Named after the largest uncut diamond ever discovered, the Rolls Royce Cullinan has established itself as King of the ever-growing list of luxury SUVs, so the Black Badge edition can further can only further cement its place as the ultimate, best of the best.
The first thing you notice as you approach the Cullinan is just how vast it is. It has this incredible imposing presence that I’ve only ever experienced with one other car, the Phantom VIII. From the front, you have the bold pantheon grille finished in black with that gorgeous Spirit of Ecstasy sat atop it also finished in black – some of the several design features that only appear in the Black Badge series of Rolls Royces. As you walk around the car you notice the black and diamond-cut wheels with the self-levelling Rolls Royce emblem in the centres. The wheels are 22″ which would normally fill the arches on a regular car, but with the Cullinan they look adequate in comparison to the rest of the vehicle – not big and over the top, they are perfectly proportioned. All down the side of the vehicle there is a single orange pinstripe that starts just behind the headlight and goes right the way to the rear of the car which is applied by hand.
As with the Phantom and Ghost, the Cullinan features rear-hinged rear doors that give the side profile this wonderfully clean and elegant appearance when closed and as you open the doors you then have a full view of the uber-luxurious interior that greats you within. Although this particular interior is finished in a rather bright and bold Mandarin orange, it’s well within keeping of the cars bold and extravagant personality.
As well as the Mandarin leather, the dash is finished with a bespoke carbon fibre weave unlike any I’ve seen before and it works as a subtle reminder that this Cullinan has more to offer than you may expect at first. The rear seats are set right back as to provide extensive legroom and ultimate comfort for the rear occupants, both of which have carbon fibre folding picnic tables and screens offering a wide range of entertainment options from managing the radio stations to wirelessly linking with smartphones.
As with many of the new Rolls Royces, this particular Cullinan has the starlight headliner which at night give this incredible ambience that simply cannot be replicated in any other vehicle. I could spend hours sitting in the back just looking up waiting for one of the programmed shooting stars to zip across the roof lining. There are also deep soft lambswool carpets and heated reclining seats to ensure you are always at your most comfortable. It is in the rear of the car though that this particular Cullinan shows off one of its greatest party pieces. As the split-folding tailgate opens, there is a large chrome-trimmed box that transforms the rear of the Cullinan into the ultimate tailgate seating area at the touch of a button. This is the Rolls Royce Viewing Suite – a pair of leather seats finished in the same Mandarin leather as the rest of the car with a small raising table in the middle. It’s another one of those things you never knew you needed until Rolls Royce made one for you.
All this luxury and lavishness is great for the affluent occupants of the vehicle, however, with this being a Black Badge Rolls Royce, it’s not all about the passengers. Possibly unlike the Phantom where one expects to be driven about in, the Cullinan Black Badge has a lot more to offer for the driver than you might think. This all starts with its engine. The glorious 6.75 litre V12 has been breathed on to produce a hearty 600hp which will help propel this rather large and rather heavy vehicle from 0-62mph in around 5 seconds. Fortunately, Rolls Royce have also played with the braking to ensure it can stop as well as it can go.
The driver’s seat of the Cullinan is another wonderful place to be. The area is similar to that of Phantom but you also have this taller and more commanding position above other cars that makes manoeuvring such a vehicle a lot simpler. One of the things I love the most about the driver’s area of all Rolls Royces is the simplicity. Instead of filling the dashboard and centre console with hundreds of buttons and touchpads and offering all different types of driver modes and other gimmicks that no one will ever use anyway, Rolls Royce keeps it simple and instead focus all their attention to the detail. A slim stalk off the steering wheel lets you select drive, neutral and reverse and there’s a “Low” button if you want the 8-speed automatic gearbox to be a bit more playful, and if you want to leave the tarmac and get a bit adventurous, there is one button simply labelled “Off Road” in the centre console.
Although the Cullinan does not have locking differentials or a low-range gearbox, I have been assured it is still a very capable vehicle across a wide variety of terrains, however, this was not something I was really willing to try given that the Cullinan Black Badge starts at around £275,000 before you’ve added any extras or bespoke changes. I did, however, get to explore the car’s performance on the road in a wide variety of scenarios during my time with the car. From short trips around neighbouring villages to longer motorway drives and many other trips in between, you very quickly get used to the size and personality of the car.
The thought of driving a car of such size and value is always a daunting one, but it needn’t be. Even though the Cullinan is larger than a Range Rover in every way, it feels no bigger to drive. The steering is perfectly balanced to the weight of the car and that thunderous 600hp powerplant makes the car feel light and agile as you give it a squirt with your right foot. The turn of pace is difficult to describe as it simply launches itself forwards as soon as you press the throttle. The drive is also made easier by the GPS assisted 8-speed automatic gearbox – there are no paddles on the steering wheel or options to knock down a cog or two with the flick of a gear selector, instead, the gearbox already knows where you’re going and therefore is always in the correct gear whether you’re on s straight piece of road, heading for a tight hairpin up a steep climb. All of this is done in almost complete silence as if it were magic.
As with all modern cars, the Cullinan is loaded to that wonderful starlight roof lining with technology and innovation to keep both the front and rear occupants happy and comfortable. From the infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and wireless charging to the folding rear screens with Blu-ray player, television tuner, wireless phone mirroring, and DAB radio along with driver aids such as the GPS gearbox and speed-adaptive cruise control, head-up display and a range of automated safety features the Cullinan is laden with gadgets. The Rolls Royce may have an elegantly traditional feel to its interior with the real chrome vents and organ stop pulls and manual climate control dials but it is also by far one of the most advanced cars I’ve ever driven.
Being a Rolls Royce, there is a definite expectation for this car to be finished to the highest possible standard and to be the very best of the best. We often refer to things as “the Rolls Royce of such and such” when describing the best of a certain category, and for the Cullinan to be a success in this ever-growing world of high-end SUVs, it needs to be almost unrivalled. Here, it is safe to say that the Cullinan Black Badge really is the “Rolls Royce of SUVs” – quite simply the best money can buy.
As always, a huge thank you to Rolls Royce and for their continuing support of Well Driven and supplying the Cullinan Black Badge – you can find out more about the Cullinan and the rest of the Rolls Royce vehicle range over on their website HERE. Another big thank you goes to Rick at Sprite Photography for yet another incredible set of photographs.