Rolls-Royce unveiled Thursday the most expensive SUV on the market, setting a new leve
l for price and luxury in the increasingly crowded SUV segment. Among its features: a retractable table and chairs on the tailgate.
Called "The Cullinan" — named after the world's largest diamond — the plush behemoth packs all the creature comforts and smooth ride of a Rolls with off-road capabilities from all-wheel drive. In fact, Rolls is so convinced the Cullinan is different that it's not calling it an SUV but a "high-sided vehicle."
"This car not only has the performance that we are well-known for, the 'magic carpet ride' and materials," Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motorcars, told CNBC. "But it also has capabilities that are firsts for Rolls-Royce."
He added, "This Rolls-Royce is probably the most anticipated car in our history but also maybe this year in the automotive industry."
The first thing to know about the Cullinan is that it is big. Really big. It stands six feet off the ground, weighs in at more than 5,800 pounds and packs Rolls-Royce's 6.75 liter, twin-turbo V12 engine that gets 563 horsepower. And in a first for a Rolls, there's all-wheel drive and an all-wheel-steering system — so all that weight can move quickly on the streets of Beverly Hills and the dunes of Namibia with equal aplomb. Its top speed is 155 mph.
It's the interior, however, that makes a Rolls. The Cullinan can fit five people, but the car is so
big all of them could be NFL linebackers. The back seat comes in two configurations, either two cockpit-style seats or one long seat that's the size of most sofas. When the seats are folded down, there is a staggering 21 cubic feet of cargo space.
For drivers, the Cullinan is loaded with night vision (that includes a "nighttime wildlife" setting), an alertness assistant for when you're tired, a four-camera parking system with panoramic view, and Wi-Fi and entertainment systems.
But perhaps the coolest feature of the Cullinan is in the very back. One of the options is to have a retractable table and leather chairs that instantly transform the tailgate into an outdoor dining lounge for what Rolls-Royce calls "the best seat in the house." Perfect for those starry nights on the Serengeti or dipping into the Grey Poupon at Giants games.
"This is a more casual car," Muller-Otvos said, "so it's not only for watching polo matches or horse races, but it might also be that you're going to watch your kids playing soccer. It's a different kind of lifestyle and we cater to these lives."
The Cullinan will also open up new markets for Rolls, both geographically and demographically.
The poor road conditions in many emerging market and less-developed countries makes driving a typical Rolls nearly impossible. So the Cullinan could attract new customers in Brazil, Russia and parts of Asia. Northern countries prone to snow, like Canada, may also become attractive markets.
"This car was meant to be a global car all over the world," he said. "We will definitely see a completely new breed of customer."