By Kap Maceda Aguila
CONSUMER preference for SUVs cannot be ignored; it has proven to be more than a passing fancy, transcending demographics and price points.
For 114 years, British brand Rolls-Royce has steadily built its renown as the preeminent maker of the world’s most luxurious vehicles — designing and executing bespoke rides available and affordable only to the upper crust of society. While traditionally envisaged to be chauffeur-driven, Rolls-Royce has in recent years softened its previously stiff upper lip in yielding to consumer demand for more “contemporary” vehicles. Cases in point are the brand’s grand tourer Wraith and the convertible Dawn.
Still, one format lay unexplored, and that ended on May 10 when Rolls-Royce globally unveiled its first SUV model, the Cullinan. Three years of speculation had followed the company’s initial announcement of the SUV, brought about by the clamor of many customers who were “younger, very successful high-net-worth individuals who are heavily engaged in the experience economy, and wanted a Rolls-Royce that would take them to the ends of the Earth in ultimate luxury.”
Added the company in a statement; “Automotive mobility has always been a fast-moving and dynamic business, with new concepts — such as SUVs — appearing with great regularity. But those new concepts need to be perfected in order to be adopted by those customers who will accept no compromise — the patrons of true luxury.” This underscored how seriously Rolls-Royce considered the Cullinan’s development as not just a whimsical release in the heretofore unconquered segment.
At the exclusive preview of the Cullinan hosted by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Manila at its Bonifacio Global City showroom, general manager Miguelito L. Jose described the vehicle in a speech as “the most versatile, family-oriented, fun-oriented, and fun-to-drive super-luxury SUV,” and “the most practical Rolls-Royce.”
DIAMOND FOR THE ROUGH
Named after the world’s largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, the Cullinan was forged in some of the harshest of environments. In a video presentation, a then-camouflaged unit was depicted negotiating Scottish highlands, ice covered passes of the Austrian Alps, and sand dunes of the Arabian peninsula. Its all-wheel-drive, all-wheel steering, and a host of abilities enabled the Cullinan to adroitly conquer challenging terrain.
The Cullinan has a robust, 6.75-liter, 48-valve, twin-turbo, 563-hp, 850-Nm V12 engine throbbing under its long hood and an execution of the signature Parthenon grille now familiar to brand’s enthusiasts. The Cullinan is thus incontrovertibly Rolls-Royce even at first blush.
The car maker says the Cullinan is the first “three-box” car in SUVs. A partition wall gives a distinct “environment for passengers,” one that is acoustically insulated from even the cargo hold. Even if the company banners this a “most practical of Rolls-Royces,” the vehicle is not by any stretch a Spartan affair.
In fact, the SUV similarly proffers the brand’s vaunted “magic carpet ride” reputation, albeit to unfamiliar terrain, through the integration of new technologies into the architecture. “The engineering team began by creating a drivetrain that would bring Rolls-Royce’s famous (ride) off-road,” said the company in a statement.
For starters, there is high technology behind making sure the passengers within are comfortable even if the terrain is not conducive to it.
This is made possible by “new lighter architecture, and the latest generation of self-leveling air suspension.” Rolls-Royce re-engineered the air suspension system, and added “larger air struts with more air volume to cushion the blows of the toughest of terrains.” Drive and prop shafts were also strengthened, and included drive to the front wheels as well as the back for the first time in the company’s history. Lastly, the new engine was engineered to deliver just the right level of torque the lowest possible revolutions (1,600 rpm).
Additionally, “the suspension makes millions of calculations every second as it continuously varies the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system — reacting to body and wheel acceleration, steering inputs and camera information. A new double-wishbone front axle and five-link rear axle deliver astounding levels of control over lateral roll and shear forces and deliver incredible agility and stability, as does the addition of four-wheel steering, all contributing to incredible drivability and nimbleness.”
When driving on uneven terrain, the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system uses an air compression system “to actively push down any wheel it detects losing traction to ensure every wheel is constantly in contact with the ground and maximum torque is being provided to all wheels.”
PALACE ON WHEELS
The cabin of the Cullinan, stressed the company, “combines authentic Rolls-Royce luxury with simple, symmetrical functionality to express the car’s inherent strength. Whether the fascia and center stack of the dashboard or the arm rests on the doors, structural horizontal and vertical elements underpin the interior design.”
Hand-finished metal pillars frame the center stack, and bridge the upper fascia and middle console to give it presence. Horizontal elements of the fascia give it a more commanding feel.
“Box grain” black leather — a durable and water-resistant boarded leather similar to that used in Italian high-end luggage and handbag design — wraps the upper fascia for a heightened sense of width. This also “[allows] the jewelry-like elements of clock and air vents to stand out beautifully.”
Passengers are sure to feel the luxury in the Cullinan via the seats themselves — showing off Rolls-Royce quality and craftsmanship. “These… also showcase [a] mastery of leather craft as this entire backrest panel has been crafted from a single piece of leather to pick out a highly three-dimensional surface.”
Over at the rear, the vehicle boasts a unique tailgate called “The Clasp,” a “nod to the era when luggage was mounted on the exterior of the motor-car, so the occupants did not travel with their belongings, the rear profile of Cullinan is a two-part, ‘D-Back’ format, with the bustle denoting the place of the luggage. [It] opens and closes in its two sections automatically at the touch of the key fob button.”
The rear-passenger section offers two configurations: lounge seats (for three) or individual seats (two). The rear seats also fold down, and the Cullinan offers a suite of bespoke features developed specifically for the many various lifestyles of its owners including the viewing suite and the recreation module.
“Luxury is no longer an urban concept,” declared Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös. “More and more it is about embracing and experiencing the wider world. Our customers expect to go everywhere in luxury, effortlessly and without compromise, conquering the most challenging terrain to enjoy life’s most enriching experiences, wherever they may be. For this reason, they have asked us to create a Rolls-Royce that offers uncompromised luxury wherever they dare to venture. Cullinan is that car.”
Mr. Jose, meanwhile, said that production of the SUV will commence in August, and local buyers can expect deliveries here by December or January 2019. When asked by BusinessWorld if there have been any reservations made, he confirmed with a smile: “Yes.”
By Kap Maceda Aguila