The new Rolls-Royce Cullinan is currently the world’s most expensive production SUV, and it is also the first all-wheel-drive Rolls-Royce. What do you do with a $425,000 ultra-luxury SUV? Naturally, you need to test it off-road. I had a chance to do precisely in a rain-soaked and muddy forest near Huntsville, Texas. Surprising, the experience ended up being about what did not happen.
Rolls-Royce Cullinan: By the numbers
First, let’s get the basics out the way. The Cullinan is propelled by a large 6.75-liter V12 engine that develops 563 horsepower and over 620 lb-ft of torque. The power is routed to a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system via an 8-speed automatic transmission. A constantly-adjusting four-corner air suspension works to smooth out the worst of roads and trails.
Rolls-Royce says that the entire philosophy of this SUV is to make traveling over any type of terrain effortless. Turns out, it’s not just effortless – it’s also very simple. The car’s computers do all the thinking for you. I will explain.
This luxurious beast comes to life with a push of a start button to the left of the steering wheel. The large displacement engine is so smooth and the cabin is so quiet, that you don’t really notice the engine is idling.
Next, you need to tell the car that you intend to cross challenging terrain by pressing the Off-Road button on the center console. This causes the Cullinan to gain about 40 mm (or almost two inches) of ground clearance, as the air suspension extends. The transmission, throttle response, the all-wheel-drive system, and the all-wheel steering are all calibrated to deal with whatever terrain and traction levels the car senses. All this happens behind the scenes. Once again, it’s supposed to be effortless.
I set off on the muddy trail, as the Rolls-Royce representative informs me that the SUV is wearing summer performance tires around its 22-inch wheels. This makes me a bit nervous as I pilot this $425,000 crossover between the trees and through about a foot of standing water and mud.
Nonetheless, the Cullinan moves on. No matter how slow I go to make it more difficult to find traction, the all-wheel-drive system figures it out – even with the summer tires that are getting caked with mud.
There is a tight turnaround with a ditch on the outside edge. Making the tight turn is a bit worrisome, but the four-wheel-steer allows the big beast to complete the turn without dropping into the ditch.
The ride quality is indeed nice, but it’s not like a Baja-racing trophy truck. In off-road mode, the air suspension is a little more extended so the ride quality gets just a touch stiffer. Still, this is one of the best riding off-road machine you will come across.
As I said in the beginning, this off-road experience is more about what did not happen. I did not get stuck or hung up. I completed all the tight turns without backing up for a three-point turn. I did not really hear the engine. I did not feel the transmission shifts.
While it feels strange taking a vehicle this nice and luxurious into the woods, the Cullinan simply does it in – dare I say it – effortless fashion.
The off-road review video is coming up soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this first drive of the Cullinan with Roman and Nick.