Even Rolls-Royce coffee is elegant. Sadly a cappuccino maker wasn't among the options on board, but it did feature picnic tables. a whisky decanter, and a champagne chiller.
A Rolls-Royce is instantly recognizable as such, largely due to the tradition grill design, and the iconic mascot, the Spirit of Ecstasy, both of which pay homage to over 100 years of elegant tradition. The Rolls Royce mystique goes much deeper than a fancy grill, and a somewhat risque radiator ornament.
Rolls-Royce was founded in 1904 as Rolls-Royce Limited by a British nobleman, bon-vivant and aeronaut; Charles Stewart Rolls, and Henry Royce a genius workaholic who had risen from poverty in the workshops of the Great Northern Railway to become a guru of high quality manufacturing.
The result was the high quality 2-cylinder Rolls-Royce automobile, which within a few short years led to the incomparable six-cylinder Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost undoubtedly the highest quality automobile manufactured prior to World-War I. In fact the British erected armored tank bodies on Rolls-Royce chassis during the great war and used them successfully in North Africa.
Quoting the great automotive journalist Ralph Stein, "Get a powerful idea into people's heads, even for a short time, and they and their children's children will go on believing it almost forever."
Stein continued, "What did the Ghost have? Why was it the king of motorcars? First it was silky smooth. The six-cylinder Ghost engine was the result of almost infinite refinement of workmanship, of endless experimenting, of superlative materials. A Royce frame was, unlike any other...where another other car builder might use ten bolts, Royce might use forty."
Interestingly another legendary luxury car brand was actually founded in 1902 two years prior to Rolls-Royce; Cadillac which eventually became part of Billy Durant's General Motors. Cadillac was run by Henry Leland another man obsessed with precision and quality. Whereas Rolls-Royce has always built cars in vanishingly small numbers, and Cadillac initially did as well, by the time it became part of GM in 1906 Cadillac's charge was to build luxury cars for the masses. Ironically in those every early years both marques were obsessed with building the highest quality car money could buy.
All early Rolls-Royce's were coach-built, meaning one purchased a Rolls Royce chassis and sent it to the body builder of your choice to create a truly unique one-off automobile. That tradition of absolute customization to the customers specifications continues at Rolls Royce today. A couple of weeks ago I was at the Luxury and Supercar showcase in Dallas, and witnessed Dr. Doug Barnes receive his surprise birthday gift of a one-off bespoke Rolls Royce Ghost. I'm told the spectacular interior color is evocative of an Hermes gift box. Sadly Hermes isn't sold at Target, so I'll have to take their word for it.
That is not to say that every Rolls-Royce has always been beautiful or a market winner. Behold the rather unfortunate Rolls-Royce Carmargue (pronounced "ca-marg") designed by Pininfarina, and produced from 1975-1986 with only 531 produced in 11 years. It featured many innovations including one of the most complicated air-conditioning systems ever fitted to an automobile, and shall we say...unusual styling for a Rolls Royce.
I have now been exposed to three Rolls Royce Cullinan's. It is unsurprising that Rolls-Royce now offers an SUV type of vehicle, although that's like comparing a Savile row suit to a Wal-Mart sport coat. Rolls-Royce calls the Cullinan "Effortless Everywhere." Meaning it can be driven at speed on the Autobahn, or on the back 40 of one's multi-thousand acre cattle spread (which I did...more on that in a bit.) I'd describe it as the go-anywhere do-anything Rolls-Royce. Texas is universally acknowledged to be the most important truck and SUV market in the world and will certainly become home to numerous new Cullinans.
Months back I was invited to the unveiling of the Cullinan at the newly minted Rolls-Royce North Houston. The crowd was absolutely wowed with it's luxury and commanding presence.
Last May I attended an off-road press event, and was rather stunned when I heard Rolls-Royce was bringing a new Cullinan. I initially assumed it would be on static display surrounded by velvet ropes. Nope. All of us ham-handed journalists were encouraged to drive it...off-road...at the extremely challenging General Sam's off-road park. Watch the video at the end of the piece to go for a ride with us.
The Cullinan was delivered to me in the afternoon hours and unfortunately due to work commitments I didn't have much time to enjoy it until the late evening hours. I took it on a midnight snack run to the local convenience store, and as I was deciding between Lays or Pringles a young woman practically burst through the door, and rapidly approached me.
"Is that your Rolls-Royce?" she asked rather breathlessly.
Oh crap I thought, someone must have hit it with their Hyundai. But I replied, "Yes it is."
"May I take a picture of it?"
After deciding on Pringles, M&M's, and a cherry Slurpee I told her sure. Then I asked if she would like to sit in it and take her picture. I opened the suicide doors to reveal the snowy white leather with turquoise accents.
"O.M.G. IT IS BEAUTIFUL." Within second it was surrounded by everyone at the 7-11. I'm sure there were several hundred Instagram pics taken in the course of about ten minutes. After a few moments I excused myself as my Slurpee was melting, and I had Dean Martin queued up on the superb sound system for the short ride home.
For many years Rolls-Royce didn't publish horsepower and torque specifications, other than "adequate." The new Cullinan is silently propelled by a 6.75 liter twin-turbocharged V12 of 563hp, and 627 lb-ft of torque. The 6.75 liter is an homage to the classic Rolls Royce "Six and Three Quarters" V8 that propelled every Rolls-Royce from the early 1960's through the 1990's. I doubt many owners will ever test the Cullinan's performance bona-fides in the manner I did, but I can happily report there is ample power on tap to outrun terrorists, or rampaging zombies, and the massive brakes bring the Cullinan's substantial heft to heel with aplomb. I don't see any towing capacity listed, but I'm certain it will tow your horsey trailer to the Preakness should the need arise.
The last Rolls-Royce I drove was a friend's vintage Phantom I, which like most antique cars can be a handful. The Cullinan's ride quality and comfort is the best of any vehicle I've ever tested. The seats have a massage feature like the ones at my wife's favorite nail salon. Set the climate control, decide on which of your parts you want massaged, pick your favorite tunes, and I could happily spend all day in the Cullinan.
My friend and nearby neighbor has a 3,000 acre cattle working ranch, awash with natural gas. He is a man of impeccable taste and a passionate collector of vintage cars. He saw me pulling out of Haynie's Cafe and flagged me down so he could take a closer look at the Roller. I asked him if he would like to drive, but he told me he would prefer to be chauffeured. In fact he has a ranch-hand who doubles as his driver, although typically in his Ram 3500 Mega-cab. I suspect he and Rolls-Royce will be having a serious Cullinan conversation in the near future.
Now two Rolls-Royces are ever identical. Whatever you interior preference Rolls Royce will gladly make it happen.
I wondered what one does when they hit the Powerball or sign their first NFL contract after taking delivery of your first bespoke Rolls-Royce? Well go to the old hood of course! I loaded up my bride Ronnie and we took a very pleasurable road-trip to see my daughter and grandson in Beaumont a distance of about 100 miles, and perhaps to show off just a teeny-tiny little bit.
I took the fam to Carabba's in the Cullinan, and got front row parking. Things like this just seem to happen when driving a Rolls-Royce. As I was driving a Rolls-Royce I magnanimously told them to order anything they wanted.
My grandson Adrian is now officially a Rolls-Royce kid. I posted a picture on Facebook of him bouncing around the car, and my sister said, "Are you letting a sticky finger toddler touch a Rolls-Royce?"
To which I replied, "Why yes, yes I am!"
My daughters comment was a rather offended, "My kid doesn't have sticky fingers!"
My point being is that the Cullinan is an SUV and will no doubt be used as such by the eventual owner hauling golf clubs, grandma's and grandsons. Regardless the Rolls-Royce is now Adrian approved.
After dinner we went to the old neighborhood and popped by my brother-in-laws house. His Facebook post on the subject summed it up nicely.
"My sister and brother-in-law popped up in this whip tonight, jelly. Built like a tank. One hell of a ride."
Hi bestie replied, "That's a bad (censored) right there!"
The dash arrangement is beautiful, but more important intuitive and easy to use. Some cars I test have infotainment systems as complicated at the controls of a WWII Brewster-Buccaneer fighter plane. My elderly mother couldn't use her TV remote, but I think she wouldn't have a bit of trouble with the Cullinan's simple-to-use electronic marvels.
The steering wheel and headlight controls are no-doubt designed as an homage to Rolls-Royce's of yore.
I occasionally ponder which new car I might buy if money were no object. Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Pagani, LaFerrari? For me I think it would be a top-spec Cullinan. Unlike those mega-cars, this is a vehicle that can be driven every day in superb comfort.
Thanks to Rolls Royce Motorcars for briefly letting me pretend to be a Billionaire. Watch the trailing video to take the Cullinan off-road.