Test Drive: The New Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge
Ian Lamming finds himself in a purple haze behind the wheel of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge
WHEN something is this special it is important to share the love and for the grandparents and their grandchildren it is a moment they will remember forever.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is a standout car under any circumstances but when it comes in Belladonna livery with a bright purple leather interior it is never going to be a shrinking violet.
The brother and sister spot it residing majestically in the garden centre car park – at 6ft tall, 6.5ft wide and 17.5ft long I was never going to try and squeeze it in the town centre – and head towards its leviathan presence. Their faces beam, their eyes burn bright and so do the faces of granny and grandpa.
So I offer them a look inside and very soon they are sitting nicely in the back watching CBBC on the built in TV screens as I wax lyrical to the adults about the amazing experience that is any Rolls-Royce. Surely no car can be worth that amount of money yet somehow they are because they are more than mere transport, they are a life experience. Later that night granny tracks me down on social media to thank me for making their day, such is the pulling power behind the car which carries the Spirit of Ecstasy on its prow.
It's a pleasure because any excuse to show off and talk about this amazing car is a delight and the audience stetches right across society – young, old, rich, poor, white collar and tradesman, ooh and ahh their way around this monolith, shrugging off any shyness to engage with this bespoke edition, The Black Badge.
A long queue forms at the till at the petrol station as the solitary attendant asks question after question about the Rolls-Royce SUV – but nobody minds as they listen and join in the conversation. The world really does stop for this car. The road worker mouths wow, the traffic officer offers a thumbs up, the grasscutter’s jaw literally drops open. Other passers-by double take, gawp, grin, one random stranger laughs and gives me a cheery wave. They don’t know me – but they want to – this is what it must be like to be famous.
The Black Badge feels particularly at home in company thanks to an association with land and water speed legend Malcolm Campbell. The stitched horizontal figure-of-eight on the purple leather is a mathematical symbol representing a potential infinity and is known as the lemniscate. It was applied to Sir Malcolm’s record-breaking Rolls-Royce-powered Blue Bird K3 hydroplane, denoting that it belonged to an insurance class reserved for boats with unlimited and therefore infinite engine power. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars selected the hallmark for Black Badge to reflect the marque’s own unrelenting pursuit of power.
And the power comes from seemingly relentless reserves – a 6.75 litre twin turbo V12 offers 600PS and torque of 900NM, a manna-coated hammer that will propel almost three tonnes of car from 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and on to a governed top speed of 155mph, in countries where the law allows of course.
It wafts along in a serene and effortless fashion and care must be taken to watch the speedometer as its natural cruising level is way above our UK limits and “I just didn’t realise my speed’ or ‘but it felt like 70mph’ fails to cut it any more.
Magic carpet ride mirrors the smooth seamless performance and its cross country manners can be sharpened by pressing a button to lower the suspension. For something so big it is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre and it negotiates the tightest of spots with ease. Drivetrain and chassis have been re-engineered on Black Badge for enhanced dynamic performance and it shows. When it comes to parking, people give you time as everyone is prepared to indulge this stunning SUV.
Black Badge was launched across the range to define the taste patterns of an emerging generation of super-luxury consumer with Cullinan being the ultimate expression of that aim. It dares to be different and is unapologetic, subversive and bold inside and out.
Multiple layers of paint and lacquer have been meticulously applied and hand-polished 10 times at the home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, West Sussex, representing the most comprehensive surface finish process ever applied to a solid paint colour. Any other car paint looks like orange peel by comparison.
The Spirit of Ecstasy mascot takes on a gloss black chrome finish that extends onto its mounting plate. The ‘Double R’ badge on the front, flanks and aft invert to become silver-on-black, while chrome surfaces, such as the front grille surround, side frame finishers, boot handle, boot trim, lower air inlet finisher and exhaust pipes are darkened. While they appear black, the vertical grille bars remain polished, reflecting the blackened surfaces that surround them making the Cullinan even more imposing.
Inside Black Badge Cullinan the design is audacious. Swathes of purple leather cover seats and trim, while the Technical Carbon veneer sees a naked-weave carbon-fibre finish create highly accurate repeating geometrical shapes, offering a powerful three-dimensional effect.
It’s a material of obsession with each leaf of Technical Carbon finished with six coats of lacquer before being left to cure for 72 hours then hand-polished to Rolls-Royce’s hallmark mirror finish, a process taking 21 days.
The Starlight Headliner, comprising 1,344 fibre optic lights and eight brilliant white shooting stars, intensifies the cabin’s ambience by casting a low light over the lavish leather seats, yet another feature that makes you smile.
The fascia melds retro with ultra-modern, with hi-tech displays but tactile knobs, switches and plungers for major functions, a joy to the eye and a delight to touch. In the boot lies another feature to demonstrate to an eager public; at the press of a button, two rear purple seats and a picnic table emerge from the floor electrically and rest on the lower tailgate on which to perch when in repose.
Never have I ever felt so good behind the wheel, or sitting in the boot, the centre of constant attention thanks to a car which no others can rival. It really is an experience that nobody will forget.
Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge
Engine: 6.75 litre V12
Power: 600PS, 900Nm torque
Top speed: 155mph
Combined MPG: 18.7
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
CO2 g/km: 370