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Driven: 2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Image by Rolls-Royce.

Driven: 2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge
The Cullinan is now offered with a slightly sporty edge, but does it suit the massive luxury SUV?


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2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge

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Rolls-Royce's Black Badge range is a bit of an oddity. Supposedly sportier than the standard cars, and decked out with some glossy black trim, they try to strike a balance between dynamism and luxury. But how do you apply such logic to Rolls-Royce's massive 4x4, the Cullinan? Well, Rolls-Royce has done it, and we're here to find out whether it was worth the effort.

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge
Price: From £350,000
Engine: 6.75-litre V12 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power: 600hp
Torque: 900Nm
Emissions: 370-377g/km
Economy/Range: 17.0-17.3mpg
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Boot space: 560 litres


The Cullinan’s design has not been universally well received – some have said it looks like a London taxi, and there may be some truth in that – but the Black Badge version aims to add a little more menace to proceedings with a black grille, black exhausts and red brake callipers, as well as the black finish on the Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet mascot. For us, the design doesn’t add much – the black looks a bit cheap – but similarly adorned Black Badge versions of other Rolls-Royce models have been popular with customers, so it should play well again here.


As the Black Badge modifications to the exterior are minor, so too are those on the inside. As you'd expect, you get the usual plush seats and ridiculously thick carpets, but the Black Badge is marked out by the inclusion of carbon-fibre dashboard trim, rather than the usual wood. There's an X graphic in the trim, too, and an infinity logo in the leather on the seat backs.

Our test car also came with the famous Rolls-Royce roof lining, with the night's sky laced into the roof with little LED lights. There are even shooting stars that will flash across the ceiling at the push of a button, which adds to the special feel. Courtesy doors that open and close at the touch of a button only help with the feeling of drama, too.

But not everything is as hunky dory as you might hope. Obviously, the cabin is mostly beautifully made, but there are some slightly disappointing buttons and parts that feel premium, but not quite six-figure premium. A few of the steering wheel switches feel a bit cheap, and though the cabin is well screwed together, it's no better than a BMW or an Audi. Don't get us wrong, it's very nice indeed, but it isn't perfect.

And because BMW owns Rolls-Royce, it's probably no surprise to find BMW's technology hiding under a veneer of Rolls-Royceishness. That means you get a reskinned BMW infotainment system with a variation on BMW's iDrive controller, which is a good way of doing things. It's an intuitive system and it looks good, so even though it isn't the most spectacular piece of technology, it works well.


Unsurprisingly, given the Cullinan's enormous size, there's plenty of space inside. With rear-opening back doors, access to the back seats is simple, and there's more than enough room to stretch out once you're in there. Both legroom and headroom are very generous, and even the tallest passengers will be perfectly comfortable. Boot space is pretty generous, too, with 560 litres of space, but it isn't enormous. It does, however, leave enough room for a kind of overgrown cassette to be slotted into the boot floor, providing a pair of fold-out chairs on which you could have a picnic while watching the polo or take lunch during the grouse shooting. Apparently, that's the kind of thing customers are expected to do with their Cullinans.


Under the Cullinan’s long nose is a 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine that’s as smooth as silk, but unlike the standard ‘Silver Badge’ Cullinan, the Black Badge gets a bit more grunt. Let’s be honest, the Silver Badge’s 571hp is hardly paltry, but the Black Badge ups that to 600hp, which is an even less paltry figure. In fact, it’s enough to get this almost-three-tonne 4x4 from 0-62mph in just over five seconds, and up to a top speed of 155mph. It’s impressive for something so large.

As well as extra power, the Black Badge has another weapon up its sleeves – or at least another button on its stalks. It’s called the ‘LOW’ button, and it opens some baffles in the exhaust to make it sound a bit more rough and ready and guttural. It’s hardly noisy – the engine is still as smooth as silk – but it adds a slight bit more menace to proceedings.

The Black Badge doesn’t do much for fuel economy, either. You’re looking at about 17mpg, which isn’t efficient by any means, and don’t even ask about CO2 emissions. But Cullinan drivers are unlikely to care too much about their fuel bills…

Ride & Handling

Although the Black Badge is designed to add a sporty twist to the Cullinan, this is not a sporty car in the way a Bentayga or a Range Rover Sport can be. Yes, it's fairly quick, but a Lamborghini Urus is faster and much more fun to drive.

First and foremost, the Cullinan is massive. It weighs almost three tonnes, and it's 5.3 metres long, which prevents it from feeling agile in any way. The light, slightly numb steering doesn't help, either, and though Rolls-Royce has modified the suspension for more body control, it hasn't really transformed the experience. The car still leans massively in corners, but at least it has plenty of grip, so it'll scare you long before it lets go.

On the plus ride, the Cullinan rides very comfortably and with incredible refinement, in a way the Bentayga just can't match. Motorway miles are swallowed effortlessly, with very little noise from the road or the engine, unless you press that LOW button. But the soft suspension means the Cullinan can soak up the bumps well, and though a Silver Badge would probably be a little more comfortable, it's still very smooth and quiet.

However, the car doesn't deal that brilliantly with urban environments, simply because it's enormous. Three-point turns take up quite a bit of space, and it's difficult to squeeze the car through narrow gaps, but at least the Cullinan dominates the road, so people concede the right of way.


To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Cullinan Black Badge doesn't come cheap, and a raft of personalisation options means you can essentially make your Cullinan as expensive as you like. So value isn't really a consideration here. Those with the money won't care, and as far as Rolls is concerned, those without the money don't really matter. Customers who want a Black Badge and can afford the £350,000 price tag will stump up the cash whether a Bentayga is better value or not.


Giving the Cullinan the Black Badge treatment is something of a pointless exercise, simply because a massive 4x4 such as this has no business being sporty. But most customers will see this as an aesthetic choice, rather than a dynamic decision, so those who like the murdered-out look will be perfectly content. Because while the Black Badge adds little to the Cullinan recipe, it doesn't subtract much either. It's still a sumptuous luxury car that just so happens to be a 4x4.

James Fossdyke - 2 Feb 2024    - Rolls-Royce road tests
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2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Image by Rolls-Royce.2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Image by Rolls-Royce.2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Image by Rolls-Royce.2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Image by Rolls-Royce.2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Image by Rolls-Royce.

2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Image by Rolls-Royce.2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Image by Rolls-Royce.2022 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. Image by Rolls-Royce.    


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