Any car – even one you drive every day on your commute – should be able to put a smile on your face. Sports cars have always done that for me, but now as part of a family of five, owning a large SUV is something I think about every once in a while. It’s all theoretical of course, approached in a ‘what if’ kind of way.
And that ‘what if’ notion sparked this story idea. I thought it would be cool to spend the odd weekend here and there sampling the A-list of SUVs to really see what’s on offer at the upper echelon of the segment. And what better way to kick things off that with what should probably be referred to as an LUV – a luxury utility vehicle – the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
I’m actually now three vehicles deep into this study, but it’s the Cullinan that my kids have enjoyed most. Of course they would choose the one that costs as much as a mansion – or a 68sq/m apartment in the far outskirts of Tokyo.
I don’t blame them though; the Cullinan is an impressive machine whichever way you look at it.
This is probably the right time to highlight the fact that most new Rolls-Royce purchasers will have another five cars in their garage, and they really like individualism and personalization. So there’s a little link here with any of us that have multiple custom projects on the go.
Hence why for this drive I chose the ‘Black Badge’ version – which features things like blacked-out chrome detailing and carbon fiber trim throughout the cabin – over the run-of-the-mill (yeah, right) Cullinan.
I should also acknowledge the elephant in the room that is the metallic purple exterior. Truth be told, it’s probably the thing I liked most about this Rolls-Royce. Because if you’re in the position to drop half a million dollars on something like this, go wild I say.
To sample the Rolls in its entirety, I planned two very different excursions. The first was a trip out of Tokyo into the Chiba countryside to take my three boys for some horse-riding lessons. If I had a butler and his name was Jeeves, Jeeves would have surely turned and congratulated me on a fitting choice of activity for the colossal Cullinan.
The hour-long drive out of Japan’s capital city was better than I expected. I had a huge amount of fun pointing the 2.7-tonne Cullinan down the Shuto Expressway and then the provincial highways.
While I usually thunder on about steering feel and a communicative chassis, this time I was equally perplexed and impressed at the isolation this vehicle was creating around me. The near silent ride, the softly sprung air suspension and the concert-like stage the audio system created resulted in the most comfortable driving experience of my life. The kids agreed too, as they were all asleep within 10 minutes of leaving our house.
Under-hood, it’s the same 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 that’s used across the Rolls-Royce range, but in this Black Badge version it’s fettled slightly to produce 600 horsepower and 850Nm of silky smooth, creamy torque. It’s so over the top that it could only be the obvious choice for the vehicle.
This level of output provides the Cullinan with more performance than you’d ever need, allowing for strong acceleration and instant overtaking ability despite the vehicle’s huge weight. As for fuel consumption, it’s probably best we don’t talk about that. Of course, if you can afford this thing in the first place, you’re hardly going to be worrying about running costs.
Clerical Purple & Gentleman’s Carbon
Swing open the doors (which are self closing, by the way) and you’re greeted by a customized cabin. The exterior too of course can be specced as you want, and there are so many colors and coachwork options that you can easily spend all day playing with the configurator.
The material choice is unlike anything you will find in any other car.
It’s all either supple leather, perfectly-finished metal or soft carpeting.
Without forgetting the carbon fiber accents that the Black Badge cars receive.
The weave really is something else. I call it ‘gentleman’s carbon’ as it’s intrinsically complex and visually stunning, yet serves absolutely no purpose in lightening or strengthening the Cullinan. But it’s ridiculously cool and therefore a must-have.
The milled and polished billet speaker grills are pretty wild too.
The infinity logo has nothing to do with Mazdas nor Nissan’s luxury brand, but rather the Black Badge symbol taken from the Rolls-Royce-powered Bluebird K3 hydroplane that Malcolm Campbell set a speed record with in 1930. Now that’s heritage to boast about.
The rear doors swing open until they are perpendicular with the body, facilitating unrestricted entry – even with three kids trying to get in at the same time. To say legroom is ample would be the understatement of the century.
Incidentally, you can spec the rear seating arrangement with a more luxurious two-seat option complete with a fixed center console.
The rear infotainment consists of two touch screens that swivel out when you lower the chrome-contoured tables. In our instance, two screens for three young boys was never going to end well.
You may have noticed that the interface is controlled by a BMW-sourced i-Drive-like controller, and that all the menus closely resemble that of BMWs. This is no bad thing as it’s a proven system that works.
One of the Cullinan’s coolest party tricks has to be the optional picnic seats and table that fold out from the rear. I enjoyed sitting here and watching my kids; it’s just a pity there was no champagne to sip on.
I was eventually asked to move the gigantic vehicle from the only access road to the fields, but the day’s horse-riding activities had pretty much come to an end anyway. We packed up and headed home.
The Other Face Of The Cullinan
The Cullinan proved itself to be an amazing family car during the daytime. Now it was time to admire its poise at night, in the city.
For this, there was only one location I had in mind – the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku. This is one of Tokyo’s shadier neighborhoods, and a place you can find any and every type of themed bar to tickle your fancy. Emphasis on the tickling.
The Cullinan out in the city after dark was quite a sight, and it simply towered over any car that drove by.
It elegantly announces that someone important may be in its vicinity. Not this particular night though, just a sweaty photographer trying to dodge oncoming traffic for the perfect shot.
It was here that I finally had some time to think about vehicles like the Cullinan, which most would likely dismiss as totally extravagant.
That may be true, but there continues to be a market for models like this.
And after spending a few days with the Rolls, I came to the conclusion that if I were ever in a position to own something like this as part of a bigger garage-worth of cars, I totally would. What the Cullinan offers is unlike anything else out there.
In a world of excess, it totally fits in – especially in this exact configuration and color.
What Rolls-Royce has done once again is offer its clients a unique product with just as much character as any sports car out there. It’s a totally different kind of character, yet just as captivating.
Different worlds. Different priorities. Same smile.
Dino Dalle Carbonare
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