Eyebrows were raised when Rolls-Royce introduced an SUV model back in 2019. Why would the world's most prestigious luxury brand build a vehicle so far removed from its core values? That question was quickly answered when the Cullinan arrived on the scene, providing the same luxury found in other Rollers; but now with additional trunk space and a taller ride height. There aren't many significant additions to the 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan, but when a vehicle already exists as the pinnacle of SUV motoring, why change anything?
The exotic SUV market has exploded in recent years, with models like the Aston Martin DBX, Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, Maserati Levante, Mercedes-Maybach GLS, and more to come including the Ferrari Purosangue. None of these options come close to the Cullinan's $330,000 starting price, nor do any of them approach the same opulence and comfort. As we discovered by spending a week in the nearly 600-horsepower twin-turbo V12-powered Cullinan Black Badge, this SUV exists in a class of one.
If you already make the best SUV in the world, why do anything to change that? Rolls-Royce hasn't, and the Cullinan (very) quietly rolls into the 2021 model year without any major changes. However, there are a few new color choices like Dark Olive and Paradiso Blue to add to the already expansive palette.
See trim levels and configurations:
The first rule of any Rolls-Royce is that it needs to make an entrance and the Cullinan does just that. In front, the rectangular headlight clusters, shiny Pantheon grille, and the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot combine to give it a powerful presence. Along the side, it looks like no other Rolls due to its SUV proportions, but there is some familiarity in the front/rear door handles placed close to each other due to the suicide rear doors. There are 22-inch alloy wheels with self-righting centers, ensuring that the famous emblem is always correctly displayed. The sportier Black Badge variant has its own wheel design along with colored brake calipers, while both models have a split-folding power liftgate. The Black Badge version also replaces some of the chrome exterior trim with a sinister blacked-out look.
At 210 inches in length, the two-row Rolls-Royce Cullinan is five inches longer than the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, and that's a spacious three-row SUV. This gives you an idea of how much space rear occupants get in the Cullinan. The Rolls measures 79 inches in width, has a 130-inch wheelbase, and is 72 inches in height when unladen. A substantial curb weight of 6,069 pounds hints at how much equipment and insulation is packed into this SUV. If you are brave enough to take it off-road, you can take advantage of the Cullinan's wading depth of nearly 20 inches and ground clearance of approximately nine inches.
Rolls-Royce clients are truly spoilt for choice. There's almost no end to the colors on offer, with over 15 standard colors, another 15 colors from the Commissioned Collection, well over 20 special order colors, and nine crystal finish colors. Some of the stealthier choices include Anthracite, Black Diamond, Jubilee Silver, and Tempest Grey. However, this is no ordinary vehicle, so why go for an ordinary color? From the Commissioned Collection, some of the choices that stand out as something special include Lyrical Copper, Black Kirsch, Dark Indigo, and Tuscan Sun. You can also go for Crystal over Orange metallic or Crystal over Magma Red. It's an astonishing collection and we'd recommend clearing your daily schedule just to configure your ideal Cullinan. Our Black Badge tester wore a $11,900 Gunmetal shade, which seems way too expensive for such a subtle color. We'd go for a bolder option.
As before, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan makes use of a 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 engine producing 563 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque. In the Black Badge, outputs are increased to 600 metric hp, or 592 American horses, and 664 lb-ft. Both models feature all-wheel drive as standard and are deceptively fast; deceptive, because the engine is so quiet that it's not always easy to tell how fast you are going. According to Rolls-Royce, the base model will go from 0 to 60 mph in just five seconds before reaching a limited top speed of 155 mph. The Black Badge that we had on our test drive is slightly quicker, slipping to 60 mph in under five seconds. It's by no means the quickest high-end SUV in the world, as both the Bentley Bentayga Speed and Lamborghini Urus are quicker, but that's not the point of the Cullinan. It's meant to waft you down the road with little to no effort, and that's precisely what it does. The Cullinan is rated to tow up to 7,275 pounds, which is a decent figure but does fall a few hundred pounds short of the Bentayga.
There aren't many V12 engines left on the market, so the Cullinan's powerplant is even more special. With twin-turbocharging and a displacement of 6.75 liters, it generates 563 hp and 627 lb-ft, or 592 hp and 664 lb-ft in the case of the Cullinan Black Badge. In both cases, peak torque is available low down to effortlessly get up to speed or merge on the highway. It takes nearly no effort to leave lesser cars in your dust, making the accelerator feel like a teleportation device.
An eight-speed automatic transmission operates with uncanny smoothness, as does every other aspect of the SUV's powertrain. There's no sport button in the Cullinan, but the Black Badge does have a re-tuned shift pattern for the gearbox and a slightly less shy exhaust note, making it feel a touch more engaging from behind the wheel. It's still utterly refined, though, whether in the city or when stretching its legs on the highway.
Driving a Rolls-Royce Cullinan is the epitome of getting everything you want, whenever you want it. Need to pass a slower vehicle hogging the right lane? No problem! Road surface getting too choppy? Don't worry, you won't feel it. It's mesmerizing. We already mentioned the sumptuous drivetrain, which effortlessly motivates the Cullinan like an omnipotent force; passing maneuvers are a silent affair, and merging up to highway speed is tranquil. Even as a Black Badge, the Cullinan can't be described as sporty, but there's an athleticism to how it wafts along. Rolls-Royce would never include something so uncouth like a sport button, but there is a Low Mode that enables quicker transmission shifts and a throatier note from the engine.
As with most Rollers, the Cullinan leaves its occupants feeling more relaxed at their journey's end. The steering is so light, it feels like you can turn the car left or right by simply blowing on the wheel. Rolls-Royce's Magic Carpet Ride suspension is sublime, absorbing road impacts better than any SUV we've tested. Would-be competitors like the Aston Martin DBX, Bentley Bentayga, and Lamborghini Urus provide a sportier experience that's more enjoyable on a windy mountain road. But if you desire the most comfortable SUV on the market, nothing even comes close to the Cullinan.
Whether you choose the regular Cullinan or the more powerful Cullinan Black Badge, visits to the pumps will be a regular occurrence. Both models are rated by the EPA to return a poor 12/20/14 mpg city/highway/combined. The Bentley Bentayga W12 guzzles down gas at a similar rate in the city but is even worse on the highway, managing 12/18/14 mpg. With a 23.8-gallon fuel tank, you'll see a range of around 333 miles. A $2,600 gas guzzler tax applies to both Cullinan variants, but most owners wouldn't bat an eyelid at this.
Rolls-Royce dedicates an extraordinary amount of time and effort to its interiors, and the Cullinan is a case in point. The softest leathers and even available lambswool floor mats create an ambiance that is second to none. We could dedicate an entire review to the spectacular seats as well; they're infinitely adjustable and wonderfully comfortable, and there is a more luxurious four-seater layout that we'd go for if given the choice. At the touch of a button, the rear coach-style doors will gently swing closed, and along with the standard climate control system and powered seats, you can equip a rear viewing suite to take in the sunset along with the brand's famous Shooting Star headliner that lights up the ceiling with an array of fiber optic cables. It's a magnificent place to be regardless of where you sit.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan offers seating for five in its standard guise, though there's an available immersive seating option for $18,025 that replaces the middle rear seat for a center console. It may cut the Cullian's seating capacity to four people, but since this vehicle is meant to be the ultimate luxury SUV, we'd opt for this configuration. With such an extensive wheelbase, the Cullinan provides rear occupants with a staggering 40.4 inches of headroom and 43 inches of legroom, which is more than all rivals outside of the Mercedes-Maybach GLS, which offers 43.3 inches. With the immersive seats, passengers in the rear can recline and enjoy one of several massage modes. Rolls-Royce does not offer a third row, as that would sacrifice comfort for practicality, but for exclusive viewing at picnics and polo matches, a pair of leather-clad perches with a picnic table can be specced on the lower half of the tailgate.
The customization potential of the Cullinan's cabin is unmatched. There are numerous design schemes to choose from, including a conservative mono interior scheme in one color or a signature interior scheme that dramatically contrasts two main shades. Rolls-Royce will allow you to specify which part of the leather seats are finished in a secondary color, be it the seat backs or the seat inners. Primary colors include Black, Navy Blue, Tan, Moccasin, and Grace White, or vibrant shades like Tailored Purple, Mandarin, and Hotspur Red from the Commissioned Collection. Many of the same colors are available as a secondary shade, including special order hues like Blushing Pink, Muscari Blue, and Lemon Yellow. It's easy to see why finding two Rolls-Royces that are exactly the same is an almost impossible task.
Customers can opt for veneers like Piano Black, Piano White, Open Pore Circassian Walnut, Open Pore Royal Teak, and more. In the sporty Black Badge, you get carbon fiber interior trim that takes 72 hours to cure. The steering wheel can also be specified with veneered inserts. A top-stitched instrument panel and a leather finishing pack with color-matched leather applied to elements like the seat belt buckles are available. Black Badge models include a unique lemniscate logo throughout the interior. The leminscate is the mathematical symbol representing infinity, which was first applied to Sir Malcolm Campbell's record-breaking Rolls-Royce-powered Blue Bird K3 hydroplane boat. If you thought you needed a lot of time to choose an exterior color, customizing the cabin will take even longer.
For its size, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan doesn't offer quite as much cargo space as you may expect. The space available is a healthy 21.6 cubic feet. That will easily suffice for daily needs or a set of golf clubs, but many smaller SUVs offer more space. We wouldn't want to place any dirty items in the trunk, though, as it's better-finished than the passenger compartment of most other normal cars. A really useful touch is that, when the rear seats are folded, you can automatically raise a section of the trunk floor to create a smooth surface that makes it easy to slide large items inside. With the immersive seating option selected, the rear seats do not fold down and Rolls places a glass divider between the trunk and the cabin.
One of the most decadent upgrades is the rear viewing suite. With the two-piece tailgate opened up, two leather seats can be electronically deployed, finished in the same color as the vehicle's main seats. Once again, Rolls-Royce makes typically tedious tasks less of a chore. By pressing a button, you can tumble the second row to avail more space. Internal storage and practicality are enhanced with ultra-luxurious touches like electronically deployable picnic tables. While the usual door pockets and center console apply, two individual rear seats with a large center console can be specified for additional storage at the back. A whiskey decanter, champagne flutes, and a central cooling chamber are not features you find in your average luxury SUV.
Along with a comprehensive standard specification, Rolls-Royce will allow you to add a number of extras to the Cullinan's cabin. As standard, the Cullinan enjoys features like four-zone automatic climate control, front seats with heating and power-adjustability, massaging seats, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, remote keyless entry, an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror, heated armrests for all four doors, and more. On the safety side, the Cullinan gets the usual rearview camera along with forward collision warning and lane departure warning. Optionally, the rear compartment can be fitted with two individual chairs for added comfort, including an adjustable calf rest behind the front-seat passenger. Both the front and rear seats can also be ventilated. The standard panorama glass sunroof is expected, but the available Shooting Star headliner really improves the sense of occasion in the cabin, especially at night.
BMW owns Rolls-Royce, so the Cullinan's 10.25-inch touchscreen display will look familiar to anyone who has ever used iDrive. As in a BMW, passengers can control the infotainment using a rotating knob on the center console, the large touchscreen, or via voice command. We love how Rolls-Royce integrates the same touch-sensitive favorite buttons below the screen, which can be programmed for radio stations, navigation destinations, and more. Opting for the $8,250 rear theater configuration adds screens on the seatbacks, which can also be controlled via touch or a secondary rotating knob in the rear seats.
CarPlay functionality is wireless, but Android Auto is strangely omitted from the options list. Navigation and Bluetooth come standard, as does a premium audio system with 600 watts, 10-channel amplifier, and 16 speakers with two floor-mounted subwoofers.
With so many features and electronics onboard, there's a lot that can go wrong on the Cullinan. Thankfully, there have been no recalls for the Cullinan for 2021 or 2020 so far. However, the 2019 model was recalled twice, with the problems being for brake lights that could be too dim and a rearview camera that fails to display an image.
Rolls-Royce has been quite generous with its warranty coverage, which runs for four years regardless of miles traveled in that time. Complimentary scheduled maintenance also runs for four years, unlimited by mileage.
No official safety rating exists for the Rolls-Royce Cullinan as this is a high-priced, low-volume vehicle, the type of which is rarely subjected to crash-testing. There are worse places you could be in a crash than in this 6,000-pound SUV, though.
The 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan is equipped with safety gear like tire-pressure monitoring, brake assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and numerous airbags that include side-curtain airbags. Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning are standard, while other driver assistance systems include park assist, night vision, and adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go. A surround-view camera better assists with overall visibility, a valuable feature in such a large vehicle, and this system is supplemented by front/rear parking sensors.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is the most opulent SUV on the planet. Period. There are other exotic luxury SUVs available, but none match the opulence, comfort, and bespoke feel found in the Cullinan. This is a sport utility vehicle that doesn't blend in; rather, it announces your arrival with the Spirit of Ecstasy leading the way. Never have we experienced an SUV that feels quite like this, and we think the Cullinan justifies its real-estate-level price tag.
Yes, there are other options to consider if you prefer a thrilling driving experience. The Aston Martin DBX, Bentley Bentayga, and Lamborghini Urus are all more exciting to drive, and quicker should you ever find yourself on a racetrack. But none of those vehicles approaches Cullinan levels of comfort, and even the Bentayga, which contains a pretty special interior, still feels less bespoke inside. Buyers at this level can likely afford more than one SUV in their garage, but if they want the best, it has to include a Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
With a starting price of $335,000, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more expensive than any other SUV and most new vehicles. There are many options on offer which can easily add to the price, while the more powerful Black Badge has a price of $382,000. Even the Bentley Bentayga W12 costs around $100k less than the base Cullinan. Not that it matters to most prospective customers, but the Cullinan's price excludes a $2,600 gas guzzler tax and a $2,750 destination charge.
The 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan is available in a choice of two trims: the base Cullinan and the sportier Cullinan Black Badge we tested. Each version comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, all-wheel drive, and a 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V12 engine. In the case of the Cullinan, peak outputs are 563 hp and 627 lb-ft, while the Black Badge manages 592 hp and 664 lb-ft. The base model will take five seconds to reach 60 mph.
The standard Cullinan comes with 22-inch wheels, a power sunroof, LED lighting, and coach-style rear-hinged rear doors. A stunning leather-lined cabin enjoys four-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable and heated front seats, a powered steering column, adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay connectivity, and an available theater system at the back with deployable screens.
The Black Badge comes with blacked-out exterior trim elements, colored brake calipers, and its own wheel design. Along with an increase in power, its suspension and transmission are tweaked for sportier responses.
Both models can be specified with luxuries like rear, tailgate-mounted viewing seats, rear compartment side curtains, a television tuner, personalized treadplates, and more.
There are many options to add more equipment or personalize your Rolls-Royce Cullinan. If the Black Badge is a bit too moody for your tastes, a more subtle approach is the base Cullinan with the Dark Exterior Package, which blacks out some of the exterior trim but retains the opulent feel of this model. The rear Viewing Suite with power-deployable rearward-facing seats is available, while the Immersive Seating upgrade with two rear seats and a center console will no doubt be a popular option. This includes massaging rear seats, a whiskey decanter, two champagne flutes, and two 12V charging points.
On the Cullinan Black Badge, the Driver's Package adds front massaging seats, the Rolls-Royce bespoke audio and driver-assist systems, a special low-contrast environment, and more. However, this package is customizable so the features listed here could change.
Shoppers in this price range aren't just comparing the Cullinan to other SUVs, they might also consider a vacation home, lavish vacation, or a boat. Keeping this in mind, the Cullinan's $335,000 base price is easier to stomach. If we had the cash, and buyers of this caliber probably do, we'd recommend going for the more powerful (and more exclusive) Black Badge model. The Black Badge rings in at $382,000, but it still requires a slew of pricey add ons. With options like the Driver's Package ($23,050), immersive rear seating ($18,025), rear theater configuration ($8,250), and more, our tester carried a $474,175 as-tested price. There's endless room for customization on the Cullinan, so we'd go nuts with the options list.
It's difficult to find a genuine rival to the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, but the Bentley Bentayga arguably comes closest. That Bentley badge is as much associated with the upper echelon of luxurious motoring as the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy, and the Bentayga is a fabulous SUV in its own right. For 2021, the Bentayga has received a significantly refreshed exterior and an upgraded infotainment interface. It's much the same under the skin as before, though, which means the lineup is topped by a 626-hp W12 model that is a fair amount quicker than the Cullinan Black Badge while returning similarly pitiful economy figures. Unless you drive the Cullinan, you wouldn't think any SUV could ride as smoothly as the Bentayga. The Bentley is more engaging for the customers who prefer to do the driving themselves, as well as far more affordable than the Rolls. While the Bentley does offer a third row of seating, it's the Rolls that's much more comfortable at the back. Both SUVs make everything else feel ordinary, but the Cullinan remains better to be driven in and the Bentayga better to drive.
The popular Range Rover is an almost unsurpassed automotive status symbol, blending exceptional off-road prowess with a divinely comfortable cabin and superb performance. In its most expensive guise - the long-wheelbase SVAutobiography with a 557-hp V8 - it carries an MSRP of $211,000. That's expensive, but still more than $100,000 less than the base Cullinan. Although this top-tier Range Rover comes with luxuries like 24-way massaging front seats, deployable tables, and a rear-seat entertainment system as standard, it can't match the sense of occasion engendered by the Cullinan's sensational interior. The Range Rover is more fun to drive although slightly slower, but not as isolating as the Cullinan. If you will be doing any off-roading, the Land Rover is the easy choice here. But if money is no object and you never want to look over at the neighbor's driveway with the possibility of seeing something better, then get the Cullinan.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan:
Check out some informative Rolls-Royce Cullinan video reviews below.