The Rolls-Royce of SUVs — there’s no better way to describe the 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Introduced last year, Cullinan is the first sport-utility vehicle from the legendary British marque and it certainly lives up to the high luxury bar established by the name Rolls-Royce. From its familiar bold grille topped by the famed Spirit of Ecstasy ornament to its ultra-luxurious interior, the Cullinan is pure Rolls-Royce with the added utility expected of an off-road-capable SUV.
Rolls-Royce was kind enough to provide us with a 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan painted in Jubilee Silver. As with most Rolls-Royce models before it, the Cullinan has many amenities as standard equipment; however, the company also provides a wide range of options for customization. The Cullinan we drove features a Launch Package that adds a range of features including rear-seat screens and picnic tables, a premium audio system, a panoramic glass sunroof, RR monograms on head restraints and one of our favorite items, lambswool floormats.
The total MSRP for the test Cullinan is $394,275. Since there really isn’t anything quite like a Rolls-Royce, the Cullinan doesn’t have any direct competitors; however, the closest models to the Cullinan include the Bentley Bentayga, Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 and Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography.
There’s no mistaking a Cullinan for anything other than a Rolls-Royce, especially from the front. The hand-polished stainless-steel grille sits flush with the bodywork, yet it remains prominent next to headlights and vents recessed into that bodywork. The long, sculpted hood radiates back from the bold grille, split by the Rolls-Royce badge and — of course — the famed Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament.
The grille and beltline of the 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan ride high above the ground, making the SUV look even taller than its massive 22-inch wheels suggest. In fact, the typically massive-looking wheels don’t seem all that big on Cullinan. The B- and C-pillars strike a vertical statement, while the roof slopes slightly down toward the rear, meeting up with a spoiler above the rear hatch. From practically any angle, the Cullinan can easily be described as big and bold.
The level of elegance inside Cullinan certainly lives up to the grand reputation that Rolls-Royce earned over the last century. Every surface gets swathed in soft leather, polished stainless steel or open pore Circassian Walnut trim. The walnut works well with the two shades of blue leather — Charles Blue as the primary color with additional trim in Navy Blue. Stitching and piping are in contrasting Selby Grey.
The driver sits behind a large leather-wrapped steering wheel; beyond the wheel sits a 12.3-inch color LED display screen for gauges. A control panel on the left features the start button and headlight controls, while under the top of the dash reside buttons for closing the front doors.
At the top of the center console sits a 10.25-inch central display that can be accessed via touchscreen, voice control or a controller located between the front seats. The display is the only noticeable connection to BMW (parent company of Rolls-Royce) — the controls match those found in the Bavarian automaker’s vehicles.
Climate control functions are separate and — perhaps in a nod to tradition — the Cullinan does not have automatic climate control. Instead dials exist for fan speed — right and left — and dials of red and blue to make the interior warmer or cooler. Classic push-and-pull knobs for vents also evoke a nostalgic flair.
The front seats of the 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan are big and soft, offering heating, cooling and massage functions. Each head restraint gets embossed with the Spirt of Ecstasy logo.
Similar to other models in the Rolls-Royce line, the rear doors of the 2020 Cullinan are rear hinged, making access to the aft seats much easier. Inside, passengers sit on soft leather seats that offer plenty of legroom and headroom. Once seated inside, occupants might find the doors hard to reach, so a push of a button on the C-pillar automatically pulls them closed. Privileged rear-seat occupants will likely want to remove their shoes and sink their feet into the softest lambswool floormats in existence.
Positioned on the front seatbacks are two buttons: one lowers a writing table with a wood veneer that matches the rest of the interior, while the second lowers a video screen. On this display rear-seat passengers can adjust audio, entertainment or even follow the Cullinan’s designated route via the navigation system. Rear-seat occupants also have their own separate climate controls and USB-C ports in the doors.
A feature of any Rolls-Royce is the iconic umbrella hidden in the door or jamb (depending on model). In fact, each rear door of the Cullinan features a custom umbrella secretly stashed inside; with the push of a button a polished monogramed handle pops out to reveal an easily accessible foul-weather friend. Upon returning to the vehicle, users slip umbrellas back into their respective receptacles to dry automatically. Umbrellas come in a variety of colors to match the Cullinan; our silver tester had subdued yet appropriate black umbrellas.
The rear cargo area of the 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan features a two-part opening — a standard hatch that swings upward as well as a tailgate. Both are powered so they open and close at the touch of a button. The tailgate area is also swathed in soft carpet, creating an inviting space to enjoy a picnic. Rolls-Royce also offers integrated folding seats that slide out for a proper tailgate party. The inner cargo area has plenty of space for luggage; however, raised rear seats mean that the floor of the cargo area angles up toward the rear seats.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is a big vehicle and it has vast power to match. Under the hood lurks a 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 engine that produces 563 horsepower and a plentiful 627 lb-ft of torque at a low 1600 rpm. The big V12 gets teamed with an 8-speed smoothly shifting automatic transmission. Power is transmitted to the road via the first-ever all-wheel-drive system in a production Rolls-Royce. Even though the twin-turbo V12 is thoroughly modern, its displacement also smacks of nostalgia — a 6.75-liter V8 powered many Rolls-Royce models from the 1970s through the early 2000s.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan has a particular presence, noticeable both from without and from within. When sitting behind the wheel, drivers will realize the vehicle feels huge — mainly from the exceptionally long hood and its Spirit of Ecstasy ornament that seems miles away. Pressing the accelerator is akin to turning a rheostat — the power increases smoothly yet exponentially, with speed building quickly and quietly. Shifts are instantaneous and barely noticeable.
The ride from within the cossetted confines of the 2020 Cullinan feels incredibly soft, absorbing virtually any road imperfections. At times the Cullinan feels a bit too soft, and from a driving standpoint a firmer suspension would be preferable. However, while pushing this formidable SUV along some of our favorite winding roads in the Pacific Northwest, the Cullinan handled surprisingly well. Steering is precise with precious little body lean in corners — not what we anticipated. This unexpected glide is what Rolls-Royce calls the Magic Carpet Ride.
To ensure the smoothest ride possible, Cullinan employs an enhanced version of the brand’s self-leveling air suspension. The suspension makes millions of calculations every second, continuously reacting to steering input, body and wheel acceleration, as well as camera information that detects changes in the road surface. Cullinan also features a new double-wishbone front axle and a 5-link rear axle, designed for excellent agility and stability in all conditions; four-wheel steering contributes to overall drivability.
In locales such as New York City a Rolls-Royce may barely receive a passing glance, but in rural areas of the Pacific Northwest a passing Rolls-Royce becomes an occasion — many people point, wave and smile. In fact many folks clearly realize they are witnessing a Rolls rolling by, even though it is likely the first time they have ever witnessed one in the wild —especially a relatively new Rolls-Royce SUV such as Cullinan. This vehicle is a bit of a unicorn almost anywhere, but that becomes part of the mystique of owning or driving a Rolls-Royce SUV.
Unfortunately, we did not have the chance to take Cullinan off pavement this time around; however, we had done so previously and found the big Rolls plenty capable. Pressing the off-road button on Cullinan’s center console puts into effect a number of adjustments that prepare this formidable SUV for off-pavement adventures, including raising the ground clearance, adjusting the 4-wheel-drive system and changing the electronically controlled shock-absorber system to actively press down any wheel it detects losing traction, ensuring all wheels remain in constant contact with the ground.
Driving the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is certainly a unique experience, and given the hefty price tag and rarity it’s an experience few will enjoy. That said, spending a couple days with this elegant machine left us with the distinct impression that Cullinan lives up to the reputation that Rolls-Royce has honed over the last hundred years. From its bold, unmistakable looks to the ultra-luxurious, quiet interior to the effortless power of a big V12 engine, Cullinan is a sport-utility vehicle in a category unto itself. Granted it would be hard for anyone to justify spending $400,000 on a new SUV, but if one had the means and the inclination, Cullinan is admittedly worth the price of admission.
Looking good in the Pacific Northwest.
Big and bold.
Suspension can be raised when heading off pavement.
LED running lights as well as a lighted Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament give the Cullinan a unique look at night.
The RR logo can be found on headlights as well as at the top of the grille.
The strong shoulders of the 2020 Cullinan are further emphasized with the single coachline that matches the secondary interior color.
Large opening at the rear for easy loading.
Unmistakable front-end appearance.
The Rolls-Royce hub logos always remains upright, even while the wheels are turning.
Spirit of Ecstasy
VIN plate mounted to right side B-pillar.
Rear-seat passengers close doors with a push of this button.Head restraints are also adjusted here.
Plenty of legroom in the rear seat.
Rear-seat video screen.
Climate controls front and back. Rear seats have additional floor vents.
Vehicle and infotainment controls in the center console.
Elegant Cullinan clock on the dashboard.
The iconic umbrellas are stored in the rear doors and released with the push of a button.
Spirit of Ecstasy embossed on front head restraints.
Ultra-soft lambswool floormats.
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