The unlikeliest off-roaders get down and dirty during a fun day at the mud bath
SINGAPORE - A communal mud-bath is a great icebreaker, because the shared nakedness strips bare title, privilege, status and all those other tiresome things that often come in the way of people being genuine and decent to one another.
In fact, some folks are probably looking at our opening picture and wondering what the stately Rolls-Royce has in common with the pint-sized and very perky chunky-cool Suzuki Jimny, especially since the latter weighs-in at a tenth of the Cullinan’s price, size and kerbweight!
(When you need a booster to stand on to talk to your tall pals!)
On the face of it, not a lot, but it’s only when both off-roaders get down and dirty that you appreciate that all such vehicles really want to do, is to have a frolicking fun time.
It’s another one of our'just-because’ stories, if only to show how the unlikeliest cars can hang out, and well, off-roading isn’t the sole province of Land Rovers.
As we make our way to the mud'spa’, the two form an unlikely convoy and a surprisingly comfortable alliance, as passers-by stop to gawp at the brooding, stately Cullinan before breaking out in ear-to-ear grins as the chirpy Kinetic Yellow Jimny trundles into view like a trailing bear-cub.
In fact, the last time we received this much attention on the road was when we had the Isetta 300 and the F12tdf!
(Click HERE to read our Isetta and F12tdf story)
With the Jimny, size matters not as far as its credible off-road prowess is concerned. This latest iteration of the Jimny -; the fourth in Suzuki’s cult mini-car offroader range that spans a mega 20 years -; brings a chunky, anti-fashion chic (and cheek!) to the puddle party, complete with rugged body-armour, rear-mounted spare tyre, a square-jaw and a flat-top buzz-cut that will make any U.S. Marine proud.
The Jimny’s design may be Tonka-inspired, but trust us when we say it’s definitely more truck than toy!
In a larger car, such design cues may lead one to think it takes itself too seriously -; like Jeep for instance -; but with the Jimny’s diminutive 3645 x 1645 x 1725mm proportions and'in your face’ attitude, the'baby-G’ posturing is too cool for school.
As we’ll discover when we dig into its abilities (even as it’s digging into the dirt), there’s plenty of old-school off-roading cool with the Jimny as well, so there’s ample'go’ to accompany its'show’.
Like its predecessors, the Jimny is built on a ladder-frame chassis, which means plenty of longitudinal strength (for towing) and good articulation for off-road use and abuse. Its ride height is properly raised, and this credible off-roader doesn’t pretend to be sporty.
You’d imagine that something so focused would fall flat in a world gone mad on posh-roader crossover types, but it is the Jimny’s unpretentious purity that makes it such a winner in our eyes.
Even the cabin configuration is a master-class in space optimisation, but don’t forget that the Japanese have been honing their skills in the fine art of kei-car packaging for the better part of 70 years!
The materials are hard-wearing and the resilience of the controls and contact points underscore the Jimny’s robustness, yet there are some neat design elements, such as the Bell & Ross-style cockpit instruments for instance, but it’s never OTT.
In terms of design, ergonomics and materials used both inside and out, as well as physically usable space (as opposed to an abstract capacity figure), it’s engineered to be properly exploited.
The footprint of the 2250mm wheelbase Jimny is compact, but it’s far larger than life in the flesh and space inside is optimised to decently accommodate four adults… of this scribe’s 5’6” and erm, 33” proportions that is!
However, even if it can take four, we feel the Jimny is better enjoyed by a couple, and it’s neutral enough for young drivers or empty nesters to consider, especially as a second or third car in the household kept for fun rather than function.
The ample glass area translates to great visibility at the helm, and the square-cut silhouette means it’s easy to place in the wild (or park in the wilds of shopping belt), because you know exactly where the body starts and ends.
(Suzie gets a scrubbing after the drubbin!)
The Jimny’s 1.1-tonne-plus kerbweight is positively flyweight in today’s car market, and we like how fly it is for a light guy. If you think the Jimny’s interior and exterior styling are brutally-honest, wait till you turn a wheel in anger.
We love the gritty, unadulterated feel of the Jimny in motion, and the chassis articulation, as well as powertrain action and sound are great sources of this petrolhead’s saucy pleasure, especially given how desensitised modern cars have become.
At the heart of the official export model beats a 1.5-litre (as opposed to the JDM’s 660cc), which produces decent poke in the city, yet won’t feel underpowered on the highways, and the 140km/h vmax it’ll muster is plenty much for our city-state.
Transmission duty is served by a 4spd auto, and the Hi-Lo transfer gearbox isn’t there for fun either -; well it is, if it’s off-road mud-churning fun you’re thinking of, as we were! The tiny tyke will clamber up rocky inclines and muck about in the mud with the best of’em, as it takes to the wilds of Lim Chu Kang as easily as it does the parking aisles of Ngee Ann City.
We’re not going to bother talking price, or even things like NVH and 0-100km/h times, because we think they are quite inconsequential to the proposition of Jimny ownership -; just know there’s enough space to carry a couple’s belongings and assorted camping barang-barang for a weekend expedition out in the wilds.
Every now and again, a car of such strong charisma appears to give us hope that there are still pockets of passionate motorheads working in the industry amidst the marketeers and money-minders, and we love how the Jimny is one of those rare analogue new cars in an increasingly digital world.
Like a Rollin’ Throne
I bet you never thought you were going to see a muddy Cullinan in your lifetime, but we like to put people and things in uncomfortable positions. We never need a reason to pull out the Cullinan, which was one of our 2018 Cars of the Year, and taking the Jimny out was the perfect excuse.
(Click HERE to read about the Cullinan in our 2018 Cars of the Year)
Why? Well, we see a certain kinship between the Jimny and the Cullinan, because they operate without rivals in their respective spheres, yet each exudes a distinctive road presence that won’t see them fade into the grey roadscape here any time soon.
Moreover, Rolls-Royce didn’t get to its lofty position by pandering to Joe Average, especially if he can’t see the point in a vehicle like the Cullinan.
(We didn't manage to get Eleanor dirty enough!)
The folks who are in the rarefied segment that Rolls-Royce operates it simply buy it, largely because of all the intangible qualities the'Rolls-Royce’ brand embodies. The Cullinan’s high-bodied, three-box format is arguably far less stuffy than the ubiquitous limousine that fuddy-duddies continue to think represents'luxury’, even if it’s one as palatial as the Phantom.
Luxury is defiantly unapologetic, challenges categorisation and is not constrained to only where there are roads; love it or loathe it, the Cullinan is a progressive evolution in luxury transportation for Rolls-Royce that operates in a class of its own, easily transcending the likes of the Bentayga and the Urus.
The Cullinan lends itself perfectly to being self-driven, either to explore the far reaches of one’s plantation, going for a site recce, or simply popping down to the food centre for curry rice and chye tow kway.
(Click HERE to read about our first drive of the Cullinan in Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
The poise of any Rolls-Royce is unmistakable, and the Cullinan is no exception, with the commanding hand-polished stainless steel front grille and D-shaped rear silhouette tying things back to the brand’s storied history, with the rear'bustle’ denoting the rear storage compartment such as were seen on the Rolls-Royce grand tourers of the 1930s.
The'suicide’-style coach-doors open wide to reveal a cave of wonders, except we’ve replaced the plush, ankle-deep carpets with fitted rubber mats in anticipation of the day’s off-road excursion.
Still, the air of opulence is palpable as you enter the rear cabin, while the front console is suitably ornate. The Cullinan doesn’t quite drop on bended knee, but it does drop 40mm for easy ingress/egress, so Sir/Maa’m steps elegantly into the cabin… as opposed to unceremoniously clambering up into the car.
Like the Jimny, we enjoyed our driving time in the Cullinan, and Rolls-Royce encourages self-driving too with a thicker, small-diameter steering wheel that’s snugly sporty in one’s hands.
When you’re ensconced in the'throne’, the driving position is suitably lofty, and you enjoy a commanding view of the surroundings. From road to rough, there’s no need to fiddle with drive configurations: All it takes is one-touch to engage the Cullinan’s'Off-Road’ mode, or the'Everywhere’ button, as it’s known internally.
Even when it’s churning up the next Jackson Pollock masterpiece with mud splatters in an attempt to extricate itself from a sticky situation, the Cullinan does so with a gravitas that leaves onlookers mesmerised rather than mocking.
True to form (and a whopping 850Nm hit of torque from the mighty 6.75-litre V12), the Cullinan’s progress is unhurried as it wafts effortlessly in regal decorum, only now, this is a Rolls that will happily roll into the rough as well.
The brand’s vaunted'Magic Carpet Ride’ has been re-calibrated to deliver the same ride quality Rolls-Royce owners are accustomed to, even when traversing off-road trails.
As a side note, unlike the Ghost/Wraith/Dawn, the Cullinan is built on the brand’s'Architecture of Luxury’ all-aluminium chassis, which also underpins the new Phantom.
With the Cullinan’s doors closed, the occupants are well-cosseted and luxuriate in a hermetically-sealed world where even the air smells different, as you take in whiffs of leather and wood, as well as the blood, sweat and tears of the crew that had a hand in the car.
The only indication you’re rumbling off-road are the changes to scenery and incline, because there’s virtually no deterioration in ride quality as you leave the paved for the patchy.
The driver has the best seat in the house to Mother Nature’s show as he charts a course towards adventure, but the stadium-style rear seats also ensure the occupants in the back enjoy an eyeful of the spectacle.
Cars like the Jimny and Cullinan are anti-fashion and transcend rational thought -; they’re certainly not for everyone -; because they are purchased with the heart and not the mind. If you’re going on about what else the same amount of money could buy you -; in the case of the Jimny, possibly an anonymous three-box sedan; in the case of the Cullinan, an apartment out-where -; you’re probably not ready for either proposition.
Like the Cullinan, there’s nothing else quite like the Jimny on the market today; and just like Rolls-Royce’s polarising high-bodied vehicle, you’ll either love or loathe the little Suzuki, because it’s as much about the image and lifestyle cachet as it is about the technical performance.
Ultimately, such cars are all about making a visual lifestyle statement and not necessarily making sense for your cents, but if you ask us, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals
SUZUKI JIMNY ALLGRIP
Engine 1462cc, inline4
Transmission 4spd auto
Top Speed 140km/h
Fuel Consumption 8.8l/100km
Engine 6750cc, V12, twin-turbo
Transmission 8spd auto
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Consumption 15l/100km