View all Rolls-Royce Reviews
► More potent Cullinan SUV driven
► Power and chassis tweaks
► Is it still a proper Rolls-Royce?
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is pulling a blinder, creating more cars than ever before and looking forward to the electric future. Part of that success has been the Cullinan SUV, and another big part has been the introduction of the Black Badge sub-brand.
Think of it as an edition designed to eke out a little more performance from your monolithic mega-SUV, and appeal to a more youthful crowd. So much so that Rolls-Royce has told us directly that a Black Badge commissioner is younger than the average Mini buyer.
So, it’s like a Cullinan GTI?
Well, that sounds a bit reductive, but basically, yes. Black Badge started in 2016 with the previous generation Ghost, and is currently available as an edition on the current Ghost and the Cullinan we’re testing here.
To separate a Black Badge Cullinan, the usually-light chrome brightwork (the trimmings and Pantheon grille, for example, as well as the Spirit of Ecstasy) are of a darker metal shade. Black Badge models also feature bespoke wheels and the infinity symbol used to signify the Black Badge brand inside.
Every Black Badge Cullinan features the brand’s signature twin-turbo six-and-three-quarter-litre V12, putting out 592bhp and 663lb ft – a 29bhp and 37lb ft increase over a (for lack of a better word) ‘regular’ Cullinan. Black Badge models benefit from some performance-oriented chassis tweaks, including more powerful brakes with better cooling and a sharper, shorter travel for the corresponding pedal, as well as rear-wheel steering and revised geometries for the air suspension.
Is it still imperiously luxurious?
Of course it is. It wouldn’t be a Roller, otherwise. It’s a car you just sink into. The finest leathers, some of the most supportive seats and every possible bit of effort required to drive a car reduced to a minimum or removed entirely. You don’t even have to exert any effort closing the door beyond pressing a discreet button.
The interior is a fine balance between classical design cues and modern technology. The modernist in me initially sniffed at the old-fashioned air-con controls, but that was before I used them – and realised that, praise be, they were easy to use in any scenario – as well as beautifully crafted.
The Cullinan, like all current Rolls-Royce cars, uses BMW’s iDrive system – the older version that’s being phased out by Munich at the moment. But it all works very well, with all of the latest bits of safety and assistance technology hidden away among a few buttons on the chunky steering wheel or at a twist-and-click of the centre controller.
Massaging armchairs, a digital TV tuner and your own champagne fridge to toast your latest successful business deal… it’s utterly gorgeous. Specify the event seating and you even have your own in-built pair of chairs that pop out of the tailgate so you can get a prime spot at the polo tournament, even if it does impact your luggage space somewhat.
Good – so, is the Black Badge Cullinan a proper performance machine?
Er, not quite. There’s only so much you can do to make a 2.7-tonne SUV a little more ‘dynamic.’ But the Black Badge Cullinan is still an impressive thing to drive.
Despite being so large and boxy, wind and tyre noise is merely something of the imagination. The steering is light but direct and feels fluid, and each of the gearbox’s changes are nigh-on imperceptible whether you’re pootling or thundering.
Speaking of thundering, that V12 is a marvel of engineering. It’s near-silent on the move (unless you poke it, and a tuneful tenor note emits from the Black Badge-specific exhaust) and thrusts the Cullinan forward as if the term ‘torque curve’ doesn’t exist at Goodwood. But if you’re remotely bothered by on-paper pace, the Black Badge model is no quicker than a normal one.
With the Black Badge Cullinan, we found that its air suspension and big wheels do struggle to eliminate all low-speed bumps much more than a Ghost Black Badge, for example. Get eager with your cornering speeds or aggressive with your inputs and the whole body will briefly jiggle like a recently-sat-on water bed. And, when it comes to slowing down after you’ve had your fun, you quickly learn that those beefier brakes could be beefier still.
Rolls-Royce can throw whatever performance upgrades at the Cullinan all it likes, but there’s only so much that can be done to something weighing as much as Blenheim Palace.
Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge: verdict
The Black Badge Cullinan’s upgrades make it a little more fidgety on the road then we would have liked, and it’s no quicker on paper than a ‘regular’ one. But we know that will not remotely deter a Rolls-Royce client from commissioning the most powerful version of the brand’s most capable car.
But, when you’re commissioning something that has one of the smoothest powertrains known to man and is one of the most opulent places to spend your time inside a moving vehicle – why would it?
|Price when new:||£350,000|
|On sale in the UK:||Now|
|Engine:||6749cc twin-turbo V12, 592bhp @ 5100rpm, 663lb ft 1650rpm|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive|
|Performance:||5.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 17.0mpg, 377g/km|
|Weight / material:||2690kg|
|Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):||5341/2000/1835|