get the rarefied feel for less

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Too Expensive for You? Try a Volvo XC90


April 24, 2020 Cars By
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Rolls-Royce may be the world’s most rarefied car brand. Other cars eclipse the company on performance and price, but few, if any, road-going passenger vehicles project opulence and wealth to the same degree. It’s not a car you’re likely to buy if you don’t answer to a royal title…or profit from a shady yoga empire. You don’t purchase a Rolls-Royce, you commission it. 

The Cullinan SUV is the latest — and, sales-wise, greatest — expression of the Spirit of Ecstasy. The pleasure barge provides an elevated sanctuary like none other, offering options like bookmatched wood veneers, a fiber optic starlight headliner and lambswool floor mats. It even has coach doors and rear-seat cocktail setups, because, let’s face it — if you can afford a Cullinan, you can also afford someone to drive it for you.

The trouble with the Cullinan is, even by expensive car standards, it’s expensive. The Cullinan starts at $325,000, and optioning one out is probably going to run north of $400,000. However, there’s a way to get that pampered, luxurious appeal for far less. Get a Volvo XC90. The top-tier Inscription trim starts about one-fifth the price of a Cullinan, yet it offers at least three-fifths of the interior elegance.

Okay, so you aren’t getting a V12

Rolls-Royce offers just one engine in the Cullinan: a stonking 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V12. It propels the three-ton SUV from 0 to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds. Volvo takes almost the precise opposite approach with the XC90; all three powertrain options employ a 2.0-liter inline-four in some capacity.

But the XC90 is still plenty quick

In top T8-spec, the XC90’s four-pot is supercharged, turbocharged and paired with an electric motor. The total system puts out 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. That won’t match the Cullinan’s 563 hp and 627 lb-ft, but the XC90 is nearly 1,700 pounds lighter. It can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, a tick slower than the Honda Civic Type R. You may not notice the straight-line distinction between the Rolls and the XC90 in normal driving, but you will notice that even the least efficient XC90 betters the Cullinan’s combined fuel economy by at least eight miles per hgallon

And the XC90 certainly brings the luxury

Like the Cullinan, the XC90 insulates you from the outside world. It’s super quiet, and the suspension delivers a smooth ride over roads. Maybe the Cullinan is better off-road, but how many of them ever see a speck of dirt? And even if your Volvo ventures off the beaten path, the front passengers — which is probably who you’ll be if you buy an XC90 — can have any bumps and bruises treated by the massaging seats.

The XC90 is more of a restrained Swedish spa design than over-the-top splendor. But you can get an Orrefors crystal shifter. And the Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system may be the best stereo I’ve experienced in a car. Who needs the Spirit of Ecstasy when you can have ABBA?

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Tyler Duffy

Tyler Duffy is Gear Patrol's Motoring Staff Writer. He used to write about sports for The Big Lead and The Athletic. He has a black belt in toddler wrangling. He's based outside Detroit.

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