Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge 5dr Auto
There’s a greater number of High Net Worth Individuals than ever, and you need way more actual net worth to join the club than you did 20 years ago. You’re also more likely to be younger, into the idea of venturing off-grid, and do crazy stuff. Experiential luxury, it’s called. Or so we’re told.
In which case, Aspen, Jackson Hole, and Gstaad will soon be heaving with Cullinans that can climb mountains while keeping the Dom Perignon chilled. There’s a perverse pleasure in pointing one of these things up a rocky pass and letting it get on with it. Whilst our Wyoming test route wasn’t overly demanding, the Cullinan takes Rolls’ fabled ride and refinement qualities into a new domain, doing to off-road rubble and ruts what the Phantom does to regular road imperfections. It doesn’t glide exactly, but even sitting in the back – for research purposes obviously – the signature serenity is achieved. To put it another way, you’re less likely to throw up in one of these.
There’s a new double wishbone set-up upfront and a five-link rear axle, with a redesigned self-levelling air suspension whose air struts have a bigger volume for miraculous bump absorption. Electronically controlled dampers work off body and wheel acceleration, as well as the ‘Flagbearer’ stereo camera system that reads the road ahead. The Cullinan’s adventure mode, meanwhile, is accessed via a single button – the ‘Everywhere’ button, in Rolls parlance – which works across rutted track, gravel, wet grass, mud or snow. Its wading depth is 540mm, the deepest, claims Rolls, of any super-luxury SUV (40mm more than a Bentley Bentayga).
The Cullinan also benefits from four-wheel steering (it turns to three degrees for greater agility at low speed, for enhanced stability at faster velocities), there’s a 48-volt anti-roll system, and power goes to all four wheels in a 50/50 split (it’s the first Rolls in the company’s history to have a driven front axle). The drive and propshafts have also been reinforced.
The engine itself is a reworked version of the Phantom’s twin-turbo, 6.75-litre V12, making 563bhp but more importantly 627lb ft of torque from 1600rpm (a more powerful version is in the offing).
Ensuring this thing works off road was obviously one major challenge. But given that Rolls makes cars that transcend the constraints imposed on mere mortal automobiles, does the Cullinan cut it in everyday use? It’s not quite the instant, almost surreally refined hit that the Phantom is. According to chassis engineer Jens Leopoldsberger, it’s not meant to be. They were after a different character here. Networking all the systems to manage a much broader range of conditions is no mean feat, so maybe it’s unsurprising that an SUV, with a higher centre of gravity compared even to the unusually lofty Phantom, feels less adroit. But only a little less in real terms, such is the quality of its body control and the accuracy of its (fully electric) steering.
The transmission is the same silky, satellite-aided ZF eight-speed automatic that appears elsewhere in the Rolls range. And like its siblings, the Cullinan is a car that prefers to make determined but stately progress, rather than to do anything as unseemly as, you know, go fast (0-62mph in 5.2secs, top speed is limited to 155mph). Instead, you settle into a sublime rhythm, seduced by the almost total absence of mechanical, wind or tyre noise. It’s a deeply impressive motor car, a Rolls-Royce with more layers than ever.
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