There are few business cases and niches in the car industry that make more sense to me than the upcoming Rolls Royce SUV. Named after the largest diamond ever found, Project Cullinan or as has recently been confirmed by Rolls’ simply, the Cullinan is going to be an unparalleled success.
The SUV is after all, the shape of modern luxury.
Just don’t call it an SUV. According to Rolls it’s a “high sided vehicle” or “high bodied vehicle”. Their press department can’t seem to decide which. Maybe it’s down to the translation into German and then back again…
In a small way this is the full circle for Rolls. Look at Rolls Royces – indeed, all cars – of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. They’re all very high bodied with a flat rear end. Cars you climb up into. It was only through the evolution of the car in the ’50s and ’60s did the Rolls grow a boot and become sedan-shaped.
So it is on record that I have absolutely no objection to the existence of the Cullinan. Quite the contrary in fact, I welcome it and think it is only right that it exists. All good car companies evolve with the times and the company Henry Royce and Charles Rolls started has been doing that quite well since 1904.
What I don’t understand is this press photo. Why on earth does the Cullinan need to climb a dirt incline? Isn’t that a bit beneath such a thing? These cars are going to spend all their lives on over sized rims in inner London or LA. Suburbs like Chelsea or Beverly Hills. The most they’ll ever be tested by any kind of off-pavement activity will be the grass when parking up in a Polo field. Or maybe on the lawn at Pebble Beach. Then its well-heeled owners have a reason to use their leather trimmed picnic bench – sorry, Viewing Suite – integrated into the tailgate.
The bottom line is, a simple all-wheel-drive system can handle that. Parent company BMW’s xDrive system as is already mated to the ZF 8 speed and a big V12 in the M760Li. It doesn’t need any extra work for the Rolls. It’s grass capable, so it’s fine. The whole point of a Rolls is not to be outdoorsy and rugged. It’s to be insulated.
It makes no sense that the engineers have had to waste precious time and development making this car a compromise. Because ultimately, like a Range Rover, off road capability comes with some forms of on-road compromise. It doesn’t matter what shape the body is – a Rolls-Royce is the ultimate in no-compromise comfort and luxury. Not bush-bashing or mud-plugging.
There’s no secret what this car is for and where it’s actually going to be used. So why pretend? Besides, the buyers of these things have already got their Overfinch customised Rangie for that kind of nonsense.