Rolls-Royce’s 1st-ever SUV reaches Colo.
That land yacht driven up my way was a brightener on a cloudy day.
The timing, perhaps, could have been better, with the pandemic still alive, as well as the “stay-at-home” directive.
But it is the 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV, the most ultraluxurious model ever delivered to me.
The last time I drove a Rolls was more than 40 years ago, in 1978, and I’ll not pass the opportunity to assume control of this new one, even for just a few days.
The full-sized Cullinan last year became the first sport utility vehicle ever produced under the Rolls-Royce marque, as well as the first all-wheel-drive vehicle. It is named for the Cullinan Diamond, the largest gem-quality rough diamond discovered.
The $394,275 sticker price on the 2020 Cullinan review model is more than $100,000 higher-priced than the previous top-ticket item I’d driven 10 years ago, the 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports at $286,845.
The first Rolls I drove way back in ’78, if I remember correctly, was in the $75,000 to $80,000 range. I was with Bill Stewart, the Rolls-trained mechanic who took over the Rolls-Royce franchise of Kumpf Motor Co. and opened Royal Carriage at My Garage at 4th and Broadway in Denver. He retired a few years ago from an expanded lineup of exotics out on County Line Road.
So, with the many years behind me, this Rolls-Royce is special.
Henry Royce, an electrical and mechanical entrepreneur, built his first motor car in 1904; in May of that year he met Charles Rolls, who sold cars in London, and they formed the Rolls-Royce automobile company.
Rolls-Royce today is fully owned by BMW of Germany. Bentley, Rolls-Royce’s onetime partner and a rival today, is owned by Volkswagen.
Each Rolls-Royce automobile is built by hand at Goodwood, England.
Rolls-Royce’s famed “flying lady” emblem still, after more than 100 years, rests out front at the edge of the hood. When David Polley, driver of the Cullinan to my home, got out of the SUV I noticed he pushed a button on the key fob and the flying lady disappeared beneath the surface of the Rolls. This new feature is responsible for decreasing the rate of thefts of the prized emblem.
Under the huge, long Cullinan hood is a 571-horsepower, 6.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V-12 engine (627 lb.-ft. of torque) with 8-speed automatic transmission.
The big Rolls rides on a wheelbase of 130 inches, is 210 inches in overall length, 85 inches wide and 72.3 in height. Curb weight is 5,865 pounds, just under three tons.
This may be the quietest luxury car I’ve driven was my thought after a short while in the Cullinan on Tuesday. And then it snowed on Thursday.
In spite of the Cullinan’s brawny size, it’s an exceptional handler. It has a much lighter feel out on the roads than you’d expect from an ultraluxury showpiece in the three-ton category.
Much of its agility on the curves and climbs can be attributed to its aluminum-inspired space frame, double-wishbone front and five-link rear and self-leveling independent air suspension. I believe, also, it’s assisted by the four-wheel-steering capability. Those rear wheels will turn direction 3 degrees. The air suspension is designed with technology to read the road ahead and adjust itself accordingly.
Out front is the traditional Rolls-style upright grille, and at the front edge of the bonnet (hood) is the Spirit of Ecstasy. Beneath the car’s bonnet (hood) is the Rolls’ impressive 12 cylinders. It’s an upgrade from the 6.6-liter V-12 used in the BMW M760i xDrive and Rolls-Royce Ghost sedan. While horsepower is the same 571 in both the 6.75 and 6.6, the Cullinan develops 627 lb.-ft. of torque. The Cullinan’s acceleration is quick and smooth and effortless. It will sprint 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds.
The all-wheel drive, which can be enhanced with an offroad button, was grip-sure in last Thursday’s 6-inch snowfall and cold temperatures.
Jan and I in the Rolls one morning cruised west on U.S. 34 to I-25, then south to 144th Avenue, where we pulled the big beast off and into a drive-thru line at Starbucks. The young woman cashier, “wowed” by the RR, told us the driver in the car ahead had paid for our drinks. I, in turn, paid for the order from the car behind us – it was son Kurt, in wife Tammy’s Lincoln.
The air suspension drops entry level 1 ½ inches, as a welcome to the plush, quiet interior finished in beautiful charles blue with the finest leather on the seats and lambswool at the floor. Hidden inside each of the forward-opening rear doors is an $1,800 umbrella.
The $394,275 hand-built Cullinan competes with the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus and Range Rover. I was on hand in the fall of 2015 at Bentley of Denver out on East County Line Road for the unveiling of the Bentayga. That ushered in the market for ultraluxury SUVs.
There is scarce need to mention fuel mileage for an auto that weighs 5,900 pounds with all-wheel drive and is driven by a huge, twin-turboed, V-12 engine. I’ll tell anyway; overall average for the Cullinan was 14.9 miles per gallon.