As in the human world, let’s start with the name. Hello, my name is Cullinan. What’s that you say – where did that name come from? “Cullinan” is the name of the largest, most-famous diamond in the world, discovered in 1905. It weighed in at over three thousand carats when first mined at Cullinan, South Africa, and was named after the mining company’s chairman, Thomas Cullinan. When cut, it produced nine major diamonds, all of which went to the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom or to members of the British Royal Family. Why do I mention this? Because in choosing the name for their special new vehicle, Rolls-Royce chose to name it after the biggest, most important and ultimate diamond in the world — and both the diamond and the new Rolls-Royce are inexorably tied to England. Oh, and Rolls-Royce itself was founded in 1906 so its genesis and the discovery of the world’s most famous diamond virtually coincide.
That’s all well and good but what about the vehicle? Rolls calls it a “high-sided car” as it was too elegant simply to be termed an SUV (though they occasionally use that term, too). Further distinguishing it from a typical SUV, it’s a “three-box design”, meaning that the driver and passengers are separated from the engine compartment and from the rear luggage area (in one of the choices for the interior layout, there even is a fixed glass divider between the back seat and the cargo). Rolls offered this option to separate the people from the luggage so that, even when loading and unloading the Cullinan in extreme weather, the interior of the vehicle would retain its pleasant environment.
In a vehicle of its weight (5,865 pounds), it was clear that prodigious power would be required and the Cullinan does not disappoint. With a twin-turbo V-12 motor, the output is over 560 horsepower and over 625 pound-feet of torque so it’s sure to do well when towing, off-roading or even at a stoplight grand prix. Totally befitting for a super vehicle with a base price of $325,000.
But what about in its native habitat? One’s first guess as to where that might be likely will be the Royal Ascot, the preeminent horse race, and that’s a good start. With the optional special seats, which are part of the rear tailgate, what better way to enjoy your canapés and bubbly (don’t forget the Grey Poupon). But the Cullinan is not mere poser and, in fact, it proclaims that it is “Effortless, Everywhere” so it had to be able to back up such claims. And it does.
Leading up to the May 9, 2018 launch, a heavily-camouflaged Cullinan has travelled far and wide. Dubbed “The Final Challenge”, the trip followed some three years of extensive testing in climates which most Cullinans aren’t likely to ever experience. The touring crew included photographer Cory Richards, National Geographic’s 2012 Adventurer of the Year, so Rolls achieved tremendous credibility for such an audacious trip by having Nat Geo along for the experience, publishing stills and videos along the way, from Northern Europe, the Middle East and the United States for a final shakedown run ahead of its world debut just now. The Challenge started in the Scottish Highlands early in April and continued the adventure through the freezing snowfields of Austria, on to the vast deserts of the Middle East and completing the on-road/off-road journey by handling the demanding topography in the US.
Lest you think that Rolls is a newcomer to off-roading, Exhibits A and B are the Maharajas of India, who outfitted their Rolls-Royces for hunting, and Thomas Edward Lawrence, a British archaeologist, military officer, diplomat, and writer. Sir Thomas is perhaps better known as “Lawrence of Arabia” as he famously had a fleet of Rolls-Royces armored and he and his team drove them through the muck and sand of Northern Europe and then on war-time campaigns through China, Russia and the Middle East. During that last adventure, the quote attributed to Lawrence was born – “A Rolls in the desert is above rubies.” Clearly the Rolls-Royces in his motor pool went above and beyond the call of duty.
So how does Rolls-Royce provide their famous “Magic Carpet Ride” in the Cullinan? Very well, thank you, due to the marriage of a new, lighter aluminum frame, self-leveling air suspension, all-wheel drive and all-wheel steering, coupled with a very sophisticated computer control system which allows the suspension to make millions of calculations every second, relying on input from the body, wheels, steering input and even camera information. Clever? You bet – the air suspension system even can push down on any wheel that needs some assistance with traction. The Cullinan also has the highest wading depth of any luxury SUV – over 21 inches.
Completing the package is the interior of the Cullinan. To the sumptuous leathers and fine woods which you would expect, add the creature comforts of the aforementioned partition between the back seat and cargo area and heated elements including armrests, front console lid and even the rear center armrest. The Cullinan is the closest you ever will get to taking The Peninsula Hotel living room for a jaunt.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan clearly embodies all of the laudable values and capabilities that drove Rolls-Royce’s two founding fathers — the Honorable Charles Rolls and Sir Henry Royce — to secure the marque’s reputation early in the last century, as they took top honors in rigorous public adventures such as the Scottish Reliability Trials, the London to Edinburgh event and the Alpine Trials. While many Cullinans may get more experience with the Starbucks Hamptons than the Scottish Highlands, it’s obviously a vehicle which can take you anywhere you want to go . . . effortlessly.