The best luxury SUV on the market is a subjective argument as those loyal to brands like Bentley and Mercedes-Benz will argue that their pick deserves to be at the top of the podium. However, there is no argument when it comes to the most expensive production luxury SUV in the world, and the Spirit of Ecstasy has the honor of spraying the champagne. According to Motor Trend, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan’s $330,000 starting price puts it far ahead of its second most expensive competitor, the 2020 Bentley Bentayga Speed which starts at $240,000. But does being the most expensive translate to being the best? Not always. However, when you get a chance to drive a Rolls-Royce Cullinan you seize that rare opportunity and squeeze every mile out of it.
Even if you’re a YouTuber, have access to a trust fund, or have a hand under the table at the stock market, the odds of getting the chance to drive a $426,000 luxury SUV through the mud are about the same as seeing a broken Rolex. So what was it like to drive?
Effortless is the best word to describe driving a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, which is no surprise when you consider the foundation of luxury as no stress while sitting in a comfortable, wide-open space. Think laying by the pool on a perfect temperature sunny day with the sound of the sea a few yards away. The sensation of falling back on to a freshly made bed with sheets still warm from the dryer. The joy of not having a reason to set an alarm clock tomorrow. Driving the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is a deep exhale on wheels.
It may look like it belongs on Rodeo Drive, filled to the brim with shopping bags, but Rolls-Royce designed the Cullinan to be a capable off-roader.
The Cullinan was first introduced to the Rolls-Royce family in 2018 as its first SUV and its first all-wheel-drive vehicle. It may look like it belongs on Rodeo Drive, filled to the brim with shopping bags, but Rolls-Royce designed the Cullinan to be a capable off-roader. The internet has seen the Cullinan drive through deserts and mountains, proving that it is more than just a status symbol.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan I had the pleasure of driving wore an eye-wrapping shade of Twilight Purple with a contrasting silver hood. I won’t lie. Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice played in my head while walking around this large purple SUV — reminding me to always keep my mind on my money. The Cullinan’s interior features a light purple plush carpet with Business-Class wide seats dressed in cream-colored leather stitched together with purple fabric. Driving to the event in my seven-year-old — but meticulously maintained — $16k compact sedan and stepping into a Rolls-Royce felt like I had skipped to the very front of the line for a ride at Disney World.
The ultra-wide doors are too far to reach and close, but not to worry as there is a black button you can hold to command the doors automatically close for you – no butler required. I felt a little outclassed scanning the array of chrome buttons looking for the ignition button only to find it on the dashboard’s left side. The AC vents feel cold and heavy to the touch because they are made of real chrome. The modest gear selector gives you three options: reverse, neutral, and drive, with a button option for park. It feels solid like a well-oiled turn of the last century lever as it guilds down to drive.
On public roads, the steering felt firm but soft, like running your hand underwater. You can feel its Magic Carpet Ride air-ride suspension calculating the road surface to iron out any imperfections before it reaches your spine. People stared at this 6,000 pound Purple land yacht as it rolled through the swooping two-lane hill country roads. The owners of a black Cadillac Escalade and white Range Rover did their best impressions of an owl as I drove past. A sense of delicious entitlement washes over me, knowing I’m driving an MSRP nearly four times more than theirs — a royal motor among common commuters.
People stared at this 6,000 pound Purple land yacht as it rolled through the swooping two-lane hill country roads.
Foot to the floor cracks the whip on the Cullinan’s 563 horsepower 6.75-liter, twin-turbo, V12. No noise is heard as the SUV glides over the road at a faster rate of speed. My head doesn’t even move back as the vehicle pulls forward using its 627 pound-feet of torque. Even the horn sounds upscale with a polite baritone that sounds like it’s saying “pardon me” rather than “hey!”
When we arrived at the off-road obstacle course, there was no need for prepping. Down on the console is a big button labeled OFF ROAD — no need to mess with settings or drive modes in the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. You don’t even need to press the off-road button if you can’t be bothered. The Cullinan uses a satellite-aided eight-speed transmission linked to a GPS receiver to know the terrain up ahead and select the best gear to use. Combined with its air-ride suspension, rear-wheel steering, the Cullinan has no trouble getting its 22-inch wheels dirty as it drives up and down slippery hills and dunking itself into streams as deep as 21 inches without the worry of inhaling water.
The Cullinan uses a satellite-aided eight-speed transmission linked to a GPS receiver to know the terrain up ahead and select the best gear to use.
The starting price for a Rolls-Royce Cullinan is $330,000, and the model featured in this article is priced at $426,700. Additional options included two folding leather seats located at the tailgate with a small cocktail table in between to appear at the touch of a button. It is called a viewing suite and can be used for providing your own seating at an outdoor event. An optional Urban Photography module includes a mini DJI Mavic photo drone, Apple iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, with Sennheiser headphones to document every expedition in the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
The Cullinan’s Twilight purple pierced through the dust and mud. Walking away from it after the test drive, I felt a yearning just to turn around and go back for another run. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan has a price tag most deem outrageous, but it has the technology, luxury, and ride to justify its cost. It is more than just leather seats and air-ride suspension. Everything you touch in the Cullinan carries the weight and feel of a premium wristwatch. It provides a secure sense of quality and reassurance that one is not merely paying for a brand name. For 2021, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan will go virtually unchanged except for limited-edition models like the Black Badge and additional available options.
To quote Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
Special thanks to Capture the Machine photographer Kevin McCauley for the high-definition photos shown in this article.