Here’s all you need to know about our long weekend with the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV: We parked it in front of a thrift store. A thrift store. And we walked in and bought $18 worth of secondhand stuff. We couldn’t have been more obnoxiously privileged if we tipped the restaurant valet a quarter.
Perhaps we weren’t the right demographic for this vehicle. We hadn’t won the lottery. We hadn’t made an embarrassing fortune by developing a hookup app for ferret owners, or by seizing the natural resources of Bolivia. We’re just a quartet of Gen X writers, sufficiently old enough to look like we might actually own this thing.
Of course, the first question we got every time we stepped out of the Cullinan was, “How much does that thing cost?”
You know that look of bemusement, curiosity, and mild disgust from the driver of the not-inexpensive SUV that pulls alongside at a stoplight? That look is how much. (I must admit to a certain amount of middle-class guilt, awkwardly confessing, “This isn’t our car,” to more than a few folks.)
The actual cost is $327,750—driver sold separately. But that’s for the base model. Our Cullinan was loaded up with options you can’t believe are attached to a motorcar. Final tab: more than a half-million dollars.
Look, I’ve driven supercars that approach this sum. And it never enters my mind that such extravagance isn’t worth it. The neck-snapping acceleration, sternum-shattering brakes, ribcage-crunching cornering, and space-age lightweighting. All that technology costs cubic dollars.
But this is an SUV. A people hauler. A Ford Explorer does the same thing for one-tenth the price. And that’s exactly the point: Why drink the perfectly luscious HammerSky zinfandel (three bottles for $100 on Black Friday) when you can pay five grand for a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti? This is precisely what that big Republican tax cut paid for: a better quality of transport for the 1 Percent.
And better it most certainly is.
It’s revelatory to see a Cullinan parked next to said Explorer. Yes, the Rolls is 10 inches longer—you have to fit that V-12 somewhere—but it’s only 6 inches wider and considerably shorter in height. Given how relatively sleek dimensionally the Rolls is, it’s a bit incongruous to climb inside and feel like you’re in luxury suite at Yankee Stadium.
Getting back to the length of the hood. It is extraordinary, stretching beyond the horizon of all the land you own and serfs you oppress. At the edge of that far expanse resides the iconic hood ornament, the be-winged angel who reminds the driver where he is, geographically and in status.
The following conversation actually happened among four friends during our tour of Paso Robles wine country:
Lisa: What’s the lady on the hood called?
Mark: Spirit of Ecstasy.
Lisa: That’s just wrong.
Julie: That’s disgusting.
John: You have to respect tradition.
Julie: No, I don’t.
John: It’s not like it’s called “Lady in Ecstasy.”
Mark: No, it just is a winged lady in ecstasy, her arms wide above her head in the delirium of being the symbol of Rolls-Royce.
Lisa: Maybe she’s wondering if her deodorant is working.
Perhaps we just don’t get it, that the Cullinan is so much more than transportation. You don’t get in the Rolls to drive to your next adventure. As soon as you step into this vehicle, your adventure begins. The absurdity of its price makes it all the more delish.
Intriguingly, the shape of an SUV allows the Cullinan to somewhat hide under the radar, except for those in front of you who witness the massive grille looming in their rearview mirror (even Prius and Subaru drivers move over out of sheer intimidation). But once you get inside, all pretense of the ordinary vanishes.
The rear doors are so heavy that a fit, 6-foot, 190-pound man struggled with the weight of opening one on a slight uphill side-slant. These are doors that are meant to be opened for you by Mister Carson. Actually, the butler can have the day off—push the little chiclet button on the exterior door handle, and the door swings for you.
Once inside, the interior is transformative. Spending two hours in the car feels like sitting in a mansion’s study. You leave your house, you enter the Rolls and be seated as if it were a Le Corbusier chair. Time passes languidly. Then you arrive at your destination.
The Cullinan has such a quiet, plush ride that an exterior sonogram could detect the heartbeats of those inside—thanks to those thick sidewalls, cushy air suspension, and sound insulation better than anything this side of Orfield Laboratories. The seats are a whole different realm of automotive comfort.
You’d think this brick of a shape, with those massively paned side windows, would bring a cacophony of wind noise into the cabin. But save for some muted tire roar, one can actually hear the eyeroll of your seatmate when you say: “Sitting in the backseat with you, under the starlight-embedded headliner, makes me fall in love with you all over again.”
Having the Cullinan is an extension of vacation, like the immense chef’s kitchen in our palatial VRBO, or the stub-balcony overlooking the vineyard. For all its virtues and paeans to luxury, a Range Rover Autobiography does not deliver such emotions. The Cullinan continues the fantasy of wealth. Lord help us had we needed to get into our friend John’s Audi S4. No offense.
How so? Our Cullinan came with orange-hued fur as floor mats—probably made from ermine or sable or the pelts of the proletariat. But that over-the-top effect is what makes the Cullinan’s interior environment Maximum Kanye. The only thing more over the top would be an actual live bunny rabbit you could grasp to wipe the dust off your shoes.
But it was raining, in wine country. And for all the romance associated with making great wine, growing grapes is still dirty agriculture. And dirt, plus rain, equals mud. After walking back on the path from a vineyard, we did our best clop-clop of our shoes, our legs hanging out the doors, then swinging in our sludge-caked footwear. The effect on the floormats was like removing your makeup on white linen hand towels. I suppose the footman will clean up after us.
Although normally the Cullinan has sufficient cargo room for several steamer trunks filled with bounty, our version came with motorized tailgate seats, which slimmed the cargo area. Still, the effect is dazzling. Push a button, and floor-fur-matching stadium-style seats emerge, then swing outward and extend over the Cullinan’s tailgate. While seated by the edge of Highway 46, overlooking the plunging valleys that lead down to the central coast, the effect is that of the Cialis “bathtub” commercial, as envisioned by Rolls-Royce.
Note that I have yet to describe what it feels like to drive this beast.
Piloting the Cullinan comes with a certainty of direction, especially on a rainy highway in the pre-dawn hours where skittish Angelenos are braking erratically with the unfamiliarity of precipitation. The platform comes not from parent company BMW, no sir, but is the “Architecture of Luxury” shared with the Phantom VIII. To be certain of its solidity, it will survive the earthquake that plunges California into the sea.
We actually tested the Cullinan, on the same Fontana circuit as lowly Lincolns and Lexi. With 600 hp thrumming from the 6.8-liter V-12 engine, 60 mph arrives in less than 5 seconds, while hauling oneself down from such velocity takes a mere 107 feet. The quarter mile gallops by in a whisker more than 13 seconds at just shy of 110 mph. Remember, this thing weighs more than three tons.
Such velocity in a behemoth delivers deception. “It is not snappy off the line in the least. … The numbers tell otherwise. Invisible shifts, and quiet—even at wide-open throttle,” road test editor Chris Walton said.
Similarly, to the brakes: “An abundance of dive, with a Volvo-like belt cinch, and a squishy pedal. But highly effective.”
During our figure-eight run (yes, really), testing director Kim Reynolds noted the Cullinan “turns in pretty well. Wouldn’t you expect it to understeer like crazy? It doesn’t.”
Yes, such an intricate machine from England still comes standard with some electronic gremlins. I mean, come on, heritage. The center console infotainment screen cover would close but not open. The myriad rear-seat controls worked erratically. The power rear doors worked … sometimes. I suppose that’s why you have Nigel living in the servant’s quarters above the garage (remember, it’s pronounced gare-ridge, not guh-rahdge).
Weirdly, at some point you forget you are driving a vehicle that costs more than to have your child prep at Phillips Exeter, then get an undergrad at Harvard, and then get a Harvard MBA. Then again, if you have this sort of wealth, you can afford to have your offspring have those learnings downloaded into the chip in their neck. (Haven’t heard of that latest tech yet, have you? That’s because you’re not rich enough.)
Anyway, back to Paso Robles wine country. When meandering through beautiful, scenic coastal hills, on empty, winding roads, driving a Rolls-Royce becomes an essential part of the experience. Then you come upon other cars, driven by the unwashed masses, and then you realize you are, indeed, different from the rest of them.
|2020 Rolls Royce Cullinan|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$503,225|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||6.8L/600-hp/664-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve V-12|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||6,242 lb (49/51%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||210.3 x 85.2 x 72.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.1 sec @ 109.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||107 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.6 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||12/20/14 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||281/169 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.33 lb/mile|
The post 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan First Test: Beyond Luxury appeared first on MotorTrend.