From £291,7008
Steering, suspension and comfort

For the most part, the Cullinan Black Badge handles exactly as you’d expect a big Rolls-Royce might.

Except for right at the margin of its dynamic potential, it is not a car that will surprise you with keenness, or whose outright stability or body control urges you on to great speeds. It is, almost to the base of its contact patches, a pretty simple, relaxing conveyance, and its dynamic mission is clearly not to equal the versatility, capability or grip of some of its rivals, but instead to do ‘luxury’ well – with just the merest hint of sporting seasoning sprinkled thereon.

Graceful, unruffled and comfortable progress remains a higher priority than sheer sporting prowess but the Black Badge will deliver an extra hit of agility if you demand it

The car wears its size and heft on its sleeve, with steering that isn’t heavy but is quite gentle and slow around the centre. That allows you to guide and position the car with the finely metered precision that has marked out Rolls-Royce’s cars for decades and makes it change direction quite softly – up to a point.

The suspension permits some body roll to build as you turn in, only to check it at an entirely comfortable angle as you’ve dialled in about a quarter turn of steering, just as you’re sizing up the apex of the tight bend you happen to be negotiating.

It’s at this point, however, that the chassis of the Cullinan Black Badge delivers its final, carefully hidden year-end bonus: an extra dose of cornering purchase and agility, coming perhaps as the four-wheel steering system finally empties its pockets, or possibly thanks to an acceleration in directness from the front axle. Whatever the reason, this Rolls-Royce chooses to keep its dynamism under a bushel until it’s absolutely required, rather than waving it under your nose with every twitch of the wheel or vertical fidget of the ride; and you can’t help quite liking that about it.

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The car’s vertical body control is fairly soft and permissive, but there’s an impressive ultimate sense of composure to it as you add speed or topographical complexity, or both, to its workload – just as the dampers seem to say “this far and no further”. And that’s rather likeable, too.

Comfort and Isolation

Were you to list the buzzwords for any Rolls-Royce model from any era, ‘isolation’ would be either at or very near the top. And the Cullinan duly delivers. Recording 61dB at 70mph, the cockpit doesn’t so much summon church-like calm as that of an anechoic chamber buried six feet beneath the granite crypt floor. By comparison, the Bentley Bentayga manages only 65dB, which is still commendably quiet but, given this is a logarithmic scale, sits in an entirely lesser division to the Rolls.

The efforts of the mammoth V12 are particularly well suppressed, and with no tachometer to give the game away, the Cullinan can generate a convincing EV-like glide under light loads. The perched driving position is also more lounge-like than for any comparable car, but while the absence of sporting presence is totally appropriate, greater lateral support and suppleness from the flat chairs would improve matters. Bentley still has the upper hand in this regard.

However, ride quality is one area in which we would expect the Cullinan to do conspicuously better. For an SUV, on the move it replicates the long-wave grace of lower-riding Rolls-Royce cars well, but the air suspension can labour over smaller corrugations in the road and isn’t immune to bump-thump at town speeds. This is a typical complaint with such cars, and evidently not even Rolls has solved the engineering challenge posed by huge, heavy wheels and suspension designed to offer robustness, substantial ground clearance and generous travel.

Assisted driving notes

Rolls-Royce is maintaining an evidently circumspect attitude towards the adoption of the latest driver assistance technology. The Cullinan will automatically detect and adopt variable motorway speed limits and it does have a tunable autonomous emergency braking system (which can only be deactivated in Off-road mode).

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The car’s lane-keeping capacities are limited to a lane change assist system that will warn you clearly if you’re about to veer into the path of an overtaking car or more gently if you’re departing your lane. It does not have a conventional ‘active’ lane-keeping assist system, though.

The Cullinan’s intelligent cruise control will allow undertaking. The standard-fit night vision system, meanwhile, is a little gimmicky, but because it does seem to make for effective pedestrian detection after dark, it’s worth its place.