While electric power begins to find its home in line-ups from the more mass-market brands, many luxury car manufacturers still find the smell, sound, feel, and emotion of good old gasoline just too strong to give up—some of the vehicles featured are still designed to go as fast as possible, in the most dramatic manner imaginable. We start with Rolls-Royce’s Cullinan SUV, which made its much-anticipated debut at California’s Monterey Car Week events in August.
Three years ago, the British heritage brand Rolls-Royce promised its first SUV. It recently fulfilled that promise and unveiled the Cullinan, an SUV in form, with the styling of a classic Roller.
“The super-luxury lifestyle is evolving,” says company CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös. “Our customers expect to go everywhere effortlessly and without compromise, conquering the most challenging terrain to enjoy life’s enriching experiences.”
The Cullinan, named after the largest diamond ever discovered (stones cut from it are now part of the British Crown Jewels), has a mighty 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 engine and an all-new, all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering system, meaning it can handle just about any land on the planet. Inside is as well-considered as you’d expect, with roomy front seating and a rear passenger compartment with seats that can be electronically moved up or down. And in a first for the company, the Cullinan has a tailgate, named The Clasp—a nod to the days when luggage was mounted on the exterior of a car.
Before the SUV’s debut in the United States, National Geographic photographers and videographers, led by Cory Richards (NG’s 2012 Adventurer of the Year), put the Cullinan through its paces in a series of off-road challenges in Scotland, Austria, and the Middle East.
Ferrari has well and truly bid practicality arrivederci with the Monza, given that it lacks both a roof and a windscreen, and you even have the option to ditch the passenger seat entirely. Inspired by the brand’s racing cars of the ’50s and ’60s, the Monza is fired over the horizon by a tuned version of the 6.5-liter V12 from the 812 Superfast, which means it sounds even better than it looks.
And wow does it look good. Opt for the single-seat version (the Monza SP1) and you’re treated to a boat-like deck enveloping the driver’s cockpit, while two-seat SP2 versions are adorned with distinctive twin buttresses acting as rollover hoops behind each of the seats. The interior’s a stripped-back lesson in minimalism, perhaps hinting that the only place your eyes should be is several miles down the autostrada.
Ferrari has made a point of creating similar-looking one-off projects for selected clients in the past, but 500 of the single-seat (SP1) and twin-seat (SP2) versions of the Monza will be made. And Ferrari may even have already been in touch if they think you’re enough of a fan to deserve one.
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Bentley Continental GT
When it arrived back in 2003, the Bentley Continental GT ushered in a new era of modernity for the renowned British carmaker. This all-new version moves things forward in terms of technology—owners get to delight in the three-sided rotating prism in the center of the dashboard, which, in an industry first and at the push of a button, spins to give you a view of either the pin-sharp infotainment screen, information gauges, or beautiful dashboard veneer.
It drives impeccably, too. An electric anti-roll-bar system senses the type of road you’re on and either helps stop the car leaning in fast corners, or eases off for a cosseting ride on highways. Combine this with a reworked 6.0-liter, 626 hp W12 engine and you have everything you need for twisty roads or hitting up to 207 mph (333 km/h) on German autobahns.
Despite the technological advancements, this latest Continental GT is still hand-built by world-class craftspeople. You’ll find 1.7 miles (2.8 km) of thread in the upholstery stitching and nine cowhides throughout the cabin, in what must be one of the greatest blends of new- and old-world construction methods.
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The new limited-edition, 700 hp Porsche 935 flies the flag for hardcore, track-focused function. Porsche fanatics will instantly recognize that this vehicle’s design harks back to the Le Mans-winning “Moby Dick” Porsche 935/78 race car.
Only 77 are being built, and lucky owners will enjoy no-holds-barred aerodynamic design, giant 380 mm front brakes, and a stripped-back interior. But only on a race circuit—it’s not road legal.
This Porsche is one of the marque’s most desirable modern iterations—just give yourself time to drink in the details, such as the wooden gear knob top, LED lights on the rear-wing endplates from Porsche’s 919 Hybrid LMP1, which won the Le Mans 24 hours in 2015–17, and titanium exhaust tips that echo Porsche’s race cars of the late 1960s.
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The Urus is Lamborghini’s first-ever SUV, and also its first-ever turbocharged car. Slip inside its leather-lined cabin, however, and you’ll be more than comfortable enough for long cross-country jaunts, with your rear-seat passengers snug in their own individual bucket seats.
It goes without saying that the Urus is super-fast—the 4.0-liter V8 engine has 650 hp, or enough to get from rest to 62 mph (100 km/h) in a mere 3.6 seconds, and on to a top speed of 190 mph (305 km/h). But Lamborghini hasn’t escaped the hand of parent company Volkswagen: when you’re cruising, half of the engine’s cylinders can turn off to help you achieve something approaching acceptable fuel economy.
But don’t go thinking that Lamborghini’s been completely sensible—the start button on the center console has a red fighter-jet-style cover, a high-resolution digital driver’s display shows your speed in place of analogue dials, and some eye-wateringly vibrant leather options fill the brochure to tempt you away from any pretense of subtlety. After all, isn’t that what we really want from Italy’s most flamboyant car brand?