‘Reaction to the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV has been mixed’

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan will make money, and deciding to build it was a progressive decision, argues Steve Fowler…

Controversial doesn’t really sum it up, but the reaction to Rolls-Royce building an SUV, and then to the car itself, has been somewhat mixed.

A few weeks ago, I was invited down to Rolls’ sprawling headquarters in Goodwood to see the new Cullinan. I’ll admit to being apprehensive; the camouflaged spy shots hinted at a brute of a car that would be less private club and more club hammer. Could Rolls-Royce, the most luxurious car maker on the planet, really produce an SUV with the grace that’s become synonymous with the brand?

Top ten SUVs on sale 2018

The answer is yes and no. Rolls-Royce’s design boss Giles Taylor told me that he was encouraged to “go big” with “a functional aesthetic that offers no apology”. He’s done that alright. So can such a ‘high-sided’ car that weighs 2,660kg be graceful?

As the covers came off that morning in Goodwood I was surprised by two things: firstly, the car looked more compact than I was expecting (and than the pictures would lead you to believe); it’s roughly the same length as a Rolls-Royce Ghost. And secondly, there’s some of the nicest detailing around the car that I’ve seen in a long time. So has Taylor designed a graceful car? No. But has he designed an SUV that is every inch a Rolls-Royce? Absolutely.

What I admire almost as much is the bravery to build this car – and credit must lie with BMW, the guardian of two great British brands, MINI and Rolls-Royce. Sure, the business case for Cullinan probably stacked up quite nicely; people will buy it, for sure, and it’ll make money.

But the more difficult question was surely whether Rolls-Royce should’ve made it. For me, it was clearly the right decision; a progressive decision. And proof that, under BMW, both Rolls-Royce and MINI have never been in better shape.

Read full details about the new Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV

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