If you needed a modern representation of a modern Rolls-Royce, it would be the Cullinan, the first — and only — SUV in the fabled marque’s history and its bestseller since its debut in 2019.
To drive one is to experience a vehicle unlike any other. Sublimely built, ethereal in its responsiveness and with a price tag only venture capitalists can afford, it’s the ultimate reward for a life well-played.
Offered in Base and murdered-out Black Badge trim, Rolls-Royce is adding a Black Badge Cullinan Blue Shadow Private Collection model for 2024, limited to 62 units worldwide.
It takes its inspiration the Kármán Line, the invisible boundary 62 miles above the Earth’s surface, where the planet’s atmosphere ends and outer space begins. The Cullinan Blue Shadow features leather seats inspired by how earth looks from space as well as a matching car cover, luggage set, 1:8-scale model replica of the car, and a Lunar Starlight Headliner featuring 250,000 stitches and 1,183 fiber-optic stars.
Rolls-Royce provided a Black Badge for our test drive.
There is no mistaking a Cullinan, an SUV with incredible presence that stops other drivers in their tracks. Its large size and massive slab sides make it seem even bigger than its sizable 210.3-inch length suggests. Opting for Black Badge trim brings with it a smoked finish to the exterior metal elements, even the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament.
It’s a look that modernizes the SUV for the terminally hip. It makes for a distinctive touch, especially when paired with our vehicle’s striking Salamanca Blue paint. And its massive Parthenon grille ensures that you won’t mistake this SUV for any other. Thoughtfully, the two-piece rear tailgate features leather seats and a small table that fold up from the floor for tailgating.
Indulgently opulent, a description that could be used on any Rolls-Royce. No vehicle pampers like a Rolls-Royce, and the Cullinan is emblematic of the breed. Thick, lavish lambswool carpet mats, real metal and a near total lack of plastic make for a cabin ambience unlike any other. The front thrones are plushily padded and exquisitely upholstered. But it’s too easy to inadvertently turn on their massage function, as the button is on the door panel right by your knee.
Three passengers will fit in the back seat, and they will want to, as most people have never experienced a Rolls-Royce, but it’s truly made for two.
A 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 that generates a healthy 563 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque through an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission to all four wheels. Top speed is an electronically limited 155 mph; reaching 60 mph takes less than five seconds.
A number of driving modes ensures that you’re ready for any eventuality. The air suspension uses a camera to read the road ahead and prepare the SUV appropriately. And yes, the Power Reserve gauge is present, a sort of backwards tachometer that starts at 100% and goes down as you use power. Quirky, but cool.
Safety and Technology
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have crash-tested the 2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
A digital instrument cluster and a large infotainment touchscreen dominate the instrument panel, while a twin-screen rear entertainment system with 12-inch screens is optional. The 18-speaker sound system is exceptional, as you’d expect. The infotainment interface setup is similar to those found in BMWs, but with different graphics.
Nothing feels or drives like a Rolls-Royce. Road imperfections are noticeable by their absence, as if your local highway department actually did their job well. The ride is velvety smooth and quieter than a university library on a Saturday night. And despite that, it proves to be fairly nimble, able to handle what’s thrown at it. It lives up to what you’d expect from a Rolls-Royce.
Power comes on effortlessly, as you’d imagine. But it does so with an impeccable grace that speaks of its station. And its commanding seating position makes you feel even more regal and imperious than you already are.
It’s a very easy vehicle to drive smoothly, as inputs are easy to modulate.
OK, yes, it does use a lot of fuel, but so what? If you can afford the car, you can afford the gas.
Having driven the Cullinan in Greenwich, Connecticut, which seemed to be a natural habitat, the Cullinan causes people to point stare and take smartphone photos. It has the requisite magic one expects from a true luxury vehicle.
2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge Specifications
|Dimension||L: 210.3 inches/W: 78.7 inches/H: 72.2 inches/Wheelbase: 129.7 inches|
|Powertrain||6.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||12 mpg city/20 mpg highway/14 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||563 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $449,996; As tested: $511,921, including $2,750 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The phrase living large, cliched though it may be, certainly applies here. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is a large SUV that’s sizable in every sense, be it comfort, performance, opulence, safety, style, presence — whatever you can come up with. It’s an indulgent dream, one that’s in a class by itself.
2023 Rolls-Royce Cullinan — Frequently Asked Questions
How much is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge?
It starts at $449,996.
What is the most expensive Rolls-Royce?
The Rolls-Royce Boat Tail, estimated at $28 million.
What does Cullinan mean?
Good-looking lad, handsome.