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Uber-luxury Cullinan in SA: How Rolls-Royce came to build an SUV

2019-07-26 08:00

Lance Branquinho

Rolls Royce Cullinan

Image: Rolls-Royce

The world’s most famous luxury car brand has more reason to market an SUV than you’d think. 

Of all the automotive brands which have added an SUV to their portfolio in the last decade, none has been as controversial as Rolls-Royce’s Cullinan. 

Unquestionably the world’s most luxurious large SUV, it comes with impeccable status and presence, courtesy of that unrivalled Rolls-Royce brand heritage.

But how did Rolls-Royce evolve its business since coming under the ownership of BMW in the late 1990s, to the point of building an SUV?

rolls-royce

                                                Image: Rolls-Royce

Phantom

This was the first ‘new’ Rolls-Royce, debuting in 2003, only five years after BMW took ownership of the brand. There have been eight-generations of Phantom in total, with two produced under the company’s new German ownership structure. 

Rolls-Royce Phantom

                                                             Image: Rolls-Royce

Today the Phantom remains a classically proportioned large Rolls-Royce and represents the traditional limousine values held dear by the company’s customers. Although a coupe version and convertible version have also been produced, the current eighth-Phantom is only available as a four-door sedan.

It also differs substantially from the seventh-generation car, which used a great deal more BMW componentry, by riding on a dedicated Rolls-Royce platform, also used by the Cullinan. The Phantom’s twin-turbocharged 6.75-litre engine is an enlarged version of BMW’s V12.

                                                 Image: Rolls-Royce

Ghost

This is the junior limousine in Rolls-Royce’s line-up, positioned below the Phantom. To some, it is a more luxurious and better-styled 7 Series, as both cars use the same platform and engine architecture. 

Rolls Royce Ghost

                                                         Image: Rolls-Royce

Positioned as a more affordable Rolls-Royce limousine, the Ghost was designed to compete with Mercedes-Benz’s very successful S-Class business, as a product flanking strategy by BMW. Nearly half a metre shorter than a Phantom, clever packaging ensures that the Ghost does not compromise on cabin comfort – which is a non-negotiable for Rolls-Royce customers.

It’s smaller exterior dimensions also makes this Rolls-Royce limousine a touch easier to drive and park, for chauffeurs, in and around narrow city streets and infrastructure. 

Wraith This is effectively Rolls-Royce’s Ghost coupe. For those who want two-door elegance, but all the other attributes of a Ghost. Typically outrageous Rolls-Royce design features include pillarless windows and suicide doors, with the latter being a necessity, as rear-passenger access is crucial with any Rolls-Royce, even a two-door one. Wraith represents the successful expansion of Rolls-Royce’s ‘smaller’ vehicles.

Cullinan 

Rolls Royce Cullinan

                                                   Image: Rolls-Royce

Undeniably the most controversial car in Rolls-Royce’s history, but also its most important. In a market where new money buyers don’t always have access to first-world road infrastructure, Rolls-Royce has been forced to recognise the SUV as a necessary evil. 

Immense all-round driving ability, thanks to its bespoke chassis (which isn’t borrowed from BMW), the Cullinan is an authentic Rolls-Royce engineered product. It also makes tremendous sense of buyers who drive themselves, such as South African Rolls-Royce customers – who would often like to venture to their own private game farm and can’t imagine driving a Phantom or Ghost on gravel roads to get there. 

                                               Image: Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce also served a very true justification with its SUV, noting that most of its original vehicles from nearly a century ago, were used on gravel roads, instead of immaculately surfaced tar highways.

Therefore, the Cullinan, in its SUV configuration, has a traceable sense of purpose dating back to the origins of Rolls-Royce as a vehicle brand. 

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