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Tue, 16 Oct 2018 10:55:28 +0100
Rolls Royce Cullinan 2018 review
Big, bold new Rolls-Royce 4x4 begins a new era for the brand – and convinces both on-road and off of it This is, in all senses, a big car. Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös acknowledges the Cullinan, the company’s new 4x4 and a distinct diversion for the British luxury brand, is a controversial vehicle. I know: it’s only a car, right? But I guess there are two reasons. First – and let’s get it dealt with – are there not hints of The Simpsons' ‘Canyonero’ about the Cullinan’s appearance? Rolls has, like Porsche did with the first Cayenne, tried to put clear Rolls-Royce cues into the design. Maybe they just don’t translate to an SUV, or maybe we’re just not used to it yet. I think it probably grows on you, and that it won’t matter if it doesn’t: the Bentley Bentayga and original Cayenne discovered looks are unimportant. Two, is this a vehicle Rolls-Royce should be making? To which the answer is ‘obviously’, because buyers want a Rolls-Royce they can drive daily, take the family in, take skiing, shooting or replace a Range Rover with. Dealers are only just now receiving demonstrators but the order book’s already full for more than a year.So here we are. Rolls’s first SUV, although not the first Rolls-Royce to go routinely off-road, because its cars have been going everywhere since roads were rubbish. But it’s its first from the brand with four-wheel drive. The architecture is the bespoke aluminium spaceframe which arrived first in last year’s Phantom and will eventually underpin all Rolls-Royces, distancing the 'cheaper' cars – Ghost, Wraith, Dawn – from the BMW group architecture origins they currently share.It’s a (figuratively, not literally) flexible architecture that allows different lengths and heights and here it’s shorter (at 5341m) but taller (1835mm) than the Phantom, a hefty 2000mm wide and with revised air suspension that’s beefier, has less friction than the flagship saloon’s, and rises 40mm in off-road mode. There are double-wishbones at the front, a five-link setup at the rear, two front and one rear anti-roll bars, electrically active, and active rear-steer. The same 6.75-litre twin turbocharged V12 as in the Phantom sits at the front, making 563bhp and tweaked for the greater low-down urge fit for an SUV. There’s some 627lb ft of it from only 1600rpm.It drives through an eight-speed automatic gearbox on which you can’t select gears yourself – the sat-nav assists gear selection – to all four wheels via a derivative/development (select a word that doesn’t make Rolls engineers wince) of BMW’s xDrive 4WD system. There are stronger components than in a 4WD 3 Series but the principle is the same: an electronically controlled clutch behind the gearbox can let up to 100% of power to the rear axle, or divert up to 50% to the front via a shaft and differential beneath the engine. Both front and rear differentials are open, not locking, but there’s torque vectoring via braking to stop an individual wheel spinning, and in off-road mode, if you also switch the stability control off, it locks the car in 50:50 all-wheel drive. Unlike with, say, a Bentley Bentayga or Range Rover, there’s only one off-road mode, rather than options such as rock, crawl, sand and so on, because Rolls-Royce says it wants its cars to be easier of use. There’s no low-ratio transfer case for the gearbox, either. But there is that 627lb ft from 1600rpm, which should help. The towing limit is around 2600kg because that’s the limit of the optional deployable towbar; work is afoot to make it the 3500kg the chassis can already handle. There’s a two-piece electric tailgate, opening onto a 560-litre boot, and if you specify the standard three-person bench rear seat (as 70% of customers are), it splits and folds, though because rear-seat passengers sit higher than those in the front, and because the seats are opulent, when folded they don’t leave the boot floor totally flat. Instead there’s an electrically operated ramp between boot floor and folded seat, or you can leave a step if you want to prevent luggage sliding forwards (which begs the question as to why you’d have bothered dropping the seats).Alternatively, you can select two individual rear chairs, with a fridge/humidor/whatever else you want between them. Those seats recline, and are backed by a glass partition to the luggage bay, to reduce noise emanating from the rear wheelarches. It’s most popular in markets where owners have a driver. Either way, the rear-hinged back doors give great access to the rear cabin. All doors, big and heavy as they are, can be closed electrically, quickly and with a wicked thud.
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