DUBAI: There is only one word to describe the Rolls-Royce Cullinan: Magnificent.
In an era when car makers are all desperately dialing down their ambitions – smaller engines, hybrid variants, all-electric vehicles – the Cullinan comes out fighting for the enduring attractions of the internal combustion engine (ICE).
You should grab a chance to drive one (or own one, if you are rich enough) if and when you can, because this car is likely to be the last big hurrah from the ICE age. Even Rolls-Royce, the master motor builder, is talking about an all-electric vehicle, the Silent Shadow, in the near future.
When it does take that leap, it will undoubtedly be a success, because – judging by the Cullinan – Rolls-Royce takes its time thinking about a new product, aiming to get it just right.
The German-owned but British-manufactured product took a long time preparing its first move into the super-SUV (sport utility vehicle), all-terrain space, but the result, the Cullinan, is about as close to motoring perfection as it is possible to conceive.
Named after the largest rough diamond ever mined, the Cullinan is a gem of a car, equally at home in the sands of the Arabian desert as it is in the urban jungle.
Although it is selling like hot cakes from California to Shanghai, it seems especially designed for the Middle East, and is fast becoming the car of choice for wealthy Arabs, who have always had a thing about Rolls. Head to the Dubai International Financial Center – the epicenter of the UAE’s glittering nightlife – any weekend and count the Cullinans lining up for valet parking, to judge the appeal of the car.
The attraction lies in marrying the traditional Middle East appetite for off-road with the equally traditional desire for motoring glamour.
With the Cullinan you can imagine driving straight off the swanky boulevards of Dubai or Jeddah and heading up a vertiginous sand dune, or a steep-sided canyon. The car would look great in the stunning scenery of Saudi Arabia’s AlUla.
Just getting behind the wheel of the car gives you a sense of self-confidence, even entitlement. You are immediately enveloped in all that luxury and elegance and surrounded by the best technology motoring minds have ever devised.
With a 6.7-liter V-12 engine beneath the bonnet, you have enough power to take on virtually any task. Even with that massive engine, speed is not what draws you to the Cullinan. It can reach 100 kph in around 4.5 seconds and give you a top speed of around 250 kph, but speed is not why you want to drive one of these vehicles.
Instead, it is the classic Rolls-Royce “magic carpet” ride, in which steering and suspension are in such perfect harmony that you barely know you are in motion. In-car noise – engine, air, or tire – is imperceptible as even the biggest bump seems miraculously absorbed.
All the classic bits of luxury for which Rolls-Royce is famed are there – umbrellas/parasols discreetly hidden in the bodywork, self-closing doors, the star-light roof display, the illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy. But bear in mind that Rolls-Royce can customize virtually anything inside or out, which can add significantly to the basic price of around AED2 million ($544,000).
And once you have driven off the highway, up the side of the mountain range, and come to a well-deserved rest, what do you need? Well, a spot of refreshment, of course. And the Cullinan provides that with a picnic table and chairs that slide from the rear door at the touch of a button.
Sheer perfection. There may be a better car in the Middle East than the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, but I have yet to drive it.