Mountain climbing in a Rolls-Royce SUV

Immediately to my right, there was a steep mountainside, a veritable wall of brown grass, bushes and trees. ...

Posted: Nov 9, 2018 12:24 AM
Updated: Nov 9, 2018 12:24 AM

Immediately to my right, there was a steep mountainside, a veritable wall of brown grass, bushes and trees. On my left was a long steep drop toward a valley far below. In between, was a narrow path covered in jumbled rocks and me in the driver's seat of a nicely optioned Rolls-Royce with a total price of about $400,000.

This was nuts. If I'd been in a Jeep Wrangler or a Land Rover, maybe this would not have been such a big deal. But when Rolls-Royce told me they were going to let me drive the new Cullinan, the brand's first SUV, off-road, I figured I'd be taking it over a dirt road and maybe up and down a few little hills. I hadn't imagined I would be threading my way up a zigzagging pass cut into the side of a Wyoming mountain.

Companies

Mountain climbing

Outdoor recreation

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd

Sports and recreation

The Cullinan was handling this terrain surprisingly well, especially considering it was riding on the same tires used to drive on paved streets. The fact that the Cullinan has all-wheel-drive certainly helped. But it also has one especially important thing other Rolls-Royces do not: selectable driving modes. Well, at least one.

This sort of technology is commonplace in today's luxury cars. In a Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi, for instance, one can switch from "Comfort" to "Sport" or even "Eco" mode, depending on whether you're puttering through the middle of town or winging your car along a twisting road.

In the past, Rolls-Royce has resisted this trend. A Ghost or Dawn drives precisely the way a Rolls-Royce should drive at all times. To add a knob or a menu with different "driving modes" might suggest that there was something suboptimal about that. Some Rolls-Royce cars will automatically alter things like suspension firmness or steering response depending on how aggressively you're driving at any given moment, but the driver will never expend effort in that choice. The car does it automatically.

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan, however, has a button. The "off-road" button raises the Cullinan higher on its big 22-inch wheels, preparing it to travel over the sort of terrain these machines have rarely traversed in the past century. In the days of Lawrence of Arabia, Rolls-Royces were driven across deserts and on tiger hunts in the jungles of south Asia. Not so much since then.

And so, I left the pavement, pressed the button and then turned left up that steep trail. I looked out over that long hood, The "Spirit of Ecstasy" statuette out at the very end balanced on her tiny silver toes as the big SUV rocked and bobbed over ruts and boulders. The ride was never jarring, though. It was a strange, incongruous view. Up we went. And up. And up. More than once I laughed out loud at just the sheer nuttiness of it. Other times, I clenched my teeth in tension. I'd driven on scarier trails before but, in a Rolls-Royce, the stakes are just so much higher.

After stopping near the top for coffee and sandwiches we made our way back down. Rolls-Royce had nicely demonstrated the Cullinan's bona fides as an SUV. The question remained in my mind, however, how good was the Cullinan at being a Rolls-Royce?

You see, being a Rolls-Royce is not at all easy. It is not simply a matter of having the most expensive materials, shining silver, beautiful woods and pristine bull hides. (Leather from cows is never used because cows get stretch marks.) It is not simply riding smoothly and quietly over the road.

A Rolls-Royce, at its best, adds a supreme level of control that one can feel while still not feeling the pebbles strewn across the road. Driving a Rolls-Royce Wraith or Dawn provides an almost paradoxical sensation of real driving pleasure, combining power and speed with easy relaxation. It's a very difficult trick to pull off and no car does it better.

This is one pinnacle that Cullinan does not quite reach. Driven on the road, the Cullinan feels a bit ordinary. Not entirely, of course, just a little less magical. There is a little more sound. There is a little more road surface felt through wheels. There is a little less of that superb control.

The Cullinan's turbocharged V12 makes easy work of something even as big as this, but there's still a trade-off here. One can do things in and with a Cullinan that one cannot do in any other Rolls-Royce. The Cullinan is the first Rolls Royce to offer optional fold-down rear seats You can also get a permanently enclosed rear cabin with a center console that can include a champagne cooler. But one will also not experience quite as perfectly that one thing that a Rolls-Royce can do so much better than any other car.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 64400

Reported Deaths: 1825
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5416112
DeSoto347227
Madison236360
Harrison228735
Rankin220231
Jackson215641
Jones182857
Forrest170155
Washington154835
Lauderdale137990
Lee129732
Neshoba126490
Lamar117713
Oktibbeha107737
Lowndes102333
Bolivar101032
Warren99531
Scott97820
Panola96012
Sunflower94223
Copiah92928
Lafayette90714
Leflore88261
Pike86133
Holmes85948
Grenada81921
Yazoo80312
Lincoln78741
Pontotoc7808
Leake77625
Simpson76730
Wayne74921
Monroe73151
Coahoma68410
Tate68327
Marion63419
Marshall6169
Covington60313
Adams59625
Winston59315
Union55215
George5454
Newton53011
Pearl River51537
Tallahatchie51210
Attala51024
Walthall48219
Chickasaw43819
Noxubee43811
Claiborne39913
Calhoun3929
Smith38913
Clay38014
Jasper3799
Alcorn3775
Prentiss3699
Hancock34914
Tishomingo3445
Itawamba32310
Clarke32225
Tippah32013
Tunica3076
Yalobusha30410
Lawrence3027
Montgomery3023
Humphreys28111
Carroll24811
Quitman2381
Greene23011
Kemper22715
Jefferson Davis2256
Perry2207
Amite2176
Webster21112
Jefferson1936
Wilkinson19313
Sharkey1913
Stone1603
Choctaw1294
Benton1280
Franklin1152
Issaquena241
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 91776

Reported Deaths: 1639
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12186230
Mobile9269204
Montgomery6350148
Madison512227
Tuscaloosa400269
Baldwin332223
Shelby311932
Marshall300134
Unassigned287856
Lee255442
Morgan227015
Etowah196728
DeKalb172113
Elmore163337
Calhoun162713
Walker147964
Houston133412
Dallas129823
Russell12672
St. Clair125214
Limestone122713
Franklin121520
Cullman117112
Colbert112213
Lauderdale111113
Autauga103021
Escambia98115
Talladega94613
Jackson8904
Chambers83238
Tallapoosa82778
Dale79823
Butler75435
Blount7453
Chilton7386
Coffee7255
Covington71620
Pike6727
Barbour5645
Lowndes56124
Marion54724
Marengo52914
Clarke4919
Hale45926
Bullock44411
Winston43511
Perry4324
Wilcox41110
Monroe3964
Randolph39210
Bibb3844
Pickens3769
Conecuh37310
Sumter36018
Lawrence3251
Macon31613
Washington31512
Crenshaw3073
Choctaw27612
Cherokee2497
Greene24711
Henry2473
Geneva2430
Clay2255
Lamar2052
Fayette1785
Cleburne1211
Coosa952
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
Columbus
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Oxford
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
Starkville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather