ultimate' SUV.
That's when Rolls-Royce will launch the Cullinan. That's a codename at the moment, though we wouldn't be surprised if it stuck. The Cullinan Diamond is the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever mined, parts of which are included in the Crown Jewels, so it's clear that Rolls-Royce thinks quite highly of its upcoming model. Everything else we're about to explain is a combination of informed assumption and conjecture – the manufacturer is understandably tight-lipped.
When it arrives next year, the new Rolls-Royce SUV will probably have a V12 resembling the one in the Phantom. The previous version of that car turned Rolls-Royce's fortunes around when it was introduced in 2003, re-establishing it as a seriously upmarket carmaker, and it's possible that the brand's first SUV will do something similar. We obviously don't have any performance specifications yet, but Rollers are rarely slow, and a key ultra-luxury benchmark is the Bentley Bentayga 4x4 – so expect a 0-62mph time of under 5 seconds, and a top speed of at least 155mph.
Unlike the Bentayga, there won't be a diesel engine. Not only has the fuel fallen out of favour on health grounds, it also lacks the quiet finesse that buyers expect from Rolls-Royces. We think Bentley's diesel engine (its first and probably its last) is one of the best on the market, but it still can't beat petrol in terms of refinement. Rolls-Royce will probably start to use some of BMW's hybrid technology later on in the Cullinan's life span.
As you can probably tell from the pictures, the new Rolls-Royce resembles a sort of jacked-up Phantom. This approach works for the volume manufacturers, which have been selling chunkier versions of their superminis for the past five or ten years. The Cullinor promises to have some actual off-road ability too, with Rolls-Royce describing it as a "high-sided all-terrain vehicle". We expect it'll have an all-wheel-drive system based on BMW's xDrive system, with commensurate off-road alacrity. Until recently the poshest 4x4 was the Range Rover, which is one of the best mud-pluggers in the world, so we anticipate a degree of ability in the rough stuff from this Rolls.
We haven't seen photos of the interior yet, but it's unlikely to disappoint in any sense other than taste – Rolls-Royce has been happy to indulge the strangest aesthetic whims of its customers, with occasionally revolting results. Bespoke cabins aside, we hope that the Cullinan will be available with the innately sophisticated, supremely comfortable finish that Rolls-Royce was once famed for.
It's comfort that defines cars from this British marque, though. A Rolls-Royce's ability to feel effortlessly powerful and impeccably smooth is a feat enough on Tarmac, but the challenge facing engineers working on the Cullinan is rather more challenging – this car, dubbed as 'all-terrain', must exhibit the same dynamic polish off-road, as well as on.
- Telegraph UK