What it's Like to Drive a Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Sliding behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce is always special and the Cullinan, the super-luxury brand's first SUV, is no exception. For years the standard for luxury offroad capable SUVs has been Range Rover, and while they are amazing in their own right, the Cullinan is on a different level. 

Named after the largest diamond ever found, the Cullinan has a commanding presence even when just parked at the front of the Four Seasons Dallas, where I would be picking it up. White with and painted orange pin-stripe, the interior is a rich brown leather with orange accents, amazing hand-finished wood, and a beautiful digital dash. While this was not the first Rolls-Royce I have driven, it was my first modern Rolls and slightly more impressive than the mid-seventies Silver Shadow with a small block Chevy which was more hotrod than haute couture. 

The door is opened for me, that happens a lot when you drive a Rolls-Royce, my colleague Reggie takes a position in the back seat, he likes the idea of being driven. While I adjust the mirrors and seat, he settles into finding some appropriate music for our journey around Las Colinas, a high-end suburb just outside of the Dallas. My feet sink into the incredibly thick lambs-wool carpeting, even with shoes you can feel the quality, it's a very different experience than stepping onto the WeatherTech floor mats I have in my BMW. If you can afford to the Cullinun you can afford to have the carpets maintained or replaced, so enjoy them. The representative from Rolls-Royce shows me where the button is on the underside of the dash that automatically closes the door, after all, it would be indecorous to be seen leaning over to reach for your own car door, what are we, savages? The button pushed, the door gently closes and we are on our way.

The 6.7-liter V-12 engine doesn't roar to life, it is quiet and incredibly smooth, we can't risk disturbing our VIP passenger. With 563 horsepower the nearly 6,000 lb SUV glides along effortlessly, it's shocking how good it is to drive. After a few miles, I get a little more comfortable with the idea of driving a car that has a base price that is nearly $50,000 more than that median home price in Las Colinas. Despite being large than my apartment in Tokyo the Rolls-Royce doesn't steer, stop, or accelerate like a massive SUV, instead, it glides, the steering effort is minimal, and even under hard braking, it doesn't feel like a heavy, large, SUV.  

Even in an upscale community full of Texas oil millionaires and celebrity athletes, the Cullinan is a rare sight. In the land of  Range Rovers and G-Wagons, the Cullinan is king. At every stoplight, people are looking at you, trying to see who is in the back seat, snapping pictures with their camera phones, it is not a car for the inconspicuous. The Rolls-Royce says "1%" like no other vehicle and people take notice.

Floating along on the air ride suspension the computer being fed with data from road-scanning cameras adjusts the firmness and even ride height ensuring none of the potholes and bumps transfer into the cabin, my VIP guest in the back would not be pleased if an uneven road surface interrupted his enjoyment of the jazz he had selected to listen to.

While driving the Rolls-Royce is a pleasure, riding in the back is what it is really all about. The coach doors, command seating, and copious amounts of leather and wood make sure your passengers understand they are riding in 1st class. To better describe what the team at Rolls-Royce was going for, this quote from Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars sums it up pretty well. 

The super-luxury lifestyle is evolving and Rolls-Royce is in the lead. Luxury is no longer an urban concept. More and more it is about embracing and experiencing the wider world. Our customers expect to go everywhere in luxury, effortlessly and without compromise, conquering the most challenging terrain to enjoy life’s most enriching experiences, wherever they may be. For this reason, they have asked us to create a Rolls-Royce that offers uncompromised luxury wherever they dare to venture. Cullinan is that car. It is Effortless, Everywhere.
It is incomparable and dramatically evolves the parameters of super-luxury travel, translating Rolls-Royce’s ethos of ‘Effortlessness’ into physical capability, anywhere in the world. Cullinan will simply take the world in its stride.

I have to say I agree, with one exception, while it is imposing and dramatic, it's not what anyone would call pretty. But the design wasn't built around pleasing a passing pedestrian, it was built to encapsulate the occupants in a level of luxury that has never been taken off-road before. In some ways, it is more of a descended of the H.M.A.C. Victory than an evolution of the Phantom. 

Even though it has off-road chops, it is unlikely that many Cullinans will ever leave the pavement. It's hard to imagine the Spirit of Ecstasy blazing trails in Joshua Tree, but according to Rolls the Cullinan is a "go anywhere" SUV with electronically controlled shock absorbers that actively pushes down any wheel it detects losing traction to ensure every wheel is constantly in contact with the ground. To make sure that the Cullinan is as effortless to drive off-road as on, the "Everywhere Button" lets the computer takes over the majority of driver settings, from deep snow or sand to even fording streams, the Cullinan can take you there, and once you arrive at the remote vista you were looking for just have your driver pop out the picnic table and leather chairs from the back and enjoy a cheese plate and some chilled Dom Perignon.

Sadly we would not be testing out the off-road capabilities, which was slightly disappointing, it would be a much better story to say I  got to jump a Rolls-Royce like a Baja Buggy, but Irving isn't known for its dirt roads. Our test would just have us navigating the urban jungle, but it is safe to say that for the world's elite the Cullinan would be the perfect choice for their cabin in Aspen or their ranch outside of Santa Fe. Starting at $327,750 with nearly limitless options there the Cullinan isn't going to be on many of our shopping lists, but after driving one, I understand why Rolls-Royce is still the standardbarer of luxury. 

Photos by Reginald Ganious and Rolls-Royce
Thanks to Park Place Dealership Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Dallas