Rolls-Royce Cullinan Review
Car Tested: 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge; Road Test No. 1179; Test Location: Dubai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 9 crores
Rolls-Royce's first SUV delivers on every promise and has set a new benchmark in the ultra-luxury performance SUV space
For over a century, Rolls-Royce has been making cars fit for the uber-rich. The company has a rich history of making some of the world's best sedans, coupes and cabriolets. This brand, which prefers to do things in a more traditional way, did not have an SUV all this while. However, the luxury SUV wave meant that Rolls-Royce had to take notice and give their customers a versatile car that can take them to their ski resort and pull in front of the Windsor castle with equal ease. The Cullinan is Rolls' answer to the ever-growing world of mega-expensive SUVs and we find out if it deserves to wear the flying lady.
Motor Quest: The segment of super-luxury SUVs is relatively new. Bentley started it with the Bentyaga and the other manufacturers were very quick to follow. Brands which we never thought would make an SUV have one in their line-up. Lamborghini Urus, Maserati Levante and the recently unveiled Aston Martin DBX are some examples. Rolls-Royce launched the Cullinan in 2018 having based their first-ever SUV on the Phantom's 'Architecture of Luxury' platform. The Cullinan was quick to earn the tag of being the most expensive series production SUV in the world. The Cullinan also happens to be the first Rolls-Royce to feature an all-wheel-drive system. The Cullinan has proved to be an incredibly successful product helping the company reach its highest-ever sales in 2019.
Exteriors - The Cullinan we had was the sportier Black Badge variant and right away the SUV leaves one with mixed feelings. The front of the car looks a bit meek and does not have the presence of the Phantom. We suspect the drooping headlight design could be the reason. However, you do get all the traditional Rolls elements like the polished Parthenon grille and of course the Spirit of Ecstasy. The Black Badge features those elements in black. Rich chrome embellishments on the standard Cullinan does make it feel expensive. However, we would've liked to see that bossy, slightly aloof look that most Rolls-Royce cars possess.
This special edition of the Cullinan called the Black Badge has most of its chrome elements blackened out
The Cullinan is huge and the street presence is felt as a result. The boxy silhouette makes it look very discreet and some have even compared it to London's Black Cab. But the towering height, long wheelbase and big wheels give this the SUV stance one expects. The hinged door mechanism is a typical Rolls trade-off and we actually like how the side isn't flooded with details. Some owners will find the minimalistic design tasteful. We loved the beautifully styled alloys with red callipers on our test car. The rear is probably the car's best angle where it looks simple but expensive. The boot bulges in between before joining itself seamlessly with the bumpers. There are more black elements found here and the boot features a split-opening mechanism.
There is not much to discuss about the car's design. Rolls-Royce has, to an extent stayed true to their design language and the Black Badge does make things interesting. A more aggressive front would've complimented well with the tremendous presence that the car otherwise has.
Interiors - The interior of the Cullinan is THE place to be in. You can spend an entire day simply taking in the phenomenal levels of luxury in here. The rich leather seats, excessive use of veneer (or carbon-fibre), metallic buttons, thick carpets – all of it just leaves you awestruck. The level of detailing and the quality of materials is by far the best we have ever come across in an SUV. The world's most luxurious SUV – you bet!
Being the world's most expensive SUV, the Cullinan is built using one of the most premium & luxurious mix of materials
The dashboard has a design reminiscent to that of the Phantom. You don't get The Gallery in the Cullinan. It is exclusive to the Phantom. But the dashboard hardly feels less. The Black Badge version we had came with an interesting carbon fibre trim which went well with the rest of the interior. There is ample leather used on the dashboard and whatever you touch is exactly what you feel it is. There are absolutely no corners cut. Metal is metal and leather is leather.
There is a distinct old-world charm about the Cullinan's cabin. It is refreshing to enter a car which is not overloaded with gadgets and touch-screens. From the toggles to turn on/off the flow of air to the nifty clock, you feel like you've stepped back in time. That is not to say that the car isn't equipped with the latest in technology. The infotainment screen caters to a variety of functions and we particularly liked the cutting-edge all-round camera display. The interface is based on BMW's iDrive and as a result, it is easy and crisp to operate. Features like massage seats, lane departure warning, and a fantastic audio system ensure that you've got the technology part covered.
The cabin is not cluttered with buttons and switches; has a timeless feel to it
Saying the seats are super comfortable would be an understatement. They are one of the best we've seen in any car and offer a multitude of adjustments. Heating, ventilation and massage functions are offered, although they don't seem to be as aggressive as the ones found in a Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. The second row offers tremendous space and you wouldn't be left asking for more. We had the Lounge Package, which gets an extra set of adjustments for the seats. All black curtains, door open/close button and feather filled headrests ensure privacy, convenience and comfort. The boot is huge and you can spec it with the option of 'picnic chairs'. Two seats pop out from the boot encasing so you can have your champagne while looking out, from your boot.
Being a Rolls, you can customise the car as per your wish. Your imagination is the only limit. In fact, Rolls-Royce says that it is very difficult for any two of their cars to be identical. From paint to the colour of the leather, you can make the Cullinan as individual as possible. Naturally, the interiors are all hand-built and the care and attention gone into make them is very evident.
Chauffeur driven owners won't be able to differentiate the comfort of their house from the back seats of the Cullinan
We have said a lot but there is so much we still haven't. That is how mesmerised the cabin of the Cullinan leaves you. It is an experience in itself.
Performance - The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge gets an increase in output from its 6.75-litre V12 engine, producing 600 PS and 900 Nm at a low 1700 RPM, an increase of 30 HP and 50 Nm of torque. The motor is supremely refined, you can barely hear anything at all but get hard on the gas and the sport exhausts emit a nice growl, signifying the sporty intentions of the Cullinan. Performance is linear throughout, lag is well contained and the motor pulls strongly throughout the rev range. There is no tachometer here so you can't gauge the revs, neither does Rolls-Royce reveal performance figures but 0-100 km/hr takes 4.9 seconds and the top speed is 250 km/hr.
Twin Turbo V12 motor is remarkably refined & has absurd amounts of torque
The Cullinan doesn't get any sport mode but there is a Low mode which increases the enthusiasm from the powertrain, keeping the 8-speed gearbox in a lower gear for added oomph. The torque-converter transmission is super refined (but you can't control the gears because of no paddle shifters), quick but silent with shifts and the engine and gearbox work with a sense of secrecy that is astounding, to say the least. Fuel economy is surprisingly good at 5 km/l when driven sedately but can drop down till 2 km/l if you drive it aggressively but Rolls-Royce has ensured you never run out of fuel by giving it a 100-litre fuel tank!
Driving Dynamics - Rolls-Royce has given the Black Badge version of the Cullinan some hardware updates to further improve the driving experience. Underpinned by the 'Architecture of Luxury' all-aluminium platform, the Black Badge gets updated brakes (bigger discs and reduced pedal play), stiffer suspension and tighter steering, all resulting in a more involving drive experience. This ultra-luxury SUV is very intimidating because it's huge in terms of size but the steering is light at low speeds (but weighs up fantastically well at higher speeds) and the visibility all-around is great. The stiffer suspension helps contain body roll but it still has quite a lot of roll which can be felt around the corners and also under heavy braking as there is nose dive, stopping power is surreal though.
By sensing the road ahead, the Cullinan will adjust its suspension to ensure the best ride quality for its passengers
Handling is good by SUV standards (it gets rear-wheel steering too) but it's really the ride quality which continues to be the highlight as it's simply phenomenal. The Cullinan wafts along, absorbing the worst in its stride with no hiccups whatsoever. The car gets self-levelling air suspension with electronically controlled dampers for the 'Magic Carpet Ride'. But it's really the 'Flagbearer' a.k.a. the camera which reads road surfaces ahead and makes adjustments till a speed of 100 km/hr which ensures the great ride of the Cullinan. Grip is in abundance and the Cullinan can go off-road too with the off-road mode increasing the ground clearance by 40 mm. Rolls-Royce has kept it simple by not offering off-road modes, it's all about the experience here which is further amplified with the view of the 'Spirit of Ecstasy' when you drive the Cullinan.
Safety - The Cullinan gets all the active and passive safety equipment one expects from a premium car. Stuff like adaptive cruise control and lane assist are a part of the car's safety gear. Rolls-Royce has intentionally stayed away from including more autonomous driving features as the company reasons that most owners love to drive and those features would be a hindrance. Still, the Cullinan is as safe as anything on four wheels can get.
Verdict - The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge has everything to make its wealthy client happy. The interiors are probably the best in the world, the ride comfort is exemplary, the refinement is top-notch and there is extravagant equipment on offer. The Cullinan does the job of luxury motoring very well. And because it is an SUV and has four-wheel drive, you can use it on more terrains. But there is a catch and that is the price. At Rs. 8.2 Crores (ex-showroom) plus options and taxes, it is enormously expensive. SUVs like the Lamborghini Urus and the Bentley Bentayaga are far cheaper. But for unrivalled luxury and prestige, there is nothing to beat the Cullinan.
* Dignified looks and unmatched road presence
* Uber luxurious interior with rich materials
* Refined engine and extremely smooth ride
* Comes with the latest safety gear and tech
What's Not So Cool
* Doesn't feel as premium as the Phantom
Alternatives: - Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayaga, Maserati Levante, Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600
Rolls-Royce Cullinan Specifications
* Engine: 6750cc, V12, Twin-Turbo, Petrol
* Power: 600 PS
* Torque: 900 Nm
* Top Speed: 250 km/hr
* 0-100 km/hr: 4.9 seconds
* Transmission: 8-Speed AT
* Fuel Consumption: 2-5 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Tyre Size: 255/45/22 (Front), 285/40/22 (Rear)
* Suspension: Air Suspension (Front & Rear)
* Brakes: Ventilated Discs (Front & Rear)
* Safety: 8 Airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP, Lane Assist
Rolls-Royce Cullinan Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 5341 mm X 2000 mm X 1835 mm
* Wheelbase: 3295 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 100-litres
* Kerb Weight: 2660 kgs
Rolls-Royce Cullinan Review
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan sits at the top of the luxury SUV segment and it boats of immense road presence, rich interiors, latest technology, a powerful engine and truckloads of exclusivity. The select few who will buy this car will also get to properly customise their car and ensure that their Cullinan will be one-of-a-kind.