First drive: 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan in the UAE
The Cullinan is a big deal for Rolls-Royce. And you know the new SUV is important to our region when the model hits UAE roads within weeks of the international drive event in the United States. While we weren’t invited to that U.S. one, we did get to try out the British carmaker’s first offroader in Dubai, if only on a strictly onroad drive.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is every bit as big and imposing as you’d expect it to be. Looking like a Phantom with the rear lopped off, it isn’t going to be the most attractive of vehicles, but there is no mistaking it for anything as plebeian as a Bentley Bentayga or a Range Rover.
Inside, it offers up an ambience almost similar to that of the Phantom. Top to bottom, it is lined in expensive leather, wood and metal, although a strip of rubberised material along the upper face of the dash seemed like an odd low-rent choice. However, the cabin is completely customisable, as we tried out different test cars, some with 60:40 split-folding bench seats in the back and some with individual reclining rear seats for two; some with more wood trim than others; and some with a glass panel separating the boot from the cabin.
Both the regular front doors and the rear “suicide” doors can be electrically shut at the press of a button. Other tech is more familiar, such as the rotary-dial-controlled infotainment screen similar to BMW’s interface, which is no surprise.
The big SUV offers good space both in the front and the back, and the Cullinan especially gains in headroom, something that the first-generation Phantom oddly seemed to lack in the back the last time we rode in one. The ones with individual rear seats even have rear LCD screens and trays that pop out electrically, and a compartment between the seats for a chilled “drinks” set with glasses. The boot is huge, with a two-piece split-opening power tailgate and all sorts of optional storage accessories.
Powered by a 563 hp 6.75-litre turbo V12, with 850 Nm of torque from just 1,600 rpm, the Cullinan accelerates pretty briskly, but is not overly aggressive at full throttle, as it is tuned to provide a smooth ride for passengers at all times. However, it is still capable of 250 kph and is never short on power, as demonstrated by the “Power Reserve” gauge that replaces the traditional rpm gauge. And that power is fed through the brand’s first all-wheel-drive system, derived from BMW’s xDrive technology.
The Cullinan is not much of a driver’s car. It has soft steering, offers no feedback and clearly throws its weight around on the corners. And again, that’s all intentional, in the pursuit of supreme comfort. It feels every bit as you’d expect a Rolls-Royce to be. It comes with twin-axle air suspension, four-wheel steering and three electrically-powered anti-roll bars to ensure that it stays reasonably flat on fast curves, with decent grip from the extra-wide tyres on 22-inch wheels.
There’s also 100 kg of sound-deadening around the passenger compartment, and thick double-glazed windows. It all adds up to a very quiet and smooth ride, ideal for long-distance high-speed cruising.
We have no clue how it performs off the beaten path, but it does come with buttons for raising or lowering the suspension, hill-descent control and an “Off Road” setting.
Truth be told, it doesn’t even matter how far the Cullinan can venture on the dunes. It’s an SUV model that was a long time coming, and will surely become the brand’s biggest seller.
For prices and specs, visit the Rolls-Royce Cullinan buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and Rolls-Royce.