Rolls-Royce has a fine history of producing motor vehicles whose imposing designs tread the line between aristocratic glamour and ostentatious vulgarity with graceful effectiveness. With the Cullinan, however, it seems this delicate sense of visual balance has been knocked off kilter.

Proportions are key in this respect. At 5.34m long and 2.0m wide, the Cullinan is shorter and narrower than the Phantom VIII, but its extended roofline and lofty 1.82m height serve to stretch Rolls-Royce’s imperious design language past the limits of what can be regarded as universally tasteful, which is probably the point. This Black Badge model – with pseudo-sporting styling cues that include red brake calipers, a black chrome Spirit of Ecstasy and darkened Pantheon grille – only solidifies this impression.

Vertical bars of the front grille are polished to reflect the surrounding blackened surfaces. Rolls-Royce says this helps to create a “frisson of movement” that hints at the car’s dynamic intent. Quite.

The mechanical specification of Rolls-Royce’s first 4x4 is far easier to appreciate. In standard guise, the Cullinan’s 6.75-litre twin-turbo petrol V12 has been reworked to develop 563bhp and 627lb ft, but this is raised to 591bhp and 664lb ft for our Black Badge model. Drive is delivered to all four wheels in a 50:50 split via strengthened drive- and propshafts, and an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. This has a unique calibration for Black Badge models, with a more urgent throttle response.

Meanwhile, the all-aluminium ‘Architecture of Luxury’ spaceframe first seen in the Phantom VIII has been reproportioned and adapted to feature a tailgate for the first time on a series-production Rolls. Underneath it are active four-wheel steering and 48V active anti-roll systems, too.

Suspension is by way of specially developed axles: a new double-wishbone arrangement at the front axle, with a multi-link configuration at the rear. Larger air struts with greater volume were added to the company’s existing self-levelling air suspension system for improved off-road shock-absorbing capability and an electronically controlled air compression system can increase pressure in the shocks to lower a wheel if it detects lost traction.

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Meanwhile, the brake pedal’s bite point has been raised, its pedal feel retuned to aid confidence during fast driving, and greater brake cooling capacity has been provided.

The upshot of all that is a car that weighed 2739kg on the scales, which is heavyweight even by super-luxury class standards. Before decrying this an abomination of brainless excess, however, critics might like to consider that the Phantom saloon we tested two years ago was some 41kg heavier still on our scales.