The Rolls-Royce That’ll Fit in at the Volcano

Readers are always telling me that the cars we review are too expensive. “Enough with the Bugattis!” they say. “Write about something I can afford.” People, I hear you. I, too, am growing weary of reading about $3 million cars. So today I’ll take a break from exotics and tell you about an everyday family car. It’s called the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge, and it doesn’t cost a million dollars. In fact, it’s only a little more than a half-million.

At 210.3 inches long, the Cullinan just about matches the length of your bodyguard’s Ford Expedition. That’s too bad if you’re courting attention, because the general public sees the Cullinan and registers “normal big SUV” rather than “chariot of the gods slash Kardashians.”

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However, like your bunker in that missile silo in New Zealand, the good stuff is on the inside. The carpeting is enchanted lichen from a fairy forest, softer than the baby ostrich you push around Mayfair in a Prada stroller. The doors (rear-hinged in back) are motorized, closed via discreet buttons so you never have to extend an arm to an unphoto­genic angle. The rear-seat tray tables? Also motorized. So is the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. And the “viewing suite,” a pair of chairs that motor out from the cargo area. It’s impressive that the Cullinan weighs only 6086 pounds, because electric motors are heavy. Remember when you tried to throw that Vitamix out the window of Kendall Jenner’s chalet?

Anyway, the viewing suite means you can pull right up to your favorite entertainment—falcon racing, truffle tossing, or just hanging out next to a big pile of diamonds. Alternately, that compartment can be loaded with a “recreation module” created by Rolls-Royce according to your favored pastimes. You know, like volcano boarding, which is a real thing that Rolls suggests you might be into. It sounds daunting, but trust me, the hardest part is buying the volcano.

So what makes a Black Badge different from lesser Cullinans? Well, it’s a bit feistier. Its twin-turbo 6.7-liter V-12 pumps out 592 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, up from 563 horses and 627 pound-feet in the standard model. You also get a new (louder) exhaust system, uprated brakes, and the first red-painted calipers ever offered on a Rolls-Royce. Red calipers? What’s next, a bevy of superfluous gauges on the A-pillar and an air freshener redolent of Axe body spray? Honestly. As if this were a Camaro or a Bentley Continental GT Speed or some such.

After all those years being upstaged by 14-year-old tuned Hondas, Rolls-Royce is finally building a model with red brake calipers.

Rolls offers 44,000 standard colors and infinite custom ones—take a swatch from your hot air balloon and Rolls will match it—but it seems to think the Black Badge looks best in its namesake hue, which is hand polished 10 times. The blacked-out motif continues inside, where 23 pieces of carbon trim adorn the interior. Each one takes 21 days to produce. If only the same could be said for the films you bankrolled for Sundance.

A $7500 headliner brings 1344 fiber-optic lights to the party. It’s great fun for the rear passengers to watch shooting stars whizzing around overhead, particularly if they’ve been enjoying one of the two bars between the seats. The lower one hides a whiskey decanter and rocks glasses while the upper one is refrigerated and carries a pair of champagne flutes on its lid. We know what you’re thinking, and the answer is to have your driver study up on local open-container laws before you land in Croatia.

What else? Oh, the exact price: The one I drove was $503,225. But you don’t even need to spend that much. Like, if you could live with key-fob leather that didn’t match the seat trim, that would get the price down to $502,625. But who am I kidding? It would drive me nuts if the fob weren’t color matched. A color-matched fob should be standard, but you’ve got to remember that we’re not talking about a million-dollar vehicle here. Keep your expectations reasonable and you just might find that the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge is all the car you really need.

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