Is Cullinan, Rolls-Royce's first SUV, on track to become the best 4x4 in the world?

Cullinan off-road
The Cullinan is Rolls-Royce's first off-roader

Rolls-Royce has confirmed that its first sports utility vehicle will inherit the internal code name given to the project - Cullinan.

The Cullinan, a vast high-sided ultra-luxury off-roader based loosely on the Phantom, is expected to arrive later in the year. The new Rolls-Royce SUV will probably have a V12 resembling the one in the Phantom, which we reviewed in December, as well as a powerful four-wheel-drive system. 

We obviously don't have any performance specifications yet, but Rollers are rarely slow, and a key ultra-luxury benchmark is the Bentley Bentayga 4x4 – so expect a 0-62mph time of under 5 seconds, and a top speed of at least 155mph. 

Unlike the Bentayga, there won't be a diesel engine. Not only has the fuel fallen out of favour on health grounds, it also lacks the quiet finesse that buyers expect from Rolls-Royces. We think Bentley's diesel engine (its first and probably its last) is one of the best on the market, but it still can't beat petrol in terms of refinement. Rolls-Royce will probably start to use some of BMW's hybrid technology later on in the Cullinan's life span.

The Cullinan takes its name from the Cullinan Diamond, the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever mined. Parts of the diamond are included in the Crown Jewels, so it's clear that Rolls-Royce thinks quite highly of its upcoming model. 

“The name Cullinan has been hiding in plain sight since we revealed it as the project name some years ago,” comments Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce.

An imposing figure on- and off-road, the Cullinan promises to redefine the luxury 4x4 segment

“It is the most fitting name for our extraordinary new product. Cullinan is a motor car of such clarity of purpose, such flawless quality and preciousness, and such presence that it recalibrates the scale and possibility of true luxury.

“Just like the Cullinan Diamond, the largest flawless diamond ever found, it emerges when it is perfect and exists above all others.”

We've yet to see the Rolls-Royce Cullinan without its disguise


As you can probably tell from the pictures, the new Rolls-Royce resembles a sort of jacked-up Phantom. This approach works for the volume manufacturers, which have been selling chunkier versions of their superminis for the past five or ten years; Andrew English has already written on the subject.

There's been a flurry of high-profile new SUV launches too, including the Jaguar E-pace and the Range Rover Velar, while upcoming models such as the Ferrari 'FUV' and the Lamborghini Urus seem set to establish super-SUVs as the new supercars. 

The Cullinan promises to have some actual off-road ability too, with Rolls-Royce describing it as a "high-sided all-terrain vehicle". We expect it'll have an all-wheel-drive system based on BMW's xDrive system, with commensurate off-road alacrity. Until recently the poshest 4x4 was the Range Rover, which is one of the best mud-pluggers in the world, so we anticipate a degree of ability in the rough stuff from this Rolls. 

A Rolls-Royce Cullinan in development – expect prices to exceed £200,000 Credit: Splash News/Splashnews

We haven't seen photos of the interior yet, but it's unlikely to disappoint in any sense other than taste – Rolls-Royce has been happy to indulge the strangest aesthetic whims of its customers, with occasionally revolting results. Bespoke cabins aside, we hope that the Cullinan will be available with the innately sophisticated, supremely comfortable finish that Rolls-Royce was once famed for. 

It's comfort that defines cars from this British marque, though. A Rolls-Royce's ability to feel effortlessly powerful and impeccably smooth is a feat enough on Tarmac, but the challenge facing engineers working on the Cullinan is rather more challenging – this car, dubbed as 'all-terrain', must exhibit the same dynamic polish off-road, as well as on.

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