Rolls-Royce rolls out its first SUV -- with a $325,000 price tag

Rolls-Royce is riding into the SUV arena with what may be one of the most expensive cars ever. 

The Cullinan -- named after a diamond that's part of the British crown jewels -- is billed by the luxury automaker as "quite possibly the most anticipated Rolls-Royce of all time." That may be true for ultra-rich consumers, but for everyone else, the SUV offers a chance to gawk at how the world's richest people like to off-road. Rolls-Royce didn't announce the price, although Bloomberg News reports it will sell for about $325,000.

To be sure, Rolls-Royce isn't the first luxury automaker to enter the SUV space, with Bentley rolling out its first entry with a 2016 model year and a roughly $250,000 price tag. Consumers at all price points have increasingly shifted their preferences towards SUVs and crossovers, snubbing sedans and smaller cars. 

Rolls-Royce said it designed the Cullinan in response to "younger, very successful high-net-worth individuals who are heavily engaged in the experience economy, and wanted a Rolls-Royce that would take them to the ends of the Earth in ultimate luxury."

"We knew we had to offer our clients what they couldn't find in the SUV market," Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös said in a statement. "They do not accept limitations or compromises in their lives. "

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Rolls-Royce

The SUV may be targeted to the billionaire set, a group that added more members in 2017 than any other year in history. Four-fifths of the wealth created last year was claimed by the top 1 percent of income earners. There are now more than 2,000 billionaires across the planet, according to Oxfam. Even if just 10% of them fancied a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, they could generate some $65 million revenue for the company.   

So just how different is the Rolls-Royce SUV from its lower-priced forebears? Rolls-Royce said Cullinan's design separates it from "increasingly bland SUV designs."

Its looks are certainly distinctive, yet some early reviewers are dinging it for its aesthetics. Motor Trend said the car "doesn't look quite as imposing as expected."

Its features include: 

  • A 6.75 liter twin-turbo V12 Rolls-Royce engine with 563bhp/420kW and 850Nm/627lb ft of torque
  • A "bespoke" key and a stainless steel door handle that lowers itself 40 millimetres to allow "effortless" entry
  • A heated steering wheel
  • Tech such as a "night-time Wildlife & Pedestrian warning" as well as a 4-camera system with a helicopter view
  • "Pavilion seating" that provides "grandstand views" of the surroundings
  • Coach doors that "wrap low under the sill of the Cullinan, ensuring that all dirt remains on the outside of the door"
  • A button that engages its off-road settings, which delivers 850Nm of torque to all four wheels
  • The "deepest wading depth of any super-luxury SUV" because of its ride height
  • A glass partition between the passenger seating and the luggage compartment, creating an "inner ecosystem" for the passengers, which was "inspired by the age when one never travelled with one's luggage"