The makers of the Ultimate Driving Machine produce a few other types of driving machines as well, the company’s Rolls-Royce and Mini products contribute to the company’s bottom line as well as its reputation as an automaker.
The company invited a slew of auto journalists, including me, to it its BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to get some time behind the wheel of some of BMW’s other products before they hit dealer showrooms.
Earlier I put some of BMW’s namesake vehicles through their paces at the same event, which I chronicled in another story recently.
Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV: If You Have to Ask …
Yes, Rolls has entered the full-luxury SUV game, and they’ve entered it at the top, besting efforts from Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover and Bentley, among others. My tester had a base price of $325,000, and a “commissioned” price of $409,825. Yes, you buy lesser brands, and you commission your Rolls-Royce.
Given the choice of more than 44,000 colors and a plethora of bespoke options, the only thing standing between you and a truly individualized dream ride is the size of your bank account.
Everything about the Cullinan says “ultimate luxury,” from the hand crafted woods and leathers, to the available picnic tables, to the available “Viewing Suite” with which, at the touch of a button, a pair of leather clad seats and a rear picnic table emerge from the cargo area so your experience at a Gold Cup equestrian event or other one-percenter activity are also spent in a full-luxe environment.
On the road, the Cullinan also excels, with abundant thrust from 6.75-liter, twin turbocharged V12 engine. From the Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” files, the massive Cullinan is a quite capable off-roader.
An aluminum substructure provides the necessary chassis stiffness for the bending and twisting Cullinan endures during off roading. Entering off-road mode via the “Everywhere” console mounted button, Cullinan’s air suspension raises the ground clearance by about 1.6 inches while the electronically controlled air suspension maintains constant contact with the ground to deliver maximum torque. Cullinan can also ford standing water up to 21 inches deep. On or off road, Cullinan’s “Magic Carpet Ride” ensures proper Rolls-Royce manners no matter the terrain.
Rolls-Royce also previewed the Cullinan “Black Badge,” which features ultra-luxury standard and optional equipment targeted at a much younger, well-heeled demographic that includes entrepreneurs wanting to make a significant statement.
Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge: “Grand” Coupe
BMW has its Gran Coupe, and Rolls has what could be called the “Grand Coupe,” as everything about it is done in grand style. Take your run of the mill Rolls-Royce Wraith, with an MSRP of a mere $327,000, and outfit it with the $48,000 “Black Badge” trim, and you have a Seriously Grand Coupe.
As mentioned in the Cullinan blurb, Black Badge is Rolls-Royce’s darker, edgier moniker and trim for those who want the ultimate in luxury with a sleeker style point. The cost-of-a-Mini John Cooper Works, the Black Badge package includes ventilated seats, sport exhaust, Black Badge Technical Fiber interior trim. 21” carbon alloy wheels, special dark chrome “Spirit of Ecstasy” and much more.
Toss in the $24,700 “Signature Package” and another $30,000 or so in additional bespoke features, and the price rockets as quickly (to $450,000) as the potent twin-turbo V12 engine. The Bespoke Audio system and Starlight Headliner (Signature Package) are aural and visual masterpieces.
Wraith’s “Coach” doors open outward from the “A” pillar and are quite long and heavy, so Rolls has employed a power-closing mechanism to tackle this pedestrian task.
Mini Cooper S Countryman and John Cooper Works Clubman ALL4: Pint Sized Performers
I’ve always literally been a big fan of the Mini brand. Why? Because at 6-foot 9-inches tall and 300 pounds, the Countryman and Clubman offer surprising head, leg and wide body room. Yes, because I essentially sit adjacent to the “B” pillar, I render these extremely fun to drive five seat road stars as four seaters. You would not want to be the one chosen to sit behind me!
For those of more normal stature, the Countryman and Clubman offer sporty, smaller alternatives to SUVs, particularly if you choose “ALL4” All-Wheel Drive trim available on both models.
The Cooper S Countryman comes in at $31,900 base, and $42,250 as tested. The optional “Iconic Trim” package features dynamic damper control, power folding mirrors and power tailgate, panoramic moonroof, head-up display and other goodies for a hefty $8000 price tag.
The Cooper S Countryman and the John Cooper Works Clubman ALL4 both honor the legacy of famed Formula 1 builder John Cooper, who looked past the tiny package of the original Mini to showcase its incredible balance, wide stance] and superior handling. The result: Mini dominated 1960s racing, winning Monte Carlo four years in a row.
The $48,100 JCW Clubman ALL4 ($39,400 base) employs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four, with 301 hp — 75 hp more powerful than the previous model (Countryman JCW All4 has the same motor).
Road performance is scintillating, as you push the car into a performance strata you’ll find hard to believe comes in such a tiny package. This car was one of my favorites to drive at the event at the lower price point.