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Rolls-Royce’s Revised Cullinan Delivers a New Look With Mixed Results

Rolls-Royce’s Revised Cullinan Delivers a New Look With Mixed Results

Rolls-Royce’s Revised Cullinan Delivers a New Look With Mixed Results

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is a rare example of minimalist, monolithic styling that is nearly impossible to redesign. Six years since its debut, the Cullinan finally emerges with styling tweaks that take the form of the Cullinan Series II. With unchanged mechanicals beneath the tony SUV’s nipped and tucked skin, the results are . . . controversial.

Rolls-Royce’s best-selling model was never high on overt visual shock-and-awe, relying instead on outright scale (and, when applicable, bold color) for maximum impact. That said, the Cullinan Series II wears a meaner, more expressive face with headlights that now extend into daytime running lights. The new vertical lighting elements contribute positively to the overall theme, adding just enough charisma without trying too hard.

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Series II in Twilight Purple.

The Pantheon grille is a tougher sell. Compensating for the livelier lights is a more subdued array of vanes which trade their polished side flanks for a subtle “horizon line” accent borrowed from the Phantom. The metalwork looks lighter without the side frames, while still exuding unmistakable Rolls-Royce presence within the Cullinan’s prodigious front end. But in an altogether unfortunate move, at least for those with a fine eye for detail, a small front-facing camera is now embedded near the top of the grille, conceding some of the lovely handmade frontal area for a tick of technology. Is nothing sacred?

The front end’s lower half is rowdier, adding a shallow “V” shape to the upper bumper and angled slats recalling “modern sport yachts,” according to Rolls-Royce. The choice of plastic slats is regrettable but inescapable due to pedestrian impact requirements. Regardless, the feature cheapens the overall effect, especially because they live on the same plane as the grille’s beautifully polished stainless-steel slats. The diagonals disrupt the monolithic theme to questionable effect, though it does appear more cohesive on darker hues where the slats blend into the body.

Driving the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Series II.

There’s now a small camera embedded near the top of the Pantheon grille, conceding some of the handmade frontal area for a tick of technology.

On Black Badge versions, the slats are canted in the opposite direction and the lower grille enlarged, in addition to the usual blacked-out bits that replace traditional brightwork. At least the redesigned exhaust surrounds at the tail are constructed of polished stainless steel, a real flash of metal on a spot that’s all too often finished in plastic.

There’s a peerless quality to the Cullinan’s dynamics that make this lumbering whale feel like nothing else on the road—the regal view over the rectilinear bonnet, the way it whisks ahead as though being towed by an invisible golden creance, the invisibility of its eight-speed shifting that makes it feel powered by kilowatt-hours, not octane. Along with suspension that erases all but the most extreme road irregularities, the Cullinan is less an A-to-B vehicle and more a sensory-deprivation chamber lavished with some of the most visually stimulating interior details available.

The interior of a Rolls-Royce Cullinan Series II in Twilight Purple.

The interior features a new glass dashboard panel that uses backlighting through tiny pinpricks to create an ambient effect.

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As before, the Black Badge package bumps the twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V-12 to 592 hp over the standard model’s 563 hp, and more crucially, increases torque to 664 ft lbs. The Cullinan’s untouched internals are just as well left alone, as this behemoth churns just enough hushed, seemingly effort-free propulsion to make it feel like architecture in motion. Our test drive on Ibiza delivered an insulated alternative to the numerous rickety Land Rover Defenders and boxy Mercedes Geländewagens which overpopulate this raucous Spanish island.

The heavy Roller offers a wider palette of personalization than ever, which now includes a nod to the bygone days when chauffeur-driven vehicles used leather for the driver’s seat, and plusher, more complex textile patterns for the passengers. So-called Duality Twill is an optional rayon-and-bamboo-derived material inspired by the bamboo groves in Sir Henry Royce’s former winter home in the Côte d’Azur.

The cabin of a Rolls-Royce Cullinan Series II in Twilight Purple.

The cabin offers an even wider palette of personalization than before, including more complex textile patterns.

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The labor-intensive upholstery requires 11 miles of thread, 2.2 million stitches, and 20 hours of handwork. Christine Franck, head of Color, Materials, and Trim Design for the marque, says a similar textile treatment was most recently offered in 2022 in a limited-production Phantom Extended Platino Edition; this time, it’s available across the board. Examples on display were a bit garish for most tastes—think bordello by Gucci—but Rolls-Royce’s available base-textile colors of lilac, chocolate, or black, along with 51 available shades of thread, should satisfy most palates if they’re inclined to stray from the herd, so to speak.

Other custom-style updates include an available perforation pattern that creates a sort of three-dimensional textured look to leather by punching 107,000 tiny holes between .8 and 1.2 millimeters across. The pattern is said to mimic the clouds over Goodwood; we think it looks like topographical tattoos that break up the regularity of hides. In the arms race with Rolls’ former sister brand, these bespoke-ish touches rank right up there with Bentley’s three-dimensional quilted wood and stone veneers.

The Series II marks the Cullinan’s first revision since the model’s debut in 2018.

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Also upping the Cullinan’s interior game is a new glass dashboard panel that uses backlighting through tiny pinpricks to create an ambient effect. Flanking the feature is a small vitrine with an illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy. The refresh is rounded out by instrumentation borrowed from Spectre, replacing the analog-like digital gauges with a more graphically abstract treatment.

The Cullinan Series II is a kinetic statement of intent, one whose built-to-order details reveal more about its owner than almost anything. Within those bounds, the second life of this luxury SUV is just as different as it needs to be without rewriting its DNA, even if it marks a bit more change for change’s sake than we’d like.

Click here for more photos of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Series II.

Driving the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Series II.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

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