As views go, it’s a strange one. The Wyoming wilderness, crumbling away down a steep, rocky precipice — but with Rolls Royce’s iconic ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ bonnet ornament sitting slap bang in the middle of the vista.
This is the unexpected view from inside Rolls Royce’s latest; the poised and powerful Cullinan. And, while the sticks of western America don’t immediately feel like the SUV’s natural home — indeed, halfway through the teetering, terrifying three-point-turn, it seems downright ridiculous — the autumnal sweep of Jackson Hole Valley proves to be the perfect place to test this car.
Jackson, Wyoming, is a haven for the deep-pocketed. As the richest county in America (really, look it up — it leaves Beverly Hills, Palm Beach and Manhattan in the dust), this unassuming cowboy town may have boardwalks and bears, but it is also home to the finer things in life.
Today, that’s a 563 brake-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, quarter-of-a-million-pounds finer thing. And the Cullinan, a car Rolls Royce have boldly promised makes driving ‘effortless everywhere’, is indeed impressive. Bentley’s Bentayga and Lamborghini’s Urus may already be rolling around cash-rich communities the world over, but don’t think that means the Cullinan is late to the party. Instead, it’s starting a bigger, better party next door.
It copes with these white knuckle mountain passes with just as much control and élan as it does the winding highways. And, from descent to cruise control, the assisted driving settings are one of the car’s most shining features.
Speaking of shine, the Cullinan’s name is itself borrowed from the world’s biggest diamond, mined over a century ago in South Africa and cut into several pieces — two of which can now be found in the Crown Jewels. It’s a bold, confidant name choice from Rolls Royce. But can this off-road offering exhibit the same luxury as its sleeker, saloon brothers?
Of course it can. Perhaps even more so. With the ‘magic carpet ride’ that has come to typify modern Rolls Royces, the Cullinan glides across gravel tracks the same way it tackles the tarmac. An aluminium space frame chassis, double-wishbone front axle and self-levelling air suspension can be thanked for this — a combinations of systems unique to the car first brought to the drawing board back in 2014.
For four years of work, it’s as Rolls a Royce as you would expect. Yes, you’ll get the striking square grille and boxy shape that are signature to the brand’s styling. But there are also more subtle, almost intangible touches that raise this above other luxury SUVs — such as the slightly thicker floor mats, soft-shutting doors and soundproofing you’d hardly notice until you crack a window.
It’s been four years well-spent. And this Olympic-sized chunk of time has indeed resulted in a contender that is faster, higher and stronger than any other. With a limited top speed of 155 mph, and 850 Nm of torque, this isn’t just some beefed-up town car. This is, first and foremost, a capable machine.
Of course, both we and Rolls Royce know that more city slickers than true countrymen will be getting behind the wheel of the Cullinan. But you’ll still get a sense of superiority on the school run knowing that your car can take on adventures from the deserts of Arabia to the alpine plains of Austria (both genuine testing locations for the Cullinan).
But back to Jackson Hole. It’s a town that serves to bring out the most luxurious side of the Cullinan with its boutique hotels and award-winning restaurants. But it also showcases the SUV’s practical, rugged side — making short work of streams, forests and rock tracks. Four-wheel drive and five star luxury? Now that’s what we call a diamond in the rough.
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