SUVs

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan preview: The best, made bigger

Start saving those simoleons -- the Cullinan starts at $325,000.

Rolls-Royce

It might not be the first super-luxe automaker with an SUV in its lineup, but Rolls-Royce is determined to have the best one, and its name is Cullinan.

Now Playing: Watch this: Rolls-Royce Cullinan takes the magic carpet ride off-road
5:11

This has been a long time coming. The sea change in buyer attitudes toward SUVs has moved from morbid curiosity to unabashed stanning, regardless of price point. If Rolls-Royce didn't make a utility vehicle, it'd be leaving money on the table. It didn't rush one out, though, which is where many automakers get tripped up. 

Rolls-Royce clearly wanted to make a car that embodies every inch of its badge, and it seems that the 2019 Cullinan fits the bill.

No Rolls-Royce truly looks "angry," but the Cullinan is the closest one yet.

Rolls-Royce

Looks the same, but different

The front end's layout is similar to the eighth-generation Phantom's, but the character lines are exaggerated. Everything is blockier, bulkier. The Sprit of Ecstasy hood ornament, a Rolls-Royce staple since the Bronze Age, is right where it should be. The chrome grille is a bit more understated than the Phantom's, but the latter is still head of the family, after all.

Out back, the Cullinan's D-pillar is as beefy as the Phantom's, but whereas the super-sedan's tuchus has more of a curve to it, the Cullinan again takes the blockier approach. The spoiler out back is very obviously for slipping through the wind, but it's a silly thing to see on a Rolls-Royce, even though it'd look weird without it.

Open up the suicide doors (on an SUV! Have mercy!) and you'll find an interior fit for the six-figure price tag. The dashboard layout is similar to that of the Phantom, but once again, there's a bit more bulk and it lacks the Phantom's ridiculous Gallery on the passenger side.

The real treat is in the second row. The first configuration, called Lounge Seats, is a typical three-abreast layout with electronically folding rear seats where the headrests move up to avoid imprinting the leather.

The second configuration is a bit more traditional. The Individual Seat layout has two separate rear seats with a large, permanent center console between the two that carries both whisky glasses and champagne flutes in addition to a refrigerator. There's also a glass partition between the cargo area and the seats, so that one need not suffer the presence of luggage.

The trunk has a removable parcel shelf. The floor is lower than the seat base to prevent things from sliding forward when the seats are flattened, but it can raise up to accommodate large items like, as Rolls-Royce's press release suggests, "a Mark Rothko from the Art Gallery." Please stop by my house on the way home with that one.

Whether you're seated two or three abreast, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more comfortable place to sit.

Rolls-Royce

Twelve silent cylinders and a lot of tech

Under that long hood is Rolls-Royce's 6.75-liter, twin-turbocharged V12 putting out 563 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. It's sent to all four wheels through a transmission of some kind, Rolls-Royce didn't say, but it's probably the Phantom's eight-speed automatic.

Approach the Cullinan and it lowers about 1.5 inches to let you in, raising upon startup. The air suspension has adaptive damping and was built specifically with some degree of off-roading in mind -- but a Rolls-Royce kind of off-roading, where everything is still preternaturally smooth. A single off-road button on the dash is all it takes to prep the thing for the dirt. It'll ford just over 21 inches of water, if you need it to.

Following with the tradition of the latest BMW infotainment systems, the Cullinan's in-dash tech now sports touch-capable operation, but there's still a dial on the center console if you prefer. There's also a touchscreen map for the rear. A Wi-Fi hotspot is available, but not in North America. Additional tech includes adaptive cruise control, night vision assist, a surround-view camera system, forward collision warning and a head-up display.

Rolls-Royce's Bespoke arm also has these things called Recreation Module. Each is tailored to an owner's specific pastimes -- the press release uses drone racing as an example. The module slots into the cargo area, and when it's time to party, a motorized drawer opens up with everything you'll need for said pursuit.  

When it comes to Rolls-Royce, the sky's the limit in terms of what you can spend on a vehicle, but it's not like the starting price isn't in the stratosphere to begin with. The Cullinan starts at $325,000, so you'd better start saving those stacks for when it goes on sale.