This Rolls-Royce Black Badge Cullinan Is The Luxury Marque’s Edgiest SUV

The global market for ultimate luxury has opened wide and the buyer is getting younger and more diverse. The traditional codes no longer apply. This confident consumer has other demands. They desire classic cars, Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, but with a much more pronounced urban edge and a less subtle expression of luxury. And brands are rapidly responding.

Enter the Black Badge series, created in 2016 for this exact market. And today Rolls-Royce is releasing details of the latest model to join this niche family, the Black Badge Cullinan. This is Rolls-Royce’s “boldest and darkest expression of Black Badge yet,” promises chief executive officer Torsten Müller-Ötvös, calling the new SUV, “the king of the night.”

The black-badging treatment is both visual and skin-deep - with the classic Cullinan’s drivetrain and chassis re-engineered to enhance the performance and driving dynamics. The 6.75-litre V12 engine generates an extra 29ps for a total output of 600ps, while the Black Badge gets a further 50Nm of torque to 900Nm.

Launched last year, the Cullinan is Rolls-Royce’s premier SUV. It has set out to be the very highest expression of off-roading luxury and is therefore offered with the choice of thousands of color options. The Black Badge though, as the name suggests, is strictly cloaked in noir. The paint is very special - the depth and intensity of the black hue is achieved through multiple layers of paint and lacquer meticulously applied and hand-polished over and over again.

Shades of black in matt and gloss finish appear throughout to emphasize the exterior graphics and highlight the Cullinan’s imposing proportions. The “Spirit of Ecstasy” mascot, for instance, comes in high-gloss black chrome with the finish extending 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 suitably darkened. Elsewhere, the new 22-inch forged alloy wheels reveal the marque’s first high-gloss red brake calipers.

Inside continues the noir theme as well as introducing some novel material for the marque, including a technical carbon veneer. Inspired by urban architecture, a naked-weave carbon-fiber finish has been developed in-house to create highly accurate repeating geometrical shapes for a powerful three-dimensional effect. Each leaf of this material is finished with six coats of lacquer before being left to cure for 72 hours, then hand-polished to a mirror finish. This process, I’m told, takes 21 days and is only deemed complete once every piece is inspected by a Rolls craftsperson to ensure complete reflective uniformity across each of the 23 pieces within the car.

Black Badge customers tend to specify the interior design as a color contrast to the black exterior. The options include a new “Forge Yellow”, created as part of the brand’s curated collection. To help make each Black Badge unique, the Infinity lemniscate motif is embroidered into the fold-down rear armrest, incorporated in the illuminated treadplates and engraved on the brushed and darkened steel clock case.

Rolls-Royce started the Black Badge adventure with Wraith and Ghost in 2016 followed by Dawn in 2017. This latest model completes the range - for now. Company CEO, Müller-Ötvös believes they reflect the desires of a distinct group of Rolls-Royce clients, “men and women who take risks, break rules and build success on their own terms.”

He admits the idea of creating these daring niche cars for such a traditional maker of motor cars caused a bit of an internal debate. Yet, three years on and the risk has paid off. Rolls-Royce now boasts one of the youngest clienteles for any traditional luxury carmaker. Müller-Ötvös says the Black Badge satisfies what he calls the “subversive cohort that is highly dynamic and willfully rebellious in aesthetic”.

“Once the marque’s designers, engineers and craftspeople began pursuing this dramatic alter ego,” he continues, “it became clear that these motor cars could not only exist comfortably beneath this revered and historic brand, but they would define a new space within the super-luxury market.”

See the Rolls-Royce Phantom by celebrity Rankin here, and learn more about the marque’s involvement with the arts here.

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A writer with a focus on design, for over twenty years I have set out to discover the latest concepts in architecture and urbanism, design and car culture. I am excited...