Behold the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the New King of SUVs

It's the first all-wheel drive Rolls ever.
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"During several months of extremely arduous work, over country which was devoid entirely of roads and consisted mainly of desert sands and rock-strewn highlands, not a single Rolls-Royce armored car was laid up for an hour, except as a result of the enemy’s fire."

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That was the 1922 report on a trio of Rolls-Royce armored cars which served as escorts to a tank convoy on a trip from Jerusalem to Baghdad and back, in case the very notion of Rolls-Royce building an all-wheel drive SUV has your jaw on the floor.

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While the Cullinan is the first Rolls 4x4, it is far from the brand's first off-roader. Because when Rolls was making its bones in the early 20th century, most of the world was still off-road.

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Stylistically, the Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan has always been an immensely tall vehicle, so adding a bit more ground clearance and an enclosed rear cargo compartment really just look like natural extensions of the car's design language. And today's 22-inch wheels seem an obvious continuation of the wood wagon wheels of the intrepid early Rolls-Royces.

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"Cullinan" is a name borrowed from the world's largest diamond, which is now part of the British crown jewels. This Cullinan employs the same aluminum "Architecture of Luxury" chassis and 563-horsepower, 6.75-liter V12 engine seen in the Phantom, but with the addition of drive to the front wheels in addition to the rear.

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It also includes an air suspension system that lowers to a Phantom-like ride height for ingress and egress, then raises an inch and a half to provide that SUV-like "command" driving position that so enamors so many drivers.

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The real, obvious, change, is the addition of a rear cargo bay in place of a traditional trunk. The rear opens with a split hatch featuring a small lower tailgate and a larger hatch on top in the manner of the Range Rover.

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The plush rear seats can be configured as either a three-across bench or as a pair of reclining buckets, depending on the owner's needs.

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"One of the first benefits of the Architecture of Luxury to the design of Cullinan was the ability to place the wheels and the roof exactly where I wanted them,” commented Director of Design, Giles Taylor. 

“This gave Cullinan the commanding stance of a warrior, immediately communicating its strength and power, whilst at the very same time allows effortless entry and exit from the rear cabin."

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Warrior stance, huh? People might mistake this for hyperbole, so maybe Rolls-Royce needs to organize some armored Cullinans to escort a tank convoy to Baghdad. After all, they've done it before.

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That's why T.E. "Lawrence of Arabia," declared, "“A Rolls in the desert is above rubies.”