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The Cullinan is literally the Rolls-Royce of SUVs. This V12-powered, beautiful, all-wheel drive, monster is the first SUV produced by Rolls-Royce and we joined the company's global client sales manager Ian Grant in the cockpit at its Australian launch.
IG: Well, we listen to customers. We were asking: What else do you need from the brand? What would you like to see? Our customer-base has become younger and more dynamic. That enables us to set our sites on building a car that gives that flexibility, that diversity a high-sided SUV will bring.
RB: Now, it's not just a rebodied BMW X7 is it?
IG: Absolutely not – it's on its own chassis. It undertakes our new aluminium architecture and the chassis has been built and designed especially for Cullinan.
RB: The price in Australia – about $700,000?
IG: Yes, $685K driveaway, but of course if you wish to add diamonds, pearls or gold to the car then that may increase slightly.
RB: Now in terms of Rolls-Royce's line-up this is not the most expensive Rolls-Royce. I mean I couldn't afford it – I washed my hair with children's bubble bath this morning, but it sits below the Dawn and the Phantom. But when we get into bespoke territory prices do go up – what's the most outrageous request you've had for the Cullinan so far?
IG: Well it's early days, but the very first order we took here in Australia was a Bespoke order. That customer was looking specifically for the paint tone and also then to mirror that paint tone through the leathers and the woods, and also some gold features in the car. We're also talking to a customer who's an avid birdwatcher and in the rear of the car he wants us to put a system which holds his binoculars and his photography equipment. And so we are really excited about the dynamic that Bespoke is about to head in with this car.
RB: So a wealthy bird watcher - you can't tell us who it is?
IG: I can't say a name, no, but that's the car I’m looking forward to seeing.
RB: What paint colour did he go for?
IG: The car that we’re designing with this gentleman will be in a green colour and the first one I mentioned came with a purple and gold theme.
RB: So just some specs on the Cullinan. It's 5.3m long, 2.2m wide 1.8m tall – it's long but it’s not a massive SUV, is it?
IG: What it does add is a very large occupant area – so the wheelbase is quite long (3.3m) and you sit right inside there. Coupled with your surround view camera, your flag bearer system as we call it – the night vision, radar detections … this is a very easy car to drive around town as well.
RB: Engine specs: A 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12 is under the bonnet – making 420kW and 850Nm. That’s a lot of mumbo.
RB: What's the top speed of the Cullinan?
IG: Well, it's regulated to prevent it from going to its top speed, but the key thing here as well is that engine is producing maximum torque at 1600rpm, so for towing, take off, loose surfaces, that type of thing – it’s absolutely perfectly designed for the intentions that we have for this car.
RB: Now, we're in Australia - could you take this anywhere?
IG: Of course there are some limitations. But what’s beautiful about Australia is that you have the metropolis here in Sydney, then in a very short drive you’re at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, you drive the other way and you’re at some of the most amazing scenery in the world with the Blue Mountains. The Cullinan allows you to visit all of these and there’s no need to change cars.
RB: Now we're sitting here in the cockpit at the moment and it is … well … luxurious is not a luxurious enough word to describe it. I've got lamb's wool car mats for starters. I know that’s the weirdest place to begin, but it was the first thing I wanted to touch. You’ve got real wood here on the centre console, what else can people expect to see on a car like this which you just wouldn't see on any other SUV or car on the planet?
IG: I think there are many unique areas within Rolls Royce but also particularly in this Cullinan – how the design lines waft through from the Spirit of Ecstasy through the car, how the dashboard dips down. So, there's many exciting design features I could point out, but I think also it's the things you can't see which bring you the most enjoyment. Not only do you have amazing feedback through the car while your driving - every little grey area you can see is there for a reason to highlight to you where the heating is, so on a cold winter’s morning you can keep your elbows as warm as you finger tips.
RB: Warm elbows?
IG: Exactly, right.
RB: Does it also have the little picnic chairs which come out at the back?
IG: Yeah we have a whole feature system in the rear so those chairs will come out the back of the car and you can use that for your bird watching for maybe you you've gone to the horse races or the you’ve headed to the Melbourne Cup.
RB: Just turn up at the caravan park, with your Cullinan… get your little picnic table out…
RB: Fridge? Got a fridge?
IG: Yep, loaded with Champagne. And you've also got your whiskey decanter in the back of the car too.
RB: What about a loo? A toilet. Does it have a loo?
IG: It doesn't have a toilet.
RB: Why hasn't Rolls-Royce done that yet?
IG: I think maybe you could just go inside to one of the houses and…
RB: Come on – there's always that case we're you're busting and you end up driving a bit fast to get home before it comes out. I really think Rolls-Royce should be the first to come out with an onboard toilet. I mean, they have them on buses.
IG: The Rolls-Royce of toilets? We’ll look at that.
RB: You've have to put it in the back. I mean you'd never put it in the front?
IG: Um… I think the toilet should always be in the backside yes.