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In the dusk of the 2021 calendar year, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is finishing its fourth production year. Since its debut in 2018, the Cullinan has not changed apart from adding special-edition interior options and appearance packages. The fact is, there is not much to change on RR’s first SUV. All we can do now is wait for a presumed electric or hybrid variant and the day Rolls-Royce becomes available with fully (actual) self-driving technology. 

Image by Mike Satterfield

However, until that time arrives, we are looking at the 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan. This particular Cullinan wears a shade of paint RR calls Bright Red, which is direct and self-explanatory. No poetic color names like Blood of My Enemy Red, Crimson Dawn, or even Clifford Red. Inside, Bright Red acts a tasteful contrast to the Cullinan’s black box-grain leather interior and wool carpets. 

As with any Cullinan, the wood is real wood, and the milled aluminum accents have a heavy quality feel to them. This particular RR Cullinan came equipped with the optional entertainment package consisting of dual, seat-mounted, 12-inch screens with an available WiFi hotspot. The bright red exterior gave the Cullinan a literal Simpsons Canyonero vibe with its massive size and off-road capability. I heard lyrics to the song every time I gazed upon it – “She’s a squirrel crushing, deer smacking, driving machine! Canyonero!” 

New Money Means Anyone Can Own a Rolls-Royce

A lot of things can enter a person’s mind when they hear the words Rolls-Royce. It can range from VIP bottle service at a nightclub to a jar of Grey Poupon Dijon mustard. This is because modern Rolls-Royce (RR) is no longer seen as the Fifth Avenue taxi for the silver-haired puppet masters of capitalism – that was old money. In this era of new money, excess comes in a variety of colors and patterns. 

Today, anyone can be seen stepping out of a new Rolls-Royce. A tech whiz who just sold a patent, soft-handed trust funder riding out the last of the old money, or a YouTuber whose channel consists of them unboxing the latest fast food items – not eating, mind you, just taking it out of the packaging. Regardless of how people acquire the funds to sign on the dotted line, owning a Rolls-Royce is exceptional, like ordering off the menu or tailoring an outfit to your exact measurements – it’s an expression of individual taste. Ordering a new RR means making valuable decisions in choosing additional options and narrowing down the perfect exterior and interior paint combination from a selection of every color your eyes can detect. 

Mudding a $400k Rolls-Royce Cullinan

The RR Cullinan falls into a niche segment of luxury SUVs designed and tested in the harshest environments only to be used in the daily swept streets of gated communities and be seen in front of boutique storefronts. Vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, Land Rover Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne, Lamborghini Urus, and the Bentley Bentayga. Granted, a few owners will pilot these all-terrain land yachts for business or pleasure, but most will stick to the urban jungle. 

You haven’t lived until you’ve stepped into a $400k luxury SUV wearing fifty-dollar work boots dressed in a half-inch layer of still-wet mud.

That’s why it was such a treat not only to see a big red Cullinan completely caked in day-old rainwater and mud but also to have a hand in getting it dirty. You haven’t lived until you’ve stepped into a $400k luxury SUV wearing fifty-dollar work boots dressed in a half-inch layer of still-wet mud. The grass isn’t greener on the other side because this RR Cullinan just finished doing donuts in the field. It may have the face of a stern headmaster, but when you stand on the loud pedal and get all four wheels turning, it has the torque to party like Animal House

Nobody wants to be the person who breaks the RR at an event – that’s considered a party fail in the community. So as professional motoring journalists, our task was not to damage the Cullinan but to exercise its off-road prowess on muddy trails mainly driven by Jeeps and ATVs. The craziest thing we did was take it power sliding in a mud bog. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Cullinan did not get stuck. It merely used its massive twin-turbocharged 6.7-liter V12 engine to turn its wheels into oars and propel itself out of the mud like a fuel-injected paddle boat. 

The craziest thing we did was take it power sliding in a mud bog. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Cullinan did not get stuck.

With 563-hp and 627 lb.-ft of torque on tap, this elegant V12 power plant can push the 6,000-pound SUV from zero to 60 in 4.8-seconds. To put that in perspective, that’s faster than a 2021 Porsche Cayenne S, which hits 60 mph in 4.9-seconds. Stomp the gas pedal, and the big Rolls will throw every passenger back into their seat. Under full power, the Cullinan does not roar or shout like some common V8 engine. Instead, it merely projects its voice like a British military officer. 

Photo via Jesus Garcia

As the photos show, watching a bespoke 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan playing in the mud is refreshing. It’s something you don’t see every day, like non-political social posts, modest Tesla owners, and movies that live up to the hype. It can be a rare sight, but entirely possible, which sparks a sense of hope and can even bring a person to smile – as it did for me. 

What’s it like to drive a 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan? Its most notable characteristic with any RR is the steering. Making turns in a Rolls-Royce feels like nothing else on the market.

What’s it like to drive a 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan? Its most notable characteristic with any RR is the steering. Making turns in a Rolls-Royce feels like nothing else on the market. It manages to be heavy but silky smooth at the same time. It has that sense of old-fashioned, built-to-last weight that almost makes you want to drive it wearing white gloves. The gear selector is on the column, and I was delighted with its responsiveness to your commands. Considering the Cullinan is over 17-feet long, having that instant gear change was an absolute joy when I needed to make a three-point turn on a narrow trail with deep trenches on either side. 

Photo via Jesus Garcia

Preparing the Cullinan is a one button process. You simply press the button labeled “Off Road”. After that, the transmission does the hard work of figuring out the terrain using multiple cameras and sensors scanning a 360 view perimeter around the vehicle. As a result, all you need to do is steer away from any cliffs, trees, or large bodies of water, and the RR Cullinan will manage with ease up and down slippery muddy trails. 

If You Have the Means, Get it Dirty 

SUVs have come a long way from the early Pimp My Ride days of the early 2000s. Now, 20-inch wheels are often the standard, and you have TVs installed as a factory option. But, more importantly, the performance has reached levels beyond the carpool lane. High-horsepower engines, adjustable ride heights, and four-wheel drive systems smart enough to join Mensa help these vehicles live up to the acronym Sports Utility Vehicle. 

That being said, there was one thing I did not like about the 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan. The standard rear bench seat, known as the elegance package, does not recline. It felt like an oversight in a vehicle often associated with being driven. The positive side is that the bench seat folds flat to create more cargo space like a traditional full-size SUV. 

Photo via Mike Satterfield

The Opulence package offers two individual rear seats separated by a center console which houses a refrigerator, storage space for a whisky decanter and champagne flutes, and a glass partition behind the seats. With the Opulence package, the rear seats do recline and offer massaging features but do not fold flat. This is more of a chauffeur style of rear seating. 

Starting price for a 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan is $335,000 and will jump to over $400k as easily as stepping onto a street curb. Of course, high prices are no surprise when talking about a Rolls-Royce, but if you have the means to buy or legally borrow a Cullinan for the day, I highly recommend you go out and get it dirty. This ultra-lux SUV has the equipment to provide an afternoon’s worth of comfortable, outrageous fun. 

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