Rolls-Royce have always been the foremost statement-makers of the auto industry. No other company has been able to match their coveted approach to luxurious design language, pedigree, and the ability to consistently impart a feeling of heightened status — not only in the automotive food chain — but anywhere in the world. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that there’s serious overlap in Rolls-Royce’s customer rolodex and a list of former and current world leaders. They are the standard for luxurious motoring.
What jumps out first about the new 2021 Cullinan is its name. Students of history may recognize it from somewhere — “Cullinan” is the name given to the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found in nature. That’s a bit of a statement from the company in and of itself.
This historical reference works on a number of levels, as the actual Cullinan diamond was cut into a number of smaller gems, which found their way into the crown jewels of England, adorning members of the royal family for years.
The royal touch, atmosphere, and pedigree of Rolls-Royce’ newest offering is ever-present, and it’s far more than marketing or hype. We’ve heard more than a few colleagues refer to the new Cullinan as a “palace on wheels.”
It’s difficult to review a Rolls in the way we would other cars. The company is notorious for their design and engineering philosophy, which is luxury and comfort first, last, and every step of the way in-between. Everything else conforms to this need, and the Cullinan itself screams — er, rather, declares rather sophisticatedly, “Acceleration? Top speed? How ineloquent of you to ask.”
That said, it’s still worth having a poke around the Cullinan’s stat sheet to see exactly how the new “Rolls-Royce of Rolls-Royces” is put together.
First off, the styling. The exterior styling is a modernized take on the old sort of 3-boxes-on-wheels designs of old, with the Cullinan still taking up a bit of space and having broad, distinguished shoulders, though it no longer looks like something only an evil cartoon villain could own. That said, the all-black version does have a very, very slick look to it, and does have an almost villainous “on top of the world” sort of attitude. If that sounds like hyperbole, take a look for yourself:
Under the hood, there’s a smooth, buttery V-12 engine in a lazy, gentlemanly state of tune. The end goal of an engine of this size isn’t performance, as is usually the case with a bank of 12 cylinders. Rather, the lumbering engine in the new Cullinan is meant to give the car a boaty, “above the road” sort of floaty comfort.
This is done solely for the comfort of the cabin’s inhabitants, and as usual, the ride in the new Rolls is a total hit in this department. Fans of this sort of engine tuning will love what Rolls has done here, as the massive 6.7-liter powerplant (producing over 560 horsepower) is virtually silent. Combined with the air suspension on the Cullinan, and you’ve got a good argument for categorizing the car as not only a luxury SUV, but a stealth fighter.
Despite its calm sound profile and lack of showiness, the Cullinan’s engine can actually bring the car — all 3 tons of it — up to 60mph in just 4.5 seconds. That’s a bit unexpected and a bit of a party trick for a breed of car notorious for refusing to let its hair down.
An electric model has been rumored for a few years, though the current powertrain is the only one that remains available at the moment.
The Cullinan has all-wheel drive as standard, but it’s unlikely owners will take it off the road or that the car will get to really put those systems through their paces outside of safety tests or novelty segments on motoring shows, though people may still be surprised.
As for the fuel economy numbers, we can’t say there’s anything to the Cullinan here that will sell you if you are on the fence. This is, however, one of those areas that doesn’t really apply to a Rolls-Royce as much as it does for the rest of the automotive industry.
Drivers who can afford this car certainly can afford — and possibly aren’t even aware of — gas prices or mileage numbers. Still, the Cullinan’s 12mpg in the city (on caviar runs, no doubt) and a little less than double that on the highway is not worst-in-class, and not by a long shot.
That means this Rolls really is something different than what we’re used to seeing. It’s positively snobby in how perfectly designed it is inside and out, and unlike many of the famous Rolls of old, it can actually beat whatever you’re driving in a race, too. It may just be the best car that the best automaker in the world has ever made.