5 Things We Learned About the Rolls-Royce Cullinan

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan drips with luxury and draws plenty of attention: it’s literally the Rolls-Royce of SUVs. For a week of driving around California, our model was bright orange (think: pumpkin.) It draws attention at the same level as if a lion got loose on the highway. If you’d just signed a max contract with an NBA team, this is the car you’d go out and buy.

If you must know, the 2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan starts at around $440,000 in Canada, while the moody Black Badge model goes for around $500,000. That doesn’t matter though — nobody buys a Rolls-Royce at sticker price. It’s common for customers to spend another $100,000 or $200,000 on customization. More on that below, but first, five things we learned living with the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV for one wonderful week in California.

5 Things We Learned About the Rolls-Royce Cullinan

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It’s an Oasis of an SUV

The Cullinan is not inexpensive, but it’s not immediately obvious to outsiders what you’re really paying for. Is it the badge? The backwards-opening rear doors? Oodles of leather and wood? The huge V12 motor? The answer is none of the above; not really, anyway. When you write a cheque for the Cullinan, or any Rolls, you’re buying a private oasis. It is an escape, a place where calm prevails over a chaotic world. In the cabin, it’s so quiet you realize how noisy the outside world really is. It’s like putting on noise-cancelling headphones in an airplane except 10 times better. The ride is pillowy, smoother than anything else, save the new Rolls-Royce Phantom. Over a week of driving the Cullinan in California, the quiet cabin and pillowy ride combined to make this SUV feel like our own personal refuge. Now it’s gone, we just want it back.

V12 Versus EV

One criticism of the Cullinan is that it’s not electric (yet). If you asked Rolls-Royce why, the company would tell you that EV technology wasn’t good enough to meet customers’ lofty expectations at the time of development. Instead, the Cullinan is powered by a Herculean twin-turbo V12. Churning out nearly 600 horsepower, it’s deliciously smooth and silent enough that some might mistake it for an EV. Piloting this monster, we reckoned it would fair quite well as an EV. The added battery weight wouldn’t be such a major issue here, and Rolls’ engineers certainly know how to make big, heavy cars ride well. We’ll be driving the brand’s first EV, the Spectre, later this year — it’s just the first taste of Rolls-Royce’s electric future.

Luxury Has No Limit

Believe it or not, the orange Cullinan you see here — complete with matching orange interior accents, Starlight headliner, piano black finishes and blacked-out exterior trim — is a relatively tame example of Rolls’ SUV. You see, this car was built by Rolls-Royce for the company’s own use. But, vehicles built by customers, for themselves, are increasingly bespoke affairs. 

“Bespoke is Rolls-Royce, and commissions were also at record levels last year, with our clients’ requests becoming ever more imaginative and technically demanding — a challenge we enthusiastically embrace,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “On average, our clients are now happy to pay around half a million Euros for their unique motor car.” For those keeping track, that means the average price of a Rolls-Royce in 2022 was roughly $735,000.

Other options for the Cullinan include create-your-own “recreation modules,” custom gear boxes that slide in and out of the trunk on rails. “The entire assembly can be removed and stored separately, allowing customers to create Recreation Modules for specific hobbies and applications, from fly fishing, rock climbing, snowboarding or parascending to kite-boarding or base-jumping,” the company explains.

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In Rolls-Royce Fashion, It Draws People In

On two occasions, strangers approached our slightly scruffy-looking writer after he stepped out of the Cullinan, and asked him what he did for a living. (Writing about cars seemed to be a disappointing answer for the strangers.) Even in the wealthy suburban paradise of Palm Springs, the Cullinan turned heads. If you’re hoping to fly under the radar, try the Bentley Bentayga or the new Range Rover.

The Cullinan is a Great Family Car

No, seriously. The Cullinan is ideal as a family hauler. The rear-opening doors make it easy to heave a baby seat into and out of this SUV. There’s so much space in the cabin that a folded strolled can fit in the second row, behind the front seats. And the trunk — wow — it’s surprisingly huge given that this isn’t even a three-row SUV. The split-folding tailgate opens onto a flat trunk floor that’ll hold a whole family’s luggage for an extended getaway.

How’s this for a bombshell? The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is SHARP’s best family car of 2023.