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HomeMarketEdgy Luxury—Driving the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge

Edgy Luxury—Driving the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge

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At Rolls-Royce, it’s not just the volume of sales, but the sticker price on those cars that counts.

Rolls—which delivered 6,021 cars in 50 countries last year—is experiencing an upsurge in demand for its customer-designed Rolls-Royce Bespoke creations, with an average bottom line of more than US$500,000. The largest market for bespoke is the Middle East. 

The best-selling model globally remains the Cullinan SUV, proving the automaker wasn’t crazy to build its first off-roader. Other supercar makers have had similar experiences when they introduced ultra-luxury SUVs. More are on the way. 

And that’s where cars like the Cullinan Black Badge come in. The test car wasn’t quite US$500,000, but it was US$456,425 (from a list price of US$394,500). Black Badge is a bespoke series, not a unique one-off—it’s something like an exclusive and pricey design statement within the brand. Black Badge is available on Dawn and Wraith as well as Cullinan. 

Immersive Seating with Center Console scores a cooling bin for your champagne, with flutes to match.


The Cullinan model itself starts at US$341,500. So what do you get for your extra money? It’s basically an appearance and performance package that starts with a darkened grille and Spirit of Ecstasy hood emblem. (As an aside, the latter ornament, designed by artist Charles Sykes in 1909, is enjoying its 112th anniversary this year.)

The 22-layer wheels on Black Badge models are made of carbon fiber and lightweight alloy. Aerospace-grade aluminum-threaded carbon fiber composite is also used as a surfacing material on the interior. The clock is exclusive, with orange-tipped hands. The black leather interior is a crepuscular but welcoming escape from the real world—even the air vents are darkened. The mood is lightened up with the points of light from the Black Starlight headliner and, in the test Cullinan, Grace White accents. The driver’s feet sink into thick lambswool mats. 

Many Cullinan owners are going to be chauffeured. The better option for them is the Immersive Seating with Center Console option that gives the heave-ho to the middle rear passenger and installs a cooling bin for your champagne, with flutes to match. The company is an equal-opportunity booze enabler, so there’s also a whiskey decanter. The performance comes from a redesigned air suspension system, new driveshafts and a tuned eight-speed automatic that offers edgier driving. The steering weighting is adjusted on the fly, depending on the vehicle’s speed. The brakes are also enhanced, which is helpful in a 6,069-pound car. 

The Cullinan Black Badge’s BMW-derived 6.75-liter V-12 engine is twin-turbocharged to produce 592 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. It can get this ultimate luxury creation all the way to 155 miles per hour, with zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds. Of course, free lunches being thin on the ground, you pay for this with 14 miles per gallon combined fuel economy. If this bothers you, fear not, the all-electric Spectre—which eschews fossil fuels entirely—is just around the corner. 

The test Cullinan was in a lovely shade of Salamanca Blue. The sheer bulk of the Cullinan impresses, and it’s somehow even more imposing with the Black Badge treatment. The tiny stalk on the right side of the steering wheel is the shifter, and pushing the button engages park. The “Low” button on the stalk isn’t for climbing hills; it’s the equivalent of sport mode and causes the transmission to deliver upshifts 25% faster.

Owners of this car wouldn’t want it to roar out of the gate and it doesn’t—instead, a sort of purring progress makes itself known. In “Low” the purr turns to a polite rumbling. 

The magic of cars like this is that they make just about everything feel effortless. The car makes stately forward motion while the cosseted driver enjoys world-class infotainment, a massage, and a winking night sky. Sure, it “handles,” but is it vulgar to even describe the sensation of rounding a corner in this machine? 

This corner of the ultra-luxury market is now well-established, and the Cullinan is up against very luxurious, performance SUVs from Lamborghini (Urus), Bentley (Bentayga) and Maserati (Levante and Grecale). Ferrari and Bugatti SUVs are coming, and McLaren is thinking about it. Porsche has two SUVs, the Cayenne (which started the whole category) and Macan, and now it has announced its big gun—a three-row electric SUV code-named K1, which should be with us in 2026 or 2027. 

Not that much is known about K1, but it will have a huge battery, more than 400 miles of range (at least in European testing), and neck-snapping acceleration. It will share some technology with the Mission R, an electric racing-car prototype with more than 1,000 maximum horsepower. 

Rolls-Royce’s new electric is not an SUV, but there might be some cross-shopping between K1 and Spectre. Or why not, in this price class, buy both?


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