There will be spluttering over the champagne and choking over cigars after dinner tonight. Rolls-Royce has entered the off-road market.
Today, the world’s super luxury car maker unveiled what is probably the most revolutionary new model in the 113 years since Charles Rolls and Frederick Royce established the marque.
The newcomer is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, named after the world’s largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found. The Cullinan Diamond was discovered in 1905 at the Cullinan No 2 Mine in South Africa, weighing in at 3,106.75 carats. It now residing in the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London.
Although it seems like a revolutionary move to create an off-road Rolls-Royce, in today’s market it was a move that could no longer be resisted. Porsche gave their marque a future when they launched the Cayenne. More recently we have seen the launch of the Bentley Bentayga, the Lamborghini Urus
and the Maserati Levante
The reason for this rush into the SUV market is simple. In a car market where sales are very hard won, the SUV market is relatively buoyant. You can easily see the appeal for super luxury 4x4s in markets like the Middle East, but SUV sales are also holding up strongly in the USA and here at home in the UK.
At the Cullinan unveiling, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, explained: “Our customers expect to go everywhere in luxury, effortlessly and without compromise, conquering the most challenging terrain to enjoy life’s most enriching experiences, wherever they may be. For this reason, they have asked us to create a Rolls-Royce that offers uncompromised luxury wherever they dare to venture. Cullinan is that car.”
Rolls-Royce has, of course, faced some dilemmas in creating an off-road model. SUV’s tend to be hatchbacks, but how could you possibly have a Rolls-Royce hatchback? Perish the thought. So the Cullinan doesn’t have a hatchback, it has “The Clasp” which opens in two sections at the touch of the key fob button.
This leads Rolls-Royce to say that the Cullinan is the first “three-box” car in the SUV sector. A rear partition wall separates the passengers from the luggage compartment.
Owners can specify lounge seats, or individual seats in the back. The lounge seats are more versatile, giving space for three passengers and also allowing the seats to fold down. We are used to that in many cars, but this is the first time folding seats have been seen in a Rolls-Royce. Needless to say you don’t have to heft them forwards and backwards – electric motors do the work for you.
The load space is 560 litres, but with the seats folded this increases to 1930 litres to carry your latest antique acquisition, crates of champagne, or some newly-acquired works of art.
Talking about champagne, the individual seat option comes with a console containing a drinks cabinet, complete with refrigerator and Rolls Royce whisky glasses and champagne flutes.
To keep weight down, for the benefit of both fuel economy and agility, the Cullinan is the second new Rolls-Royce to be built on the new aluminium architecture, which Rolls-Royce have dubbed the “Architecture of Luxury”. This leads Rolls-Royce to make the bold claim that this is “the most advanced, and only purpose-built, luxury SUV in the world”. Contrary claims to be addressed to Rolls-Royce!
But, an SUV has to put up with some tough conditions and Rolls-Royce say the Cullinan has been “tested to destruction all over the planet” to ensure that it delivers the levels of refinement Rolls-Royce customers expect on road, but with the ability to shine in off-road conditions.
Power for the Cullinan comes from a 6.75-litre twin-turbo power unit delivering 563 bhp and 850 Nm of torque. As well as all-wheel drive, the Cullinan features four-wheel steering.
As befits a new model, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan comes with a catalogue of technology including night vision, vision assist, wildlife and pedestrian warning, a four-way camera system with “helicopter view” (so you can look down on your car as you manoeuvre and see that you are not going to dent the wings), wi-fi hotspot and comprehensive navigation and entertainment systems.
If the pundits are right, Rolls-Royce’s move into the SUV market could boost their sales by a whopping 50%.