To say that Rolls-Royce Cullinan is controversial is like saying that Volkswagens are conservative – it goes without saying. There are two reasons for the controversy. First, the Cullinan is a 2.7-tonne SUV with no precedence in Rolls-Royce’s back catalogue. You can argue whether this type of car is truly becoming of the brand until you’re blue in the face, but the fact is that these days there is not a single brand that can ignore the huge cash-making potential such cars represent (soon Ferrari and Aston-Martin will join the controversy). Second, the styling. Why did Rolls-Royce have to make the Cullinan so… actually, that’s a good question – most everyone will agree there is something off with the way that the Cullinan looks, but can’t quite put the finger on what the “something” is.
To me it’s a product of both proportions and detailing. In pursuing a truly Phantom-like interior space and ambience, Rolls-Royce had to give the shorter Cullinan a longer wheelbase, giving the car rather unfortunate proportions. You could forgive the Cullinan for looking tall and narrow despite its huge actual width, but from the side the combination of the giant wheelbase, short rear overhang, almost-rectangular rear doors and combined front-rear door handles make the Cullinan look a lot like the latest iteration of the London Taxi, the TX5.
Second, and potentially more seriously, the styling details on the Cullinan are really derivative, and instead of making it look like a Phantom SUV make it look like a re-hash of the 20-year-old Bentley Dominator. Haven’t heard of the Dominator? It’s one of the countless bespoke Bentleys commissioned by the Sultan of Brunei in the 1990s, built on a modified Range Rover chassis from the time, and styled to look like a Continental R SUV. Which, with the Continental R being a square, “regal” car much like the Rolls-Royce Phantom, makes the Cullinan and the Dominator look like rather close cousins, especially in their front grille/light treatment, and their upright glasshouse.