Exclusive: We put the Rolls-Royce Cullinan through its paces during shooting season

By Peter Malmstrom | 25 May 2020 | Speed

In our two-part photoshoot, we explore the power and prestige of Rolls-Royce Motors contemporary legacy

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* ©Andrew Green/Tempus

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Tempus first became acquainted with the Rolls-Royce Cullinan when the brand launched the luxury SUV in 2018, and then again when its release – and impressive power – was celebrated in the ski resort of St Moritz last year. Judging from the experience and the glowing reports on the car, from its meticulous design features down to the name (taken from the name of the world’s largest and most beautiful diamond), the car showed excellent promise on the road. But how would it fare in the English countryside, long the preserve of the legendary Range Rover, against a group of new luxury contenders keen to show their form?

In my view, the styling of the Cullinan loses its relevance in the urban environment, which has led to some unkind remarks about the angular lines and higher roof lines of this model, all necessary features of a capable luxury SUV. The car weighs 2,660kg and is deceptively long at 5.3m. However, what the Cullinan lacks in outright beauty it more than makes up for in quality and comfort. 

With a slightly higher eyeline, the driving position makes the vehicle easy to drive, while the bulk falls away thanks to power steering and effortless acceleration. This thanks to the massive 6.75-ltr V12 twin-turbo engine. 

The Black Badge edition, which starts at £254,000 (sans taxes or extra options), is particularly stylish. Finished in Dark Emerald exterior, this high-spec SUV (priced at £301,750) is aimed at a slightly younger target audience, they say. It is adorned with black detailing inside and out – including a rather sinister version of the Spirit of Ecstasy on the bonnet, and typically massive radiator grill – exuding the finest quality finish. 

The performance is equally breathtaking: at 0-60 mph in 4.9sec and a top speed of 155mph, it is noticeably quicker than the Cullinan’s already impressive base model, and with over 600bhp, the impression it gives it one of limitless power. The power reserve (in this model replacing the rev counter), shows how little the engine is working to deliver these levels of performance – a nice feature that brings back pleasant memories of Rolls-Royce cars I’ve driven over the years. In fact, the only noticeable difference with this model is the exhaust note, which, unlike the trademark silence of other Rolls-Royce motors, comes alive under hard acceleration to give a hint of the underlying tuning and performance. >>

Related: Rolls-Royce’s colour and trim designer shares the secrets of elegant automotive interiors

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* ©Andrew Green/Tempus

View full photo gallery here 

Taking the Cullinan out on the open road is a joyous experience. Without doubt a performance vehicle, the drive becomes a whole different world of enjoyment as I head off-road for a game shoot towards the end of an excellent shooting season. Driving the Cullinan off road is, quite frankly, spectacular. 

The first thing that strikes me is the lack of suspension settings: the car does all the thinking for you. Upon pushing the very tempting button marked “off road”, the onboard computers assess the terrain, allowing me to glide effortlessly across stubbled fields and muddy tracks as if transported on a magic carpet. One equally spectacular safety feature, which goes hand in hand with the car’s powerful and highly effective headlights, are the forward-facing infrared cameras working with the onboard computers. The net result is a car actively looking for potential hazards ahead of you. Few hazards are as destructive and dangerous as a deer strike at speed and, indeed, one evening the car’s Head Up display lit up with a deer warning symbol, allowing me to brake safely to see one such animal looming in the darkness seconds before the powerful headlights picked it out – showing Rolls-Royce has clearly equipped the Cullinan for safe country driving both night and day – impressive.

Stopping for some light refreshment and viewing the Cullinan covered in mud and in its element, the styling comes alive. Boot space is slightly compromised by the luxurious Darby seats fitted to the boot floor, but these cool, electrically operated seats are one of many optional design extras – along with gun boxes, glassware, china cases and virtually anything else one can imagine – making the Cullinan wonderfully versatile and capable of being customised to the full outdoor sporting calendar. Our car features a panorama glass sunroof, rear theatre configuration, picnic tables and viewing suite.

Any thought of it not fitting in among the more familiar off-road luxury SUVs just melts away as the styling, size and sheer presence of the Cullinan sets it apart from the crowd. Like having a royal join the shooting party, it’s hugely impressive but wonderfully understated.

The Cullinan, in my opinion, is of one of the finest all rounders in the world. It might seem a little ungainly on the streets of Mayfair at times, especially when compared to its sleeker Rolls-Royce brethren, but in the countryside everything about it looks and feels exactly right.

With mud up the sides and gun dogs in the boot, the Cullinan is undoubtably a cut above the rest for the ultimate countryside experience. 

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* ©Louis Beausoleil/Tempus