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Rolls-Royce Cullinan (2020) review

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Admit it: you’ve made your mind up about the Cullinan already. I know I had. Rolls-Royce’s first SUV has proved more divisive than a certain referendum in 2016.

Even if I proclaimed it the best car in the world – and in some respects, it probably is – the naysayers among you won’t budge. Luckily, we’ve all had enough of experts. Ahem.

Rolls-Royce always maintains its cars don’t have any competitors, and in the Cullinan’s case that’s true. At £100,000 more than a Bentley Bentayga W12 or fully-loaded Range Rover SVAutobiography, it exists in a rarefied super-SUV stratosphere all its own.

It will boldly go where no Rolls has gone before, too. Such all-terrain capability matters in Russia, China and the Middle East: all key markets for the Cullinan.

I’m not a fan of its slab-sided styling, but nothing this side of a Chieftain tank has more rear-view-mirror presence. That imposing ‘Parthenon’ grille is framed by laser headlights and a bonnet that sits proud of the front wings, not unlike like an early Land Rover.

At the sides, ‘coach’ doors open from the middle, providing a widescreen view of the opulent interior, while the horizontally split tailgate – which Rolls calls ‘The Clasp’ – offers a perch for impromptu picnics (bring your own Bollinger).

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Under the skin, the Cullinan shares much with the flagship Rolls-Royce Phantom, including its aluminium spaceframe chassis, eight-speed auto transmission and twin-turbo 6.75-litre V12. The latter musters 571hp and a titanic 627lb ft of torque, enough to launch this 2,660kg land-yacht to 62mph in 5.2 seconds.

Four-wheel steering and 48-volt active anti-roll bars assist in the corners, while variable-height air suspension and an ‘Everywhere’ mode – which automatically adapts to mud, wet grass, gravel, ruts or snow – are on-hand if the car park at Pangbourne gets slippery.

My week was largely spent on the M25, and the furthest I ventured off-road was mounting a kerb. So we’ll have to take that promised rough-terrain prowess as read.

Suffice to say, nothing makes a busy motorway more palatable than a Cullinan. Pillowy-soft and whisper-quiet, it even shrugged off the concrete Surrey section. With Eleanor, the silver-plated Spirit of Ecstasy, acting as my spiritual sat nav, I felt utterly imperious.

Frankly, there’s no more pleasant place to waste time in traffic either. The Cullinan’s cabin is a hermetically-sealed cocoon of leather, wood and polished metal, and quality is second-to-none. I was tempted to drive barefoot, simply to bury my toes in the deep-pile lambswool carpets.

It’s genuinely practical, too, with ample cubbyholes and cupholders, water-resistant leather on the dashboard and doors, plus a rear bench seat that folds flat – a first for Rolls-Royce. Leave the kids at home and you could chuck a couple of mountain bikes back there.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

On regular roads, you’re always conscious of the Cullinan’s sheer size, but body control is iron-fisted and it rarely loses its composure. Ultimately, though, it prefers not to be rushed (“A sport mode? Don’t be silly, dear – this is a Rolls-Royce”), and you’ll feel the same, enjoying the fingertip-light steering, seamless gearshifts and knife-through-butter V12.

Only in tight spaces around town can piloting a Cullinan become stressful; I was very thankful for the suite of surround-view cameras and sensors.

Changed your mind? I thought not. For many, the Cullinan will forever be too ostentatious, too arriviste: the Rolls-Royce most likely to be seen on Instagram.

Put such preconceptions to one side, though, and you’ll discover the finest SUV on sale, one that transcends mere transport and makes every journey a special event. Even a stop-start commute on the M25.

Price: £252,000

0-62mph: 5.2sec

Top speed: 155mph

CO2 G/KM: 341

MPG combined: 18.8

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Spofec Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan too subtle for you? Fear not, some added attitude for the luxury SUV comes courtesy of Spofec, with its Overdose kit. It’s coming to a Premier League driveway near you.

The package includes a bodykit, engine upgrades, lowered ride height, larger wheels and more.

While also modifying the Cullinan’s styling, Spofec claims it also ‘boosts the driving dynamics’.

Spofec Rolls-Royce Cullinan

First, some numbers. The Cullinan was hardly diminutive when it left Rolls-Royce’s Goodwood factory. However, Spofec’s Widebody styling does what it says on the tin. It’s 10cm broader at the front, and 12cm at the back. 

Those blistered wheelarches house new 24-inch wheels developed in collaboration with Vossen – offered in whatever finish or colour you desire.

We suspect the Cullinan’s special tyres featuring sound insulation haven’t been retained. The car sits 40mm lower, too.

Spofec Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Out front, an entirely new Spofec bumper is fitted to complement the arches. This apparently reduces front-end lift at high speeds.

A new diffuser replaces the centre section of the rear bumper, and accompanies a new spoiler. Spofec claims this gives its Cullinan a ‘touch of the racing look’.

We suspect it’s a little way off being liveried up in Gulf colours and shipped off to Le Mans.

Spofec Rolls-Royce Cullinan

The Spofec Cullinan does sport power figures befitting a Le Mans racer, mind. The twin-turbo V12 now delivers a hefty 685hp.

This 114hp bump comes courtesy of a simple software upgrade. Boost pressure is increased, while injection and ignition mapping are altered. 

Spofec Rolls-Royce Cullinan

All this makes for the most athletic cathedral you’ll ever see. The Spofec-fettled Cullinan will crack 62mph in 4.9 seconds.

It’ll sound better while doing it, too, thanks to a stainless steel sports exhaust. Not a very ‘Rolls-Royce’ upgrade, but it’s nice to have the option, right?

Spofec Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Happily, what remains very R-R is the cabin. You can have a retrim if you must, but the Cullinan’s cabin is pretty much perfect as standard.

As for price? Much like the Cullinan, if you have to ask, can you actually afford it?

Rebel Rolls: new Cullinan for those who ‘take risks and break rules’

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge

Rolls-Royce has announced a Black Badge version of its Cullinan SUV, with more power and menacing styling.

For starters, almost everything is black. The paint is made from multiple layers of lacquer, with 10 processes of hand polishing. Rolls-Royce calls it ‘the most comprehensive surface finish process ever applied to a solid paint colour’. Spot the contrasting, hand-painted coachline, too.

The Spirit of Ecstacy mascot is finished in high-gloss black chrome, as is the mounting plate for the first time. It’s ‘the darkest Black Badge yet’, says Rolls.

Most chrome surfaces are also darkened, including the enormous grille surround, boot handle, lower air intakes and exhaust pipes. The grille slats remain polished, however.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge

New and exclusive for the Black Badge are the 22-inch forged alloy wheels, which have a diamond-turned surface. The brake calipers are painted red.

Inside the Cullinan Black Badge is what Rolls-Royce calls a ‘technical carbon veneer’, apparently inspired by urban architecture. Shaping, lacquering and curing the material is a 21-day process.

Black Badge, bright cabin

The cabin of the Black Badges is where owners often choose contrasting colours. In the car seen here, it’s new Forge Yellow. The interior is softly lit by the now-traditional starlight headliner.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge

While the Black Badge offers more oomph, performance is implied rather than highlighted in a Rolls-Royce. The 6.75-litre V12’s output rises to 600hp and 663lb ft of torque. 

“Black Badge reflects the desires of a distinct group of Rolls-Royce clients: men and women who take risks, break rules and build success on their own terms,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce.

“The time has come for Rolls-Royce’s boldest and darkest expression of Black Badge yet. The King of the Night, Black Badge Cullinan.”

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