Rolls-Royce’s Big Update for the Cullinan Is to Make It Uglier

Those air intakes do not belong on the front of a Rolls-Royce.

byNico DeMattia|
Rolls-Royce News photo


Despite being a humble pleb, I've always really liked Rolls-Royce. It's a brand that's so unashamedly itself, boasting an honest but sophisticated approach to its snobbery that I appreciate—it lets you know it's better than you but in a classy way. However, the new Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge Series II is more aggressive-looking and less couth than before, robbing the Cullinan of some of that sophistication.

For the most part, the newly updated Cullinan Black Badge looks like the old one. It isn't a radical redesign. However, there are a few significant changes that feel a bit like change for the sake of change, rather than improvement. For example, the aforementioned front air intakes not only look cheap and unbefitting of a nearly half-million dollar car but are completely antithetical to the point of a Rolls-Royce. Rollers aren't about performance, even the Black Badge models, so having massive contrasting black air intakes is incredibly gauche for anything with a flying lady on its hood. In addition to those air intakes, the front end also gets vertical light bars attached to its headlights, which gives the Cullinan the droopy face of a sad bloodhound.

Not much has changed at the back end, though. The new rear bumper exhaust openings are a bit taller and squarer than before. It still has the same mirrored-finish black chrome accents throughout, a key component of Black Badge models. The new wheels are great, too, with a cool interlocking design.

Rolls was similarly reserved when updating the interior. The dashboard layout, steering wheel, and overall design are the same as before. Fortunately, the Series II gets updated tech with a new digital gauge screen and updated infotainment system from BMW, just with Rolls' own graphics. It was a much-needed update, as the Series I Cullinan used outdated tech. The new digital gauges look cool, too, and get four different colorways: Vivid Grellow, Neon Nights, Cyan Fire, and Synth Wave.

It wouldn't be a new Rolls without some intense new materials available inside. I personally hate carbon fiber trim in a Rolls or Bentley but the Series II Cullinan Black Badge has a new "Technical Carbon" finish that creates a three-dimensional effect and is hand-polished to a mirror finish. There's also a new seat material which, unusually for Rolls-Royce, isn't leather. It's called Duality Twill and it's a raycon fabric made from bamboo. Apparently, it's inspired by the bamboo grove in the Le Jardin des Méditerranées botanical garden on the Côte d'Azur.

The 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V12 remains, still making its 600 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. It still shifts gears with an eight-speed automatic transmission, still drives all four wheels, and still has Rolls-Royce's signature "Low" mode that basically acts as a sport mode. It increases exhaust volume and speeds up shifts while near full-throttle (90% or more). Interestingly, Rolls even shortens the brake pedal travel for the Black Badge model to make it feel a bit more engaging.

I've driven a few Cullinans in my day, including the Black Badge, and it's always been a far more enjoyable SUV to drive than it looks. I don't see that changing with the Series II, considering it's mechanically the same. However, Rolls took a step back in its design and made the Cullinan look less sophisticated, less couth than before. At least the interior is snazzier.

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