From £291,8208

Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

Judging exactly how much extra performance a 560-horsepower Rolls-Royce may need in order to begin justifying a 20% price premium cannot be an easy task. Add too little urgency and the owner – who may not even be driving, don’t forget – simply won’t appreciate where his or her money has gone.

Add too much, though, and you risk piercing the balloon of indulgently smooth luxury, which, more than any other dynamic quality, remains Rolls-Royce’s true calling card. Understandably perhaps, Rolls Royce has chosen to err on the side of caution here – even with this, the biggest and brashest Black Badge to date. The Cullinan’s engine is the usual audible picture of gentility and reserve in normal running order. It takes on the faintest sporting growl if you thumb the ‘low’ button on the car’s column-mounted gear selector, although it’s still one you’d struggle to hear over a lightly modified hot hatch that happened to be idling nearby.

Not sure I’m a fan of the Black Badge’s raised brake bite point and shorter pedal travel. They work fine when moving at pace but can affect how smoothly you bring the car to a halt at town speeds. It doesn’t feel quite as dignified as it should.

The car’s initial responses are likewise idiosyncratically gentle, as if ‘a hurry’ would be the single most graceless state in which any Rolls-Royce might ever find itself. Flatten the accelerator from rest and the Cullinan’s first few metres are all smoothness and composure. A couple of strides in, however, the car begins to gather accelerative force around it like an A380 on take-off.

It nips under 5.0sec to 60mph from rest and, more impressive still, gets from 30mph to 70mph in just 4.2sec, besting its bigger sibling, the Phantom, as performance tested by this magazine in 2018, in both respects. The latest Bentayga Speed would most likely be quicker from a standard start, and a Urus quicker still; but it’s the Cullinan’s combination of huge and seamless speed, served up with a total lack of savagery, that really distinguishes it.

Back to top

Responsiveness in roll-on acceleration remains progressive. Because there’s no means of selecting a gear manually here, the only way to ready the car for an imminent sprint is to use that ‘low’ transmission mode; and while doing so certainly makes the car quicker to react to your right foot, it does feel like a slightly Machiavellian abuse of the Cullinan’s good nature.

It doesn’t create much extra in the way of sporting engagement, either – something that you wouldn’t expect of any Rolls-Royce, let alone a Rolls-Royce SUV, but which the extra-special positioning of this one somehow makes seem like a missing jigsaw piece nonetheless.