Lord Vader, your new Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge has arrived.
Like the sinister Black Badge versions of the Wraith, Ghost and Dawn, the Cullinan gets the full noir treatment. Pretty much every piece of chrome has been chemically darkened, rather than painted or coated, to give a smokey hue that doesn’t chip or peel.
Up front, that iconic Parthenon grille gets the full Sith treatment, along with the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. The latter has a full-body coating of high gloss black chrome. In fact, chrome around the windows, along the base of the doors, around the trunk and the tail pipes, all goes back to black.
Complimenting this appearance is a set of new 22-inch forged alloys, which will be unique to this Cullinan edition. Whereas the other Black Badge siblings come with carbon-fiber rims, the Cullinan’s portly 6,069-pound heft demands more substantial wheels. Also a first on a production Rolls-Royce are red-painted brake calipers.
See this new Cullinan Black Badge in profile and this new exterior blackening makes the SUV appear visually less top-heavy and lower to the ground. Climb aboard, and the cabin is a sea of high-gloss carbon fiber-trim that stretches across the dash, center console and doors. A new weaving technique, called Technical Carbon, creates repeating three-dimensional geometric shapes. Before being fitted, the panels get six coats of lacquer and 72 hours of hand-polishing to create that mirror finish.
Equally impressive is the Cullinan’s first, and much-demanded, Starlight headliner, with its 1,344 individual twinkling fiber optic ends. And if that isn’t cool enough, there’s also a new “shooting star” feature that randomly uses groups of eight, brighter-white fiber optics to dart across the roof.
Add to all this a love-it-or-hate-it new color of leather—a mustardy hue called Forge Yellow. With this shade for the seats, inner door pockets, the top of the dash and even the deep-pile wool mats, it’s definitely an acquired taste.
All this would be pure window dressing if it wasn’t for the upgrades in performance, handling and braking that come with the Black Badge spec.
The Cullinan’s big 6.75-liter twin-turbo V-12 gets a 29 hp power boost to take the new output to a nice round 600 hp. The potent V-12 also gets an extra 37 ft lbs of torque to deliver a mighty 664 ft lbs in total. It takes the vehicle’s zero-to-60mph time down from 5.2 seconds to 4.9 seconds. And hitting the Low button on the transmission stalk will open up the car’s revised exhaust to give a throatier, deeper rumble.
Rolls engineers have also given this new Cullinan tighter suspension to sharpen the handling, while still retaining the SUV’s buttery, magic-carpet ride. There are also changes to the braking system that include new, better heat-dissipating rotors, and reduced brake pedal travel.
All this, it seems, is a result of a new generation of younger, more diverse, self-made buyers requesting a more dynamic, edgier-looking Cullinan, says Martin Fritsches, president of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars America in an exclusive interview with Robb Report.
How young? “The average age of our buyers is now below 40,” says Fritsches. “Many of our Cullinan buyers are in their mid-to-late 30s, even early 20s. And over 60 percent of buyers are new to the brand. We call it the Cullinan Effect. And right now, one in five of our customers are buying Black Badge models. With the Cullinan Black Badge, we expect the ratio to increase to maybe one-in-three.”
Fritsches notes that dealers are already working with customers to commission Cullinan Black Badge models, and expects the first examples to be delivered early next year. While the base price is set at $382,000—up from the standard version’s $325,000 sticker—he predicts most will average closer to $450,000. Moving to the Dark Side certainly seems to be paying off for this 113-year-old brand.