WHILE some brands could chart a distinct course that set them apart from the competition, the challenge is trying to remain relevant in changing times.
Rolls-Royce has been effective in positioning itself as the epitome of luxury, and has rebuilt its value since BMW took over the British brand and rolled out a number of desirable models.
But it hasn’t kept its head in the clouds, and German practicality has also seen the brand understand the needs of the next generation of wealthy owners and what the industry trends are.
So, out rolled the Wraith, Dawn and the Black Badge with designs on the newly-minted rich with their own ideas of what a luxury ride is. Younger and hailing from new industries, their disparate desired journeys are testing Rolls-Royce as it builds to match.
The arrival of the Cullinan is the realisation of another inevitable trend. The rise of SUVs is baffling in the era of sustainability and leaving smaller footprints. Most car brands have seen their businesses catch a second wind with the launch of their SUV models.
In the ultra premium segment, Bentley was the first to launch its Bentayga, and Lamborghini followed with the Urus.
The New Sparkler
The Cullinan, named after the largest diamond ever discovered makes its presence felt accordingly. It is expected to fare well for the brand, and has already attracted new customers with half of its orders thus far.
The 2.7-ton chariot looks awkwardly proportioned in images, but presents a better sense of perspective in the metal.
At 5.3m in length it is going to fill the lane and the parking spaces. Added to that, it’s 2.2m wide and more than 1.8m tall. It is big.
But for all that voluminous presence, it’s been designed to look much more compact. The sloping roof and the sharp drop at the back provide the needful space without becoming a clumsy eyesore.
The front is dominated by a medley of vertical and horizonal lines with meshes below the Pantheon grille and topped by the Spirit of Ecstasy. Laser headlights power through the hallmark disproportionately small, squinting headlamps.
The rear is less fussy, with the small D tail lights separated by a vaste expanse of metal. The rear opens in two parts presenting a lid that can take up to 350kg a you gaze into a cavernous boot.
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Once through the suicide doors you’re in a cocoon. The doors seal off the outside world as you luxuriate on top-grade leather and take in the wood finishes and sparkling surfaces that are suggestive of the connected environments of mobile phones.
But, as a reminder of what heritage means, those organ stopper air-con vents are still evident, as is the simple dashboard clock that offers analogous reference points to the passage of time and the vehicle. For all the technology that is housed in the Cullinan, it’s the attention to simple details that will continue to let the brand remain at the top.
Passengers in the back are perched slightly higher, so they can take in the view. Or, if that’s not ideal, they can seal themselves off and watch movies or listen to music via the touch-screen entertainment system. Or have private conversations about the next big deal.
The single stalk still does all the work. Not much to do then but to steer the Cullinan towards the open road.
The V12 barely raises a bead of perspiration as it picks up speed and the speedometer needle is soon dancing close to the speed limit. Time to ease up as it gently accommodates and maintains a steady floating pace.
In the back there is a faint click that comes through when going over imperfections in the road. Nothing that can’t be drowned out by the well-balanced sound system until the issue is resolved.
For its length, the four-wheel steering does an admirable job of taking you through urban roads, navigating corners and U-turns with nimbleness that belies its size.
It is able to head off the beaten track if you so desire to get closer to that picture-perfect scenic spot. The four-corner air suspension can be raised 40mm to do so.
On more winding roads, you do have to manage the extra bulk and weight of the Cullinan. But the air suspension moves quickly to counter sudden shifts and keeps the SUV on the crooked and narrow.
In any case, the Cullinan is loaded with a host of preemptive safety devices. When it comes to the urban environment, you’ll be driving this using your judgement, so it’s useful to have some assistance in the far corners of the frame.
The 4-camera system provides a helicopter view of your location so you don’t scrape that 22” wheel against anything. On the road there is active cruise control, collision warning, cross-traffic warning, alerntess asssitance and many more features to keep your million-dollar toy out of trouble.
And also keep the Rolls-Royce positioning for a few more generations.
ROLLS-ROYCE CULLINAN RATING:
Engine: Twin-turbocharged V12, 48 valves
Capacity: 6.75 litres
Max Power: 415kW@5,000rpm
Max Torque: 850Nm@1,600rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100kmh: 5.2 seconds
Top Speed: 250kmh (limited)
Retail price: *$1,268,888 upwards
Please reconfirm price with dealer.
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