Montana is solitude. A perfect destination when life gets loud. There’s no drone of traffic, no horns honking, nor people yelling. Absent is the rank smell of gas and diesel and piss mixed with the alluring aromas of Indian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Italian and nouveau American restaurants that normally saturate the air on my morning walk through downtown Los Angeles.
Upon my arrival in Montana, I was whisked away by a driver—as one would in a Rolls-Royce—and nestled myself into the Cullinan’s rear executive seating. You may as well be entering Business Class, for once you’re buckled in, you have enough room to stretch out, recline your seat, access the rear-seat entertainment, hit the heated massage function and break open the Rolls-Royce-engraved crystal decanter filled with Jefferson’s Reserve, one of the smoothest bourbons I’ve ever enjoyed—customers can have it filled with whatever spirits they find most enjoyable, though. The only thing missing was a flight attendant and a warm towel; however, I suspect that by waving enough cash at Rolls-Royce, those wishes, too, could be granted.
The Phantom-esque-looking SUV might as well have been a freight train equipped with a plow pushing through while translating zero insecurity to my fingertips.
My presence significantly increased the area’s human population. According to my driver, in Granite County, people are outnumbered by deer 8 to 1, elk 4 to 1 and cattle by a massive 10 to 1 ratio. I stepped out of the Cullinan’s security and into the chilly 18-degree temperatures, crunched the freshly fallen snow underneath my boots, and inhaled the fresh air. What a perfect place. My insides, still warmed from the bourbon, and my bags unpacked, I left the the ranch’s confines and took a walk of the property. Snow had once again begun to fall in large, fluffy flakes—an omen that’d soon materialize the following day behind the Cullinan’s wheel. In the grazing field was the ranch’s herd of horses galloping through the snow, along with a large group of elk that had come down from the valley’s bowl to feed on the horse’s provisions.
Like the Cullinan, the world was unburdened by noise. I took a moment to just stand in the frigid climate, close my eyes and breathe. I felt 12 years old again, lost in the woods. John Muir, one of the great naturalists, once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Yet, while Muir—and the better-known Thoreau—opted to do away with the entire world, at that moment, I found myself reflecting on the words of the American poet Allen Ginsberg. “The only thing that can save the world,” in this case, my own, “is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world.” But with the sun setting behind the westwardly facing mountain, and the temperature dropping precipitously, I pulled up my fur-lined hood and walked back to the ranch to prepare for the following day’s driving—preparing yourself to drive a Rolls requires copious amounts of aged whiskey, a touch of gluttony thanks to the Ranch’s executive chef Josh Drage, and a bonfire with s’mores.
One of my favorite things about Rolls-Royce is how the company issues statements on horsepower in its vehicles. While others will give you the exact horsepower in a race toward being the most powerful or whatever, for Rolls-Royce the figure is often expressed as “adequate” from the factory in a truly excellent example of British restraint. For those numbers nerds who absolutely need a quantity, if you go through Rolls-Royce’s small print, you can find the actual rating. A physical representation, honestly though, doesn’t matter for the Cullinan, as “adequate” is a supremely reasonable expression to represent the force provided by its twin-turbocharged V12. Put your foot down, and there’s more than enough power and torque to push the SUV’s 3-ton heft.
With the ranch behind me, and the roads looking more like a stage of Rally Sweden, I used the opportunity to do something no Rolls-Royce Cullinan owner will ever likely do: stretch the SUV’s legs-and-handling prowess. I’d have expected an SUV with a 3-ton gross weight to bob and list from corner to corner like a 150-ton battleship attempting to maneuver through a Category 5 squall. But because smoothness is tantamount in Rolls-Royce’s dynamics department, the Cullinan stays reasonably even-keeled. Even when the roads narrowed and the turns came fast, I never heard the glasses or decanter rattle in the drinks cabinet.
Everything remained civilized and relaxed, but as the Cullinan and I climbed up the mountain, the weather took a turn, and snow began to fall …hard. My confidence wavered for a brief moment as conditions went from the aforementioned rally stage to a straight-up blizzard with near white-out conditions. A half hour after the snow began falling, the roads were covered with nearly two feet of it. It became the perfect test for the Cullinan. Could this SUV really deliver a Rolls-Royce experience in such inclement weather? Yes, yes it can.
My trek through the mountainous Montanan range has me completely convinced that customers will be able to conquer anything from behind the Cullinan's wheel, though the best spot to be—as is the case with every Rolls-Royce—remains the back seat with a glass of bourbon in your hand. At the top of the mountain range, at the edge of a long-frozen lake, I stop to enjoy the serenity of the falling snow. Standing in the fresh powder, I look out at the snow-bleached horizon, allowing the icy air to circulate through my lungs to give me my moment of peace, which feels both exhilarating and restful. Rolls-Royce’s Cullinan has taken me to a spot where I can enjoy the solemnity, alone and unperturbed by modernity and all its ails and woes.
Montana is a state made up of just 1 million residents—a fourth of Los Angeles and a tenth of Los Angeles County. It’s vast, peaceful and rich in its ability to center you on what’s important in life. Rolls-Royce’s Cullinan is strikingly similar, melding perfectly with the sort of life many in Montana are able to enjoy. That may sound odd when talking about an SUV that costs the same as some 3,000-square-foot houses—the one I'm driving is $475,000—but the Cullinan is an SUV that delivers the purest expression of luxury; one of total peace of mind and body, as well as sealing passengers away from the noise and anxiety of the outside world.
The Cullinan unquestionably earns its right to wear the brand’s Spirit of Ecstasy. I’d also say so does Montana—I just wish I had more time to get lost.