The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is one of the most stunning SUVs ever made

SINGAPORE (Aug 5): It is not often that we get to find out how the other half lives, so when you get a chance, grab it with both hands. It could be a guest invitation to a swanky private member’s club or a sneaky look around a Sentosa Cove mansion.

My 15 minutes of feeling like a billionaire came recently when I took the new Rolls-Royce Cullinan for a test drive. Rolls-Royce thought it was about time it joined the SUV party, and has been secretly designing and building an off-roader befitting the world’s most prestigious car brand. As the last major car brand to launch an SUV, it was under pressure to come up with something special. Enter the Cullinan.

In case you are wondering, Cullinan is the name of the biggest diamond ever found. It was cut into several smaller stones, two of which adorn the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. That sounds pretty fitting to me, for the Cullinan is a sparkling gem of an SUV that has raised the bar for luxury off-roaders. Not that this car is likely to ever leave the tarmac, given its cool $1.27 million price tag.

Having said that, Rolls-Royces do have a long history of being driven off-road, given their sturdiness and durability. In fact, T E Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) drove one through the Sahara desert more than 100 years ago. Rollers were even used as combat vehicles in the Sinai Peninsula during World War I. So you could argue Rolls-Royce has come full circle with its upmarket tank.

The shape of the Cullinan is very distinctive, and has drawn a fair amount of criticism from diehard Rolls-Royce fans for its boxy outline. But trust me — it looks much better when you are standing next to one.

A Cullinan hurtling down the road towards you is definitely an intimidating sight. And hurtle it definitely can, with its beastly 6.75l V12, twin-turbo engine. The 2 1/2-tonne Cullinan needed a big engine, given its gargantuan dimensions, and it got one. The top speed is 250kph and it can get you from 0 to 100kph in just 5.2 seconds. I like to drive a Rolls-Royce a bit slower and elegantly cruise around the city to be seen by as many people as possible.

Once you are in the driver’s seat, you instantly feel superior on the road. The seating position is high and gives you a great view of the front of the car and way beyond. Despite its hulking proportions, the Cullinan is surprisingly easy to drive, helped by a series of 360-degree cameras dotted around its body.

The interior of the vehicle has soft leathers with contrasting piping, expensive woods and fittings in keeping with the tradition of vintage Rolls-Royces, such as old-fashioned air vents and an analogue clock. It is easy to go crazy customising your Roller, and my test-drive model came with half a million dollars’ worth of extras. These included a sky roof that stretches across the spacious cabin, massage seats, rear seat curtains and a Spirit of Ecstasy (the flying lady on the front of the car) that lights up.

Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW, so the Cullinan borrows a lot of technology and engineering from its German parent. This includes four-wheel steering and an intelligent 48-volt anti-roll system. Rolls-Royce is proud of the “magic carpet ride” experience its luxury sedans deliver, but has it achieved this in the Cullinan, its first-ever SUV?

Just like the marque’s other models, the Cullinan’s transmission is linked to a GPS satellite-navigation, so it can monitor upcoming curves and undulations, and shift into an appropriate gear ahead of time. Combined with the BMW-engineered air suspension, you feel like you are hovering above the road. Add in the fact that it sits on an all-aluminium architecture, and the Cullinan really does offer a magic carpet ride.

This car has so many beautiful touches that make it truly unique. I love the Rolls-Royce’s rear-hinged doors, even more so as they are now power-assisted. Just when you think a car is the most luxurious it could possibly be, Rolls-Royce raises the bar. I have to admit I had my reservations about the Cullinan, based on the media images I saw. But having spent a day flaunting one around Singapore, I must say it is a thing of beauty. While the shape may not please everyone, you will not find a more luxurious, comfortable and smooth-driving SUV than this for a while. Perfect for the modern-day Lawrence of Arabia.


Rolls-Royce Cullinan

$1.27 million

Engine: 6.75l, V12, twin-turbo

Power/torque: 563bhp/850Nm

Fuel consumption: 15l/100km

0 to 100kph: 5.2 seconds

Top speed: 250kph


Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast