A needlessly expensive Rolls-Royce off-roader? Sign me up

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan - seen here in prototype camouflage - is being launched later this year
I IMAGINE there are quite a lot of entries under ‘K’ on the waiting list for Rolls-Royce’s next model; Kanye, Kim, Khloe and Kourtney for starters.

When you name your new model after the world’s biggest diamond it’s inevitable that it’s going to end up with rather bling connotations, even before it’s launched. But then that’s the Rolls-Royce Cullinan all over – it’s a Range Rover for people who consider the Range Rover a bit too common. It’s an off-roader with a whisper-quiet V12 where the establishment makes do with ‘just’ a supercharged V8. A toff-roader, if you will.

It is a completely pointless, jacked-up Phantom that in reality will never venture any further than a slightly damp stretch of field immediately outside Aintree Racecourse or the Royal Birkdale – in fact, you’re more likely to see one appearing on MTV Base alongside someone whose name begins with K.

But that doesn’t stop me liking it. Bentley and Jaguar doing posh mud-pluggers just doesn’t sit right with their carefully honed collective heritage as custodians of well-heeled driving fun, but a Rolls-Royce off-roader is so delightfully silly that it might just work. It’s Kingsman in automotive form; still refined enough to insist that you call its offerings motor cars, but in the background it’s teaming up with The Who’s Roger Daltry for its charity ventures, letting grime artist Skepta spec up the speakers on its one-offs and allowing its older cars to take part in marvellously OTT displays at the Goodwood Revival.

So the idea of taking your Cullinan to the Arctic Circle and lording it over everyone slumming it in Toyota pick-ups – and Rolls-Royce has been testing the new car there, just to make sure it’ll cope – fits in perfectly with the manufacturer’s softly spoken sense of fun. If it can haul itself up the same mucky hill as a Range Rover, but in a much more needlessly expensive way, then so be it. The one per cent have been doing pointless things with Rolls-Royces for generations, and the Cullinan fits in perfectly.

And if any pub bores do wander over (and it’ll be a very upmarket pub, presumably) and start piping up about how Rolls-Royce shouldn’t be doing off-roaders, then you can point out that it was taking on remote places and winning long before Jeeps and Land Rovers were even conceived. In the 1920s farmers used to travel around the Australian Outback in Silver Ghosts because they were the toughest things on the market. So the Cullinan does have off-roading pedigree.

So I like Rolls’ toff-roader because it’s a completely needless car that I’ll never be able to afford. Unless I change my name to one with beginning with K, of course…

The new Land Rover Defender is… an Isuzu

The Isuzu D-Max has been modified by Arctic Trucks to cope with extreme off road situations

THE DEFENDER is dead. You might have heard rumours to the contrary, but there are no billionaires plotting to put Britain’s favourite 4×4 back into production. Land Rover’s said no, and that’s that.

Which probably isn’t a bad thing. The Defenders I see at car shows these days are custom made specials blighted with ridiculously oversized alloys, interiors lined with leather and precious metals and sound systems so powerful they can be picked up on a seismograph. Hardly the four-wheeled farmer’s friend I grew up with when I used to go green laning with my dad in his Land Rover One Ten.

I suspect the rural set aren’t shedding the tears you might expect because they’ve done what anyone does in the event of a vacuum; they’ve gone for the next best thing instead. When I used to get dragged around cattle auctions in Cumbria and Shropshire (don’t ask) the farmers who didn’t bring Defenders all had Isuzu Troopers parked outside. So it’s fitting that it’s this minnow of a Japanese manufacturer that’s done the most convincing job yet of rustling up a Defender replacement.

The D-Max pick-up truck isn’t new, so chances are the farming types will already know it’s hardy enough to drag itself out of a muddy field without complaint, but Isuzu’s sent it off to boot camp anyway. It’s teamed up with a company called Arctic Trucks, who’ve insisted the D-Max watches nothing but Bear Grylls documentaries and learns how to make shelters out of twigs. 

What’s emerged is a proper off-roader with raised suspension and big, knobbly tyres, the latter of which can be inflated and deflated with an on-board pump. That means – and I know this is highly topical at the beginning of August – you can essentially float on top of soft snow rather than getting bogged down in it.

Admittedly having an extra six degrees of approach angle is probably a tad excessive for navigating supermarket car parks, but if you’re in Cumbria or Yorkshire this winter and there’s a repeat of last year’s floods or a freak snowdrift you’ll definitely want one of these to come to your rescue. 

At £33k for the double-cab version it’s not the cheapest way into a mud-plugging off-roader, but it’s still £11,000 less than a Land Rover Discovery and roughly the same as a Discovery Sport. Neither of which have massively raised ride heights and on-board compressors.

It’s sad the Defender’s gone, but it doesn’t mean it’s taken hard-as-nails off-roaders with it.