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Rolls-Royce Cullinan joins the SUV party

'Rolls-Royce of SUVs' on UK roads at end of 2018, costing from £250,000

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The domination of the SUV in today’s car market has been cemented with the unveiling of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

The much-trailed 4×4 from the world’s best-known luxury car marker is described by its creators as “quite possibly the most anticipated Rolls-Royce of all time.”

Rolls-Royce first announced that it was planning to build ‘the Rolls-Royce of SUVs’ three years ago and the move, once unthinkable, is no real surprise. Luxury manufacturers have been falling over themselves to get into the SUV market and take on the likes of Range Rover, from Lamborghini to Maserati and of course the former sister brand and now most direct rival to Rolls-Royce, Bentley.

No production figures for the Cullinan are being released but industry analysts believe that it could push Rolls-Royce’s current annual volume of 4,000 cars to more than 6,000, in the process following the experience of other upmarket brands in becoming the biggest-selling model in the Rolls-Royce range.

The biggest yet?

The Cullinan physically overshadows its rivals, its 5.3m length some 20cm more than that of a standard Bentley Bentayga, while it tips the scales at some 200kg heavier than the Bentley at 2,660kg. It also stands 9cm taller than its rival – one of the many luxury aspects of the car will see it drop the body by 4cm when the doors are unlocked or their handles touched. Start the engine and it will rise again.

The body is to a ‘three-box’ design, according to its makers the first SUV to be so built, with a proper partition wall between the passenger and luggage compartments. The wheelbase of 3.3m, 30cm longer than the Bentayga, will ensure interior space and comfort expected of a Rolls-Royce.

Rolls-Royce also insists that the Cullinan will offer true off-roader ability. Its powertrain combines a 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12 petrol engine of 571hp and 850Nn of torque with a new all-wheel-drive and all-wheel steer system, and has been extensively tested in widely varying environments across the globe.

A top speed of 155mph is quoted for the Cullinan, though its 0-62mph figure is yet to be revealed. Less impressive are the efficiency figures – the car boasts a combined cycle fuel consumption of 18.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 341g/km.

The financial penalties that come with such figures are likely to be of little concern to the car’s target market, however. Rolls-Royce expects many Cullinan buyers to be “younger, very successful high-net-worth individuals who are heavily engaged in the experience economy, and want a Rolls-Royce that would take them to the ends of the Earth in ultimate luxury.”

“Effortless everywhere” is the phrase used by Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös to describe the Cullinan, he adding that the brand knew it had to offer clients what they couldn’t find in the SUV market.

“They do not accept limitations or compromises in their lives – they are the new pioneers, and for them it’s about their sense of adventure and daring in how they live their experiences,” Müller-Ötvös says, adding; “This approach to life demands a motor car that can go-anywhere in ultimate luxury and style – Rolls-Royce style.”

First deliveries of the Cullinan – the name comes from the world’s largest raw diamond, today a part of Britain’s Crown Jewels – are expected at the end of 2018, each costing from £250,000.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.