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What does it take to create a brand that is a benchmark for all the other brands in the world in terms of aspiration and respect? A brand that is used by the whole world as a metaphor to denote quality and desirability. Such a thing cannot be achieved by any amount of planning. It is serendipitous by nature. That is where the Rolls-Royce of brands comes in. See what we did there?
Being motorcyclists, we were, until now, used to hearing about ‘Brough Superior’ as the Rolls-Royce of motorcycles- one of the rare instances when a motorcycle is compared with a car to denote its quality. And we got the answer to why it is so when we got to drive the Rolls-Royce of SUVs (literally), the Cullinan, for more than 600 kilometres in Dubai.
If we go over that dune over there at around 150 km/h, we’ll be in the air for at least 5 seconds… Let’s NOT do that!
Even a fleeting first glance at Cullinan is enough to deem it a Rolls-Royce. The bold ‘Parthenon’ grille, the crafted headlights, the ‘coach’ doors, the intertwined Rs and of course, Eleanor, the Spirit of Ecstasy (if she’s out catching the sun that is) – all of these things are a part of every car that is a Rolls-Royce. And all of these things are imposed even more firmly on the onlookers because of the sheer size of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
The Cullinan is big… deceptively big. It is around 5.3m long, 1.8m tall, 2m wide and weighs around 2753 Kg (Curb). It has been designed (and built) around the Rolls-Royce Phantom which has been winning hearts the world over since its launch and is a benchmark for the cars in its class (IF THERE ARE ANY!). So the expectations of the people for the Rolls-Royce Cullinan were more than the size of the car itself. And when it finally came out, the views regarding it have been polarized. That is mostly because no one was ready for the Rolls-Royce design ideology being employed to build an SUV.
“Hello there, good sir. Is your camel stuck?”
Coming back to the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, we do not expect people to fall in love with it at first sight. This is one of the cars that grows on you. Spending some quality time with it, which one obviously does when they are in a Rolls-Royce, is the way to go about it. The more time you spend with it, the more you notice the silhouette, the lines, the contours, the obsessive attention to detail and the functionality that they represent. And that is how it happens. That is how you fall in love with it… slowly. And we all know that is the best kind.
While the beautiful exteriors do coerce one to stay out, the stately interiors are a bit too tempting to resist and we are just humans. Before we share that experience with you, let us tell you that everything pertaining to a Rolls-Royce, be it touching the door handles and opening the door to letting out soft sobs when they take it away from you, is something that is to be accounted for. So, be patient and let yourself be cocooned in serene luxury as you experience the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, through us.
The headlamps of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan not only comply with the traditional Rolls-Royce design ideology, but it is as high-tech as they come. The laser headlamps on it are touted to have an effective range of 600 metres.
We cheekily mentioned that even touching the door handle of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is an experience. Except, we were not being cheeky. One opens the door of this car like a traditional car door (the front row) but for closing it, there’s a little button on the door handle that does it for you. And predictably, there’s a button for that on the inside as well. That is close sesame for you, the missing piece of the puzzle.
Step inside the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and you can just smell the amount of top-grade leather that is generously used on the interior. Apart from the regular places like the dash cover, the seats, the steering and such, there’s leather on the key and even the bloody climate control knob! When we finally got over that somehow, we noticed the Spirit of Ecstasy logo embossed in the leather on the door panel. All that makes us wonder who keeps a note of what all has to be added and installed in a Rolls-Royce. The person must have a notebook the size of the Moon… damn! And why did we take the moon for an analogy, because we gather that Rolls-Royce would not settle for anything less than the Rolls-Royce of satellites orbiting our planet!
Spirit of Ecstasy, the famous hood ornament of Rolls-Royce is one of the most significant pieces that deem a car as Rolls-Royce. Eleanor, leaning forward with her arms outstretched behind and slightly above her, has not been the only ornament that Rolls-Royce cars have adorned. It had a precursor in the form of ‘The Whisper’ which was sculpted by Charles Robinson Sykes. Eleanor Velasco Thornton was chosen as the model on which Sykes modelled the sculpture. The Whisper was followed by ‘The Spirit of Speed’ which largely resembled the current version. And after that, with small alterations, the Spirit of Ecstasy came into being. The Spirit of Ecstasy is not only retractable but also features an anti-theft mechanism where it automatically retracts if struck from any direction which makes it near impossible to separate the flying lady from her throne, a Rolls-Royce.
The Spirit of Ecstasy and the spirit of photography… or videography.
The next thing we would like to tell you is that you have never seen floor mats like the ones in this car, never. These things are exquisite and make you curse your perfect leather boots to the point that you’d want to throw them out of the car through its perfect windows. When one is finally seated and admiring the commanding position one has over the car and the road in the driving seat, they’ll notice that they do not have a clock on board. But there is one, look over on the passenger side and there it is, analogue and beautiful, albeit a bit hard to read for the driver. But we gather that there are a lot of people who would appreciate the beauty of analogue (and paper, just like the xBhp print magazine), especially if someone like Count Dracula might want to travel in it. Alright, we are getting too bloody cheesy now, pun not intended.
The Cullinan is big… deceptively big. It is around 5.3m long, 1.8m tall, 2m wide and weighs around 2753 Kg (Curb). It has been designed (and built) around the Rolls-Royce Phantom which has been winning hearts the world over since its launch and is a benchmark for the cars in its class (IF THERE ARE ANY!).
So now that we are seated, let us talk about the seats. The seats are heated, of course, but did you know that even the armrests are heated? And that the seats have a massage function? This car has the ability to shower the occupants with love by offering them 8 different types of massages to choose from, all of which have 3 intensity levels. That’s 24 variants of massages and probably more than the number of massages that we have had in our lives up till this point.
Now, these are controlled by the infotainment screen that controls the various aspects of the car but most importantly, you can raise or lower the Spirit of Ecstasy on the hood using this menu. THAT is something that one NEEDS to do at least twice every hour that they spend with a Rolls-Royce just as we did.
There is a new double-wishbone setup up front and a five-link rear axle, with a redesigned self-levelling air suspension whose air struts have a bigger volume that makes for an unbelievably smooth ride.
Coming to the infotainment screen, in addition to the plethora of options and guides (with actual animations), it shows you the feed from the various cameras installed. Now, we have a reversing camera, a top-down 360° camera which allows one to zoom in on one particular area, but most importantly, there’s an option for a panoramic view which is bonkers, because it shows the full view of the car as one moves it around! And panoramic reminds us that there’s a sunroof or Panorama Sunroof as Rolls-Royce calls it, which is one of the biggest we have ever seen. Move it fully towards the back and it almost feels like you are in a roadster!
Moving towards the rear, the door handles, like the front ones, have a button, both outside and inside, to close the doors. The rear door is ‘coach’ style i.e. the doors are rear-hinged and we’d like a moment to stress on the fact that these doors make getting in the car so easy that you can just fall inside the car.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan’s cabin is as silent as it can get without being referred to as a vacuum. It is stated that more than 100 kg of sound suppressing material has been used to achieve that level of quietness in the cabin. The double-glazed 6mm glass, thickest in the industry, is just one of those materials. And then The tyres of this car are filled with foam so as to reduce the rolling noise of the tyres.
Another traditional addition is the umbrella in the rear door panel which comes out with the click of a button, a class act. The car’s interior has been sprinkled with real wooden panels at all the right places that take the whole appearance of the interiors to another level.
Coming to the rear seats, there are two separate chairs between which you have two wooden panels. The upper one is a mini-fridge to store that Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti Grand Cru of yours and then there’s another one below for glasses so that you can have a gala time as you are chauffeured around in the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Even the headrests in this car are electrically operated via ergonomically placed buttons. Now one thing that will stand out is the lack of a screen. But it’s a Rolls-Royce and there aren’t many things on the planet that it lacks in.
‘Dusty Roads’… only, the Cullinan does not have to wrestle them.
Small things matter. The significance of this adage increases manifold when one wants to make a statement and not just car and the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is just that. The centrepiece of the wheel stays stationary even when the car is on the move so as to keep the RR logo upright.
In front of each of the seats, there are two buttons on either side. One of them unfolds a tray and the second one switches the screen on and tilts it for an appropriate viewing angle. And there it is, your infotainment screen which was neatly tucked away in the plush leather of the front seat.
Another thing that one notices about a Cullinan is the glass which separates the rear seats from the cargo area! Because of course, once in a Cullinan, one must be engulfed in tranquillity and not be materialistic! On a serious note, it is probably there for noise isolation or if a stray gust of wind tries to disturb the perfectly maintained temperature of your Cullinan upon opening of the boot.
The quietness inside the cabin while driving or being driven around in this car deserves a whole section for it. The engine is near silent, there’s no noise from the tyres, there is no wind noise and there is no noise from the outside world. An estimated 100 kilograms of sound snubbing materials have been used all around the car in addition to the 6mm thick glass to achieve the cabin silence with which you travel in a Cullinan. That is ingeni-outrage-ous… we should stay away from nomenclature.
Moving towards the rear of the car, the tailgate of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan can be opened in 2 ways; there’s a button in the front (driver’s area) which if pulled, opens the tailgate and if pushed, closes it and the traditional way would be like it is done in other cars. But, the tailgate is split and it opens like this; the top part goes up first and then the bottom bit comes out to form a ‘bench’ sort of a thing. This ‘bench’, if the option is selected, can feature a set of comfy leather seats and a classy picnic table in between because who knows when one decides to have a glass of wine at the back of their Cullinan with their amore.
When one has around 600 km to explore the United Arab of Emirates in a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, it is easy to get carried away with the vast expanse of the region and the sheer panache of the car. One of those instances led us to this abandoned place in Al-Madina near Dubai. The place was devoid of almost any type of life form and the deathly silence was eerie, even more so after finding out that the place is supposedly haunted. Our Cullinan though is a brave soul though, unflustered as always.
We could not determine if the place was haunted or not but it was deserted for sure. And deserted places mean a peaceful photography session devoid of any disturbance.
Now there are people who think that expensive luxury cars cannot be utilitarian. This car hopes to beat those people up with a stick, a luxurious one of course, for thinking that way. It features 540 L of boot space and an additional 40 L can be obtained by removing the parcel shelf for a total of 600 L! The boot floor can also be moved up and down electronically to prevent any snags when the rear seats are folded, electronically of course. Usually, that is where one draws a line but with a Rolls-Royce but they don’t want to. They just want to keep discovering these little quirks that make this car a true Rolls-Royce.
Coming to the performance of the car, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is no slouch despite being all stately… and heavy. The 6.75 L V-12 engine makes 563 bhp of power and 850 Nm of torque. It can reach 100 km/h from a standstill in about 5-seconds. The top speed, though limited to 250 km/h, is enough to ruffle some feathers. But the ruffling would be limited to the mere mortals outside. The passenger(s) may not even be aware of what brutality the engine is dishing out because, in all probability, the only sound in the cabin would be Beethoven.
The tailgate is split and it opens like this; the top part goes up first and then the bottom bit comes out to form a ‘bench’ sort of a thing. This ‘bench’, if the option is selected, can feature a set of comfy leather seats and a classy picnic table in between because who knows when one decides to have a glass of wine at the back of their Cullinan with their amore.
The chassis of this car is a skillfully crafted aluminium spaceframe which also serves as the base of the venerable Phantom. There is a new double-wishbone setup up front and a five-link rear axle, with a redesigned self-levelling air suspension whose air struts have a bigger volume that makes for an unbelievably smooth ride. It almost glides over the imperfections, off of the tarmac, just like the other Rolls-Royce cars do on the road.
“Who made these tyre tread marks in this perfectly desert-y sand? Show yourself at once!”
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is not just a Rolls-Royce, it is a proper SUV which was more than evident when we decided to have ourselves some sand time in the desert. Despite all the action going on outside, the ride is just as smooth and the cabin just as quiet which is almost saddening… or maybe not.
The ‘ship of the desert’ and an uber-luxurious superyacht… in the desert!
“Yes! You are the superyacht buddy!”
Some experiences are like milestones in one’s life and experiencing a Rolls-Royce is definitely one. And the Cullinan is as Rolls-Royce as possible despite being an SUV. It has the same attention to detail, it is built around the same ethos and it wants to smother its occupants with opulence just as much as any other Rolls-Royce. Once one experiences the Cullinan, they can’t help but be forlorn when it’s away. We wonder if the Cullinan would feel the same way if it was animate… Ah well, even if it did, it would have walked away with that traditional and oh-so-familiar grace without a trace of being shaken.
The World’s Most Expensive SUV?
Yes. It means many other things than just that. It is an indication of one’s status, one’s dreams, lifestyle and much more. And it is not just about the price tag. It is also about the marquee that you see on the steering, on the wheels and the gasps that it elicits from everything big and small on the road. It is like Aladdin’s Magic Carpet on which the biblical Moses is astride, for when you are in the Cullinan, the traffic on the road seems to be part. As a motorcyclist, we have ridden the most amazing two-wheelers on the planet, however, it is but hard to ignore that driving a Rolls-Royce, let alone owning one, has to be one of the most desirable modern-day material sins one can hope to indulge in…
Dubai… almost matches up to the Cullinan in opulence, almost.
Last But not the least, an overview of what goes inside the Cullinan…