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The Cullinan: The 'Rolls-Royce' of SUVs is here

Pras Subramanian
Producer/Reporter

When you say something is the "Rolls-Royce of” whatever category your talking about, you’re saying it's the absolute best — and likely the most expensive. Well, the “Rolls-Royce of SUVs” is here, literally.

The 2019 Cullinan is the first SUV Rolls Rolls Royce has ever built. You might be wondering, “Why in the hell is Rolls Royce making an ultra-exclusive, luxury SUV?”

Believe it or not, that’s the way the SUV market is headed. We’ve already seen high- priced SUVs from the likes of Bentley (VOW.DE) and Lamborghini, and a Ferrari (RACE) SUV and an Aston Martin (AML.L) truck are on the way. Of course, Land Rover (TTM) started the high-priced SUV trend years ago and currently offers its Range Rover SV Autobiography that can reach an eye-watering $200,000.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Rolls-Royce executives must’ve noted the highfalutin trend and said, “Hey Rich People, hold my beer, err I mean, hold this flute of 1959 Dom Pérignon rosé,” and Voila! Here’s the Cullinan, which starts at $330,000.

Well, designing and creating the Cullinan wasn’t exactly that easy. “The brand was needing and expecting [it] for the last couple of years,” Martin Fritsches, president of Rolls Royce Motor Cars Americas, told Yahoo Finance about the Cullinan. “[It] finally came out the end of last year, and it’s truly spectacular.”

The Cullinan was years in the works — it’s a Rolls after all — and it had to be special. Not to mention it also needed to boost sales, especially in the U.S.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

“Cullinan has been a gamechanger for the brand globally, of course in particular here in the States,” Fritches said. “And last year — 2018 — we had the best year ever globally, over 4,100 commissions, and of course here in the States and North America, the family of our patrons has also been increasing, so clearly a big success.”

On the road

I had the chance to drive the Cullinan for a few days, and let me tell you, nothing rides like a Rolls-Royce. And that is key for the brand, to maintain that air-pillow ride that the automaker is known for.

Not surprisingly, the Cullinan uses the same chassis as the massive and luxurious Phantom sedan; it just rides a bit higher, with an SUV wagon attached to the back. The famous Rolls air suspension supports the nearly 6000-lb. vehicle, and the power comes on smoothly via a V-12 pumping out 563hp and 627 lb-ft. of torque.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

The Cullinan is deceptively fast when pushed, but that’s not why you have a Rolls-Royce. This Ritz-suite-on-wheels doesn’t so much as drive down the road as hover over it, and from the driver’s commanding viewpoint, with the “Spirit of Ecstasy” hood ornament on full display, you feel like you’re king of the road.

Despite its smooth ride, Rolls asserts the Cullinan can be a beast off-piste. You just have to push the “off road” button on the lower console. And with its clearance and height, I believe it.

The interior of the Cullinan is up to Rolls-Royce standards, without question. The leather that you and your lucky companions are swaddled in throughout the cabin might be the softest I’ve ever felt. All switchgear, buttons, vents and the like are machined metal with a chrome finish and nicely weighted too. And the lambswool floor mats (a nearly $2,000 option), are the plushest carpets I’ve felt this side of the Orient.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

If you have to ask...

If you must ask, the model we tested was optioned out to the tune of $415,000. But don’t think you need to apply for a mortgage to ride in the Cullinan. Rolls says many of its well-heeled clients actually aren’t buying it, they’re leasing it. You can have your very own Cullinan starting at around $4,000 a month.

So if you’re in a tax bracket where this is an option, it’s not too bad of a lease payment for a vehicle that costs about as much as the average home in the United States. Again, Rolls tells me the reasonable lease payments, subjectively speaking, would be higher if not for the fact Rolls-Royce cars maintain their residual value over the years.

So there you have it: $4,000 a month and the best SUV in the world is yours. Now just don’t ask about security deposits, down payments, destination fees, and other gauche topics not suitable for refined conversation. It’s a Rolls, after all.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

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Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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