We get behind the wheel of one of the most opulent SUVs on the planet, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. What a way to travel!
The first SUV from England’s more-than-century-old luxury brand is named after the largest “gem-quality, rough cut” diamond ever found. The Rolls Royce Cullinan arrived in 2018 as a 2019 model year vehicle and has only seen minor changes since.
It is also the first Spirit of Ecstasy clad vehicle with all-wheel-drive installed and Rolls Royce added all-wheel-steering for good measure.
Just so we’re clear, the particular Rolls Royce Cullinan I tested cost $82,550 — just for the optional extras. Ridiculous, I know. That much just for “bespoke interior-module editing” and “extended veneer center line” and several other similar extravagantly named doodads.
For the same money, you could buy, and equip, a Toyota 4Runner and have money left over for a mega overlanding trek. Hell, the $19,700 “dark exterior package” alone would probably get you an already customized used Ute to go play around in.
And I agree that the — oh, please sit down — $346,850 base price (includes destination and gas guzzler tax) and sticker price on our review vehicle of $429,400 nothing short of ludicrous. Practically speaking, you simply cannot justify such a price. Don’t look at it practically.
The purpose of the Cullinan is not to win a value contest and satisfy the intellect, but to stir the emotions of the soul and satiate your cravings for opulence. Or, in other words, to tell you plainly what it’s like to have more — of everything.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is the improv group of vehicles because it always says, “Yes, and …”
2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Review
But, just what is a Rolls Royce Cullinan?
It’s a Chevrolet Tahoe-sized, BMW-engineered SUV. One with high-priced materials applied both outside and in. Outside, you get a stainless-steel front grille and motorized polished-metal hood ornament, for example.
And inside: fine, thick, and rich leathers pair up with rare woods and polished metals for a full immersion in the wow factor. As in wow, that must be expensive. And it is.
Despite its large footprint, the Cullinan only seats four or five people, depending on which configuration you choose. Of course, I would argue that those four to five people sit more comfortably than in the Chevy. And Rolls Royce is adamant that the Cullinan can handle real off-roading. More on that in a minute.
We first need to talk about the engine.
It certainly fulfills the improv’s “yes, and” mantra. Behind the Spirit of Ecstasy ornament lies a 6.75L V-12 that pumps out 563 horsepower. Yes. And 627 pound-feet of torque. Wow!
Two turbochargers help along all that displacement to churn out those supreme figures. Yet, when your right foot stays light, it’s near library quiet. Were it to register a couple of fewer decibels inside, you could probably convince many it’s an EV.
But keep life exciting and your right foot heavy. If you do, the V-12 delivers buttery smooth, yet abundant, thrust. Full throttle acceleration is akin to jetliner takeoff as opposed to a car leaving a stoplight. The constant, heavy force pushes your back into the seat.
Part of the credit belongs to the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic, which seems to maintain a constant supply of torque to the wheels even when shifting gears.
With the accelerator pressed hard against the firewall, Rolls Royce claims the Cullinan needs but 5.1 seconds to reach 60 mph from rest. And, if you keep it there, the Cullinan won’t tap out until your reach 155 mph. Heady numbers for such a tall, 3-ton machine. Having full-time all-wheel-drive to distribute all that torque certainly helps.
A Rolls-Royce Off Road
Yes, despite the opulence and the grandiosity of it all, Rolls Royce claims this to be a capable off-roader. And the claim has merit.
In addition to AWD, you do get an air suspension with three ride height options. You also get adjustable shock absorbers and myriad sensors to manipulate settings and adjust to whatever terrain you find yourself on, be it gravel, wet grass, mud, snow, or sand.
To give said system a heads up, you press the “Off Road” button on the lower center console, which, I guess, is all the Rolls Royce computers need to know. In fact, the luxury brand from England calls it the “Everywhere” button.
If everywhere includes wading through water, Rolls Royce claims the Cullinan can handle a depth up to 21.25 inches. Any more than that and I’d worry about your “extended veneer center line” as well as your V-12.
Exquisite interior finishes excluded; This Roller has the raw materials for proper off-pavement excursions. The platform is all-aluminum, as are the sub-frames holding up the double-wishbone front and five-link multilink rear suspension.
Despite rolling on massive, 22-inch wheels, you do get a bit of sidewall to work with. And, of course, the air suspension keeps everything level.
Now, I wouldn’t take this on the Moab, but creating a shortcut up wet-grass-covered rolling hills to reach a picturesque vista suits the Cullinan fine. Besides, you wouldn’t want your caviar and toast points to spoil while taking the long route. One assumes the champagne is already well secured and chilled, in a diamond-encrusted cooler or whatever.
Driving the Cullinan
While the idea of off-roading in a Rolls sounds lovely, in reality, the vast majority of Cullinans will spend the vast majority of their time on pavement.
Well, the aforementioned fancy suspension handles all of that just fine too. Without feeling floaty, the Cullinan absorbs potholes, expansion joints, undulations, and heaves in the road with grace and absolute comfort.
Part of that is due to the interior. More than just expensive and fancy sounding, Rolls Royce crammed impressive amounts of sound deadening and used mighty thick glass around the greenhouse. Even at freeway speeds, you feel isolated from the chaos around you. Much like listening to the faint whisper of the city streets from a penthouse apartment balcony.
Moreover, the leathers feel soft to the touch and soothing to the skin. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the front seats are heated, ventilated, and massaging.
Your eyes, too, get comfortable as Rolls Royce performed art gallery curator levels of detail to the fit and finish of all the materials. Even the sliding seat rails and kick plate are built from polished metal. And all the carpeting surrounding it on the floor is thick and posh.
No car fully escapes the modern world, and as such, the Rolls Royce does include modern driving aids, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and the rest.
Furthermore, the instrument cluster is fully digital. But, again, another detail, Rolls Royce attached three metal rings on the screen to act as bevels for the three gauges when the Cullinan is running and the gauges are displayed.
The most BMW-esque part of the car is the 10.25-inch center console touch screen, replete with a Spirit of Ecstasy logoed dial that looks awfully close to BMW’s iDrive system. It’s less of a knock and more of an observation. Well, I guess it’s a bit of a knock. I mean, the Cullinan costs at least $350,000, so you shouldn’t be able to relate it to anything, let alone something a mere upper-middle-class person can afford.
2022 Cullinan: Parting Thoughts
Just so we’re clear, the Rolls Royce Cullinan is ridiculous. An expensive indulgence to display your status of material success. It’s, ultimately, nothing more than a plaything for the top 1% of the top 1%. And yet, it is also remarkably comfortable, tranquil, and serene.
Everything about the experience feels opulent, indulgent, and one level up from the rest. Can you have it? Yes! And … much more. More than anything, it makes me want to join an improv group.