Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan / Rolls-Royce
Published: November 7, 2019
SPARTANBURG, South Carolina - Darkening the Spirit of Ecstasy and Pantheon grill, two pillars that make the Rolls-Royce brand so iconic, did not come without controversy. To the designers at Goodwood, this was almost as heretical to them as drinking tea without milk, but it made sense not only to the youthful population with their newly acquired money and tastes, but for their desire to stand out with a more personal, bold, and contrasting Rolls-Royce. Hence, the Black Badge was born, and now account for one-in-five Rolls-Royces that roll off the factory floor.
Like the Wraith and Dawn, the Black Badge now graces the Cullinan, and adds a host of aesthetic and dynamic improvements, including a darkened Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, black chrome that replaces every exterior piece except the door handles, new 22-inch wheels, and for the first time ever in a Rolls-Royce, painted calipers shown here in red.
Inside, you will find bold colours normally associated with the Black Badge vehicles, like the new Forge Yellow in the photo gallery. Neatly assembled carbon fibre weaves, along with the infinity symbol grace the cabin as well, including the Starlight Headliner which joins the Cullinan for the first time. According to RR, this starry feature has become as iconic to the brand as the Pantheon grill and the Spirit of Ecstasy. It even comes with eight shooting star programs, which will dynamically display lights that move along in an arranged pattern. Talk about neat.
The upgrades to the Black Badge are more than skin deep, though. The 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12 has been injected with an extra 29 hp and 37 lb-ft, for a total output of 600 hp and 664 lb-ft. Black Badges also come equipped with an active sports exhaust, activated by pressing the ‘Low’ button on the column-mounted gear stalk. Rolls-Royce have further retuned the suspension, steering, and transmission to offer a more dynamic and refined drive, which they say is expected from this darkened alter ego.
Stay tuned for our first drive of the Cullinan Black Badge, and for those prospective customers looking to purchase one, it starts at $382,000 USD. Rolls-Royce dealerships have already begun accepting commissions.
Full press release is attached below.
Photo Gallery (Calvin Chan):
At the Geneva Motor Show in March 2016, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars presented Black Badge; a permanent Bespoke family of motor cars that defined the taste patterns of an emerging generation of super-luxury consumer. These unapologetic and highly dynamic products responded to those who refused to be defined by traditional codes of luxury and did much to attract new customers to the marque, reassured by Rolls-Royce’s fluency in their bold aesthetic and uncompromising lifestyle requirements.
This highly successful alter ego is codified by the mathematical symbol that represents a potential infinity, which is placed discreetly within the motor car’s interior. This marking, known also as the lemniscate, was applied to Sir Malcolm Campbell’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 this hallmark for Black Badge to reflect its own unrelenting pursuit of power.
Rolls-Royce debuted Black Badge with Wraith and Ghost in 2016 followed by Dawn in 2017. Today, the family is completed with the introduction of Black Badge Cullinan: the darkest and most urban statement of Black Badge yet.
Cullinan Goes Black
Created to satisfy overwhelming demand from younger, more adventurous clients, Cullinan in its silver badge guise, was launched to global acclaim in 2018, immediately becoming the world’s pinnacle super-luxury SUV. Combining luxury in its purest form with genuine practicality and off-road capability, Cullinan unequivocally delivered on the promise of an experience that is Effortless, Everywhere.
The Rolls-Royce of SUVs did much to reach a new group of clients looking for unfettered access to the world’s wildest places and most enriching experiences. Yet, within this group exists a subset of individuals who seek to subvert the motor car’s domineering presence by permanently cloaking it in the night. Cullinan has conquered the world’s wildest reaches. Now it is time for Black Badge Cullinan to conquer new urban frontiers.
Black Badge Cullinan Exterior: The King of the Night
While clients can draw on the marque’s 44,000 ‘ready to wear’ paint options or commission an entirely individual Bespoke hue, it is anticipated that many will opt for Black Badge’s signature Black. Multiple layers of paint and lacquer are 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 color. The depth and intensity of Black Badge Cullinan’s coachwork serves as the perfect canvas upon which to throw a contrasting hand-painted Coachline into stark relief.
On the prow of the motor car lies the defining expression of Black Badge. The Spirit of Ecstasy mascot, which has taken many forms throughout the marque’s history, is presented in high gloss black chrome. For the first time this finish extends onto its mounting plate, creating the darkest Black Badge yet.
This transformation pervades the other symbols of Black Badge. 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 to add a frisson of movement that hints at the motor car’s dynamic intent.
The overall effect artfully simplifies and enlarges the motor car’s exterior design graphics, emphasizing its imposing proportions and confident stance. This is further dramatized by all-new 22-inch forged alloy wheels, reserved exclusively for Black Badge Cullinan. Designed in the Black Badge house style, the gear-like graphic emphasizes the model’s vast reserves of power while also recalling an infinitely occurring lemniscate.
The gloss black and polished design also creates the perfect stage for the marque’s first ever colored brake caliper. The high gloss Red paint has been specifically developed to withstand the rigors of elevated temperatures generated by the motor car’s uprated braking system while still offering a perfectly smooth finish befitting of Rolls-Royce.
Black Badge Cullinan Interior: Superlative comfort. Audacious design
Ordinarily, great efforts are expelled to distance occupants from a Rolls-Royce’s mechanical function. However, the marque’s Color and Trim experts gently sensationalized the engineering substance of Black Badge, seamlessly blending superlative comfort, bold aesthetics, advanced materials and precise, meticulous craftsmanship.
This ethos is perfectly embodied by Black Badge Cullinan’s Technical Carbon veneer. In the spirit of Sir Henry Royce’s founding philosophy, “When it does not exist, design it”, a collaboration between the marque’s designers, engineers and craftspeople saw the creation of a new luxury material. Inspired by masterpieces of urban architecture, a naked-weave carbon-fiber finish has been developed to create highly accurate repeating geometrical shapes that produce a powerful three-dimensional effect.
Each leaf of Technical Carbon is finished with six coats of lacquer before being left to cure for 72 hours then hand-polished to Rolls-Royce’s hallmark mirror finish. This process takes 21 days and is only deemed complete once every piece is inspected by a craftsperson to ensure complete reflective uniformity across each of the 23 pieces within the car.
Starlight Headliner has joined historical Rolls-Royce iconography such as the Spirit of Ecstasy, Pantheon Grille and ‘Double R’ monogram. Its presence in Black Badge Cullinan intensifies the cabin’s ambience by casting a low light over the lavish leather seats. Presented in fine Black leather, handwoven with 1344 fiber optic lights, it is a true reflection of the sky at night and incorporates eight brilliant white shooting stars that dart at random predominantly over the front occupants, subtly acknowledging the motor car’s owner-driver appeal.
Reflecting the marque’s Bespoke philosophy, Black Badge Cullinan benefits from a near-infinitely configurable interior color palette. Black Badge clients often use interior space as a stage to create dramatic high contrast colorways, so for Cullinan Rolls-Royce’s Color and Trim designers created a bold new leather color, Forge Yellow, to offer as part of the brand’s curated collection. As with all leather colors, this can be commissioned for the motor car’s Viewing Suite or incorporated into the design of a highly Bespoke Recreation Module tailored to the client’s exacting specification.
A final touch completes the interior seating: the Infinity lemniscate motif is embroidered into the fold-down rear arm-rest as an elegant reminder of the power contained within. This simple but potent symbol is also incorporated in the illuminated treadplates and engraved on the clock face, itself framed by brushed and darkened steel case bearing the name ‘Cullinan’. Red-tipped clock hands and instrument display needles also serve as a discreet reminder of the motor car’s dynamic prowess.
Black Badge Cullinan Engineering. The Architecture of Luxury’s dark side
Black Badge is far more than an aesthetic treatment. In creating this class of motor car, it was of vital importance for Rolls-Royce to conceive a meticulously considered dynamic personality that perfectly harmonized with the motor car’s remarkable visual identity. Indeed, the exceptionally high expectations of the marque’s clients defined a rigorous testing protocol lasting more than three years to ensure that Black Badge Cullinan was relevant to their needs.
Key to the visceral thrill of Black Badge Cullinan is the Architecture of Luxury, Rolls-Royce’s proprietary all-aluminum architecture that debuted with Phantom. The sub-structure not only delivers extraordinary body stiffness, but its flexibility and scalability allowed Cullinan to be fitted with all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering in its silver badged guise. These dynamic features have been comprehensively exploited and re-engineered for Black Badge while retaining the peerless quality of ride that has driven Rolls-Royce’s success.
The Architecture of Luxury has been engineered to meet size and weight requirements of different propulsion systems. When the driver presses the ‘Low’ button situated on the gear selection stalk, they unlock Black Badge Cullinan’s full suite of technologies. This is asserted by the proud amplification of the motor car’s 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 through an entirely new exhaust system, announcing its arrival with a deep, authoritative basso profundo.
It was deemed unnecessary to make changes to the engine’s ample internal capacity, however the flexibility of the twin-turbo V12 has been exploited to generate an extra 29PS creating a total output of 600PS. The sense of a single, infinite gear has also been sensationalized with the addition of a further 50NM of torque, bringing the total to a 900NM.
Black Badge Cullinan benefits from a Bespoke transmission and throttle treatment that creates a sense of urgency without ever undermining its Rolls-Royce peerage. The drive-train, ZF 8-speed gear box and both front and rear steered axles work collaboratively to adjust the levels of engagement depending on throttle and steering inputs. Changes to suspension components and settings add to the suite of dynamic technologies that ensure an appropriate balance between dynamism and refinement. The result is an extremely well-mannered tourer at low speeds and a vivid driver’s device when pressed.
To bolster confidence when exploiting Cullinan’s alter ego, the braking bite point has been raised and pedal travel decreased. Redesigned brake discs also allow consistency in these changes while braking at elevated temperatures.
Black Badge Cullinan is now available to commission.