My Car Quest

July 15, 2024

DESIGN REVIEW: The New Rolls Royce SUV

A diamond as big as the Ritz…

by Wallace Wyss –

The domestic American car market is ga-ga for one type of vehicle, the SUV with pickup trucks a close second.

So then you come to the conundrum facing automakers—should we build what we want and convince people to buy them or just build what the hell people want?

Which explains why Rolls got off the dime and is now offering an SUV. And just in time because Bentley snagged a bunch of the top tier customers with their Bentayga. Rolls had to do it now or just be an also-ran.

Rolls Royce Cullinan

Rolls Royce Cullinan

The first bone I have to pick is the name of the car, Cullinan. It didn’t ring any bells until I looked it up—it was the name of a diamond found in 1905 and subsequently owned by the Royal family that weighed in uncut at over 3 lbs. Parts of it went into the crown and the scepter. Like we’re all supposed to know that, right?

As a long time Rolls fan, I wish I could say that the Rolls competitor to Bentley looks as good but, no, it appears as if they didn’t go for “a look of their own” but instead were inspired to make a big American-style box, like a Chevy Suburban, with the Rolls staple, the “Parthenon” grille.

Rolls Royce Cullinan

From the front, as in all RR the grille dominates. They didn’t use this opportunity to design distinctive new headlamps.

In fact, it is so American bland style that by having this shape with no distinction, Rolls made it easier for clonesters to have a fake Rolls grille (as they sell for the Chrysler 300) they can sell for wanna-be Rolls owners to affix.

Rolls Royce Cullinan

From the side, the design is bland, no character lines to speak of. The vertical badge on the front fender looks like something from Pininfarina. Wheels are huge.

There are only a few minor saving graces–the rear opera doors, though American cars already had them once (Lincoln Continental is the Sixties) and the vertical emblems on the side which ironically look like Pininfarina badges from a distance. Rolls also talks about a rearward facing pair of seats that you can order, called the “Viewing Suite” where you press a button and two rear-facing leather chairs and a cocktail table gracefully emerge so you can enjoy the view and still be in your castle so to speak.

The two tone idea, with the bonnet another color than the rest of the body, does bring back something long absent from America, but it’s not clear from pictures if it is a brushed aluminum bonnet or just silver paint.

The chrome bar over the license plate in the rear adds a touch of bling but that Rolls trademark was co-opted by Lincoln long ago. The taillights are bland and don’t evoke any Rolls history.

The rectangular rear exhausts are classy looking, sporty for a Rolls but dozens of cars on the market have those. The inclined angle of the rear backlight is nothing new or particularly remindful of past Rolls.

The interior seems sensible with three big gauges in front of the driver, but having seen different pictures, I’m not sure if a wood dash is optional or standard. Suffice to say that in a Rolls we expect lots of wood, reminding us of gentlemen of leisure at their private club, wood and leather providing a soothing ambiance as they light up a cigar.

Rolls Royce Cullinan

The interior seems a bit retro, with three main gauges. The main pedals are ribbed. I’ve seen pictures without wood and with wood, so presumably one has considerable choices to make.


Now, lots of cars say “AWD” but that doesn’t mean you can take the dirt road to the cabin. Rolls indulged in clever marketing by sponsoring a series of short promo films by National Geographic photographers that show the car blasting across the Bonneville salt flats, tearing uphill to the summit of Pike’s Peak, yadda yadda.

Absolutely no doubt this is a true off road machine. Rolls shows a sense of humor where, to engage the 4WD you just press the “Everywhere” button. Rolls even brags about having the deepest fording depth (540 mm) thanks to the adaptable air-ride suspension.

Rolls Royce Cullinan

From the rear the taillamps are not designed to echo any previous RR; so the car without badges doesn’t give you a clue it’s anything from RR.

The upshot is that the opportunity to make a world class SUV has been squandered by them merely aping the American style (un-style?) SUV. They won’t tool up in the near future to make a more adventurous style. I predict it will sell so well that the first year’s production will be sold out before the year is out (even at $325,000, three times the price of a fully loaded Lincoln SUV), so there is no need for a new body style if this one sells. But the chance to go head to head with Bentley style wise was lost because Rolls took this too-American approach for my taste.

Maybe I just love Rolls of the Sixties (Phantom V by James Young inparticular) just too much….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss, in his role as marketing consultant, has consulted with Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Lancia and other automakers. He can be reached at




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DESIGN REVIEW: The New Rolls Royce SUV
Article Name
DESIGN REVIEW: The New Rolls Royce SUV
A brief look at the design of the Cullinan, the new Rolls Royce SUV.


  1. Fabien Gysels says

    Hello Mike

    John Polwhele Blatchley would have nightmares if he could come back !

  2. Philip Sarris says

    No mention of the suicide doors, the only “iinteresting” feature I see on this tank.
    Aston Martin offers an SUV that has a sporty look. Cool cars are becoming a thing of the past, at any price.

    • He mentions them briefly as “opera doors” but he’s right to do so since the rest of the design is just boring and rather ugly. The opera doors would get more notice if the damn thing wasn’t so hideous.

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