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Sun 13 May 2018 10:35 AM

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Rolls-Royce debuts the $325,000 Cullinan, its first SUV

Strong demand for off-road models in regions such as the Middle East are expected to boost slow sales for the luxury automaker

Rolls-Royce debuts the $325,000 Cullinan, its first SUV
The Cullinan is expected to boost slow sales for the luxury automaker, particularly in the Middle East, where demand for SUVs is among the highest in the world in countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Less than a year after the launch of its eighth generation Phantom, Rolls-Royce Motors has revealed its first ever SUV, the highly anticipated $325,000 Cullinan.

The off-road car is expected to boost slow sales for the luxury automaker, particularly in the Middle East, where demand for SUVs is among the highest in the world in countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The region is also among Rolls-Royce’s top five most important markets, with a 10,000 square feet flagship showroom in Dubai and the brand’s Abu Dhabi dealership making up two of its top five sales points worldwide.

However, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce chief executive, told Arabian Business last year sales “might grow when Cullinan comes”, but not to “big numbers” as to keep the brand’s exclusivity. Rolls-Royce currently sells around 4,000 cars a year.

Named after the largest diamond discovered to date, the Cullinan is the latest in a number of SUV releases from the world’s most prestigious automakers, with Lamborghini having launched its $200,000 Urus in April and Bentley having revealed its $200,000 Bentayga V8 in 2017. 

“The label SUV is now applied to anything with a two-box silhouette and the least suggestion of going off tarmac. [So] we envisioned an authentic, three-box, all-terrain, high-bodied car with a convention-challenging design and absolute capability that would satisfy the adventurous urges of our clients,” Giles Taylor, Rolls-Royce’s director of design, told reporters.

In a series of YouTube videos created with National Geographic, the BMW Group crown jewel has been “tested to destruction” all over the planet.

It has been expected to be among the bigger, statelier, luxury SUVs to arrive, but the automaker has released few details since announcing the vehicle three years ago.

There is ample information now: It’s huge. The Cullinan stands six feet off the ground—four inches taller than its closest competitor, the Bentayga. At 5,864 pounds, it’s more than 500 pounds heavier than the Bentayga, too.

Angular sides and that high, flat top make it look more imposing than the rounded Bentayga or even Lamborghini’s crouching, super-sporty Urus.

Its front grille has the same steel vertical slats and flat, stark form as the one on the new Rolls-Royce Dawn, but it’s elevated to regal height in the new SUV. (The Cullinan can wade in water up to 21 inches high, again beating the Bentley equivalent.) Futuristic LEDs surrounding each headlight give it a slightly new, rectangular shape.

The first thing you notice, though, are the four doors, which close in the traditional coach format. A rear tailgate automatically opens in two sections with the touch of the key fob button. Massive 22-inch rims flank each of its four corners.

Inside, the Cullinan offers space sufficiently broad and open to fit a regent and retinue though officially, it can seat only up to five people. The rear seat comes in two configurations, with two cockpit-style seats in the rear or a single lounge seat that allows seating for three - or, when folded down, up to 600 liters (21 cubic feet) of storage space, equal to that of the Urus. That’s enough to hold a small dog house or a week’s worth of safari-style luggage.

Rolls-Royce has also made a new, smaller, and thicker steering wheel for the Cullinan, augmented with a high-resolution, heads-up display and all the technology expected in the family: night vision, including daytime and night-time wildlife and pedestrian warning; an alertness assistant that helps avoid drowsy driving; a four-camera parking system with panoramic view, all-round visibility, and helicopter view; active cruise control; myriad crash-avoidance systems; Wi-Fi; and the standard navigation and entertainment systems.

As expected, from hints the company dropped in recent months, the Cullinan comes with a 6.75 litre, twin-turbo V12 engine that gets 563 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque.

This is the same engine Rolls-Royce put in the Phantom, which also shares the SUV’s aluminium-intensive platform.

The famous “magic air ride” feel that rendered the Phantom peerless is present here, too. It’s been re-engineered by adding larger air struts with greater air volume and by strengthening the drive and prop shafts to cushion blows from the toughest terrain - though it’s most of the buyers of this epic SUV probably won’t be taking it to Moab.

All-new, all-wheel drive and an all-wheel steering system—the first in Rolls-Royce history - come standard. Top speed is 155 miles per hour.

If you’ve got the funds, you might have a chance at getting your hands on the Cullinan - unlike the Lamborghini Urus, which has already sold out its first two years of production.

Early sales are expected to include 20 percent to 30 percent bespoke orders, which push up the price immensely. The gas-guzzler tax, estimated to be roughly $5,000 for that 18.8 miles per gallon rating, will also apply. Deliveries begin early next year.

*Additional reporting Bloomberg

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