Rolls-Royce Cullinan takes a dark turn on the streets of Dubai

Dubbed the ‘king of the night’, the British marque's new Black Badge SUV is its most powerful vehicle ever offered, writes Simon Wilgress-Pipe

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Brace yourself for this announcement: the world's most famous manufacturer of luxury cars doesn't see itself as a manufacturer of luxury cars. That's only one element of what it does, it says.

The marque in question is Rolls-Royce, and, in a hotel meeting room on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah, surrounded by cameras and members of the media, chief executive Torsten Müller-Ötvös's message is clear – cars are just one part of the Rolls-Royce trademark. In actual fact, he says, the British brand represents the height of luxury in a variety of areas that go way beyond automative manufacturing.

That said, the event in that crowded room marks the start of a Middle East promotional tour for Rolls-Royce's new Cullinan, the final addition to the Black Badge range. It's the most powerful vehicle that the marque has produced. Technically speaking, it's an SUV, but calling it that is a little like calling the Burj Khalifa a tower block.

Rolls-Royce debuted the Black Badge concept with its Wraith and Ghost models in 2016. These were followed by the Dawn a year later, and now the family (as it's being referred to in company circles) has been completed with the introduction of the Cullinan. This is a vehicle Rolls-Royce describes as "the darkest and most urban statement of Black Badge yet". It's also being marketed as the "king of the night", which might be sufficient to induce inferiority complexes in its siblings, were they humans and not cars.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Courtesy Rolls-Royce

The Cullinan is a powerful beast. It has a 6.75-litre, twin-turbo V12 engine, producing 592bhp. To control this kind of power, it has been fitted with bright red callipers, which is apparently the first time the company has offered coloured brakes.

Despite these masculine overtones, bear in mind that this is a Rolls-Royce. Over the years, no car from that stable has ever been lacking in the finest touches that were technologically possible at the time of production. The Cullinan conforms to the mores of the whole Rolls-Royce range in that you can customise every aspect of the vehicle – from the door handles to the dashboard dials, the treadplates and pretty much any element inside of the car. Such is the service being offered by the company, that no Cullinan is likely to be identical to any other.

Rolls-Royce’s new Cullinan. Courtesy Rolls-Royce

In fact, Rolls-Royce is at pains to stress that it will do whatever it possibly can to create a fully bespoke machine. Mind you, a line had to be drawn at one customer's request, who wanted to have a cigar humidor set into the dashboard, as, after testing, the designers realised that such an addition would have negated the effect of the airbags.

All the chrome elements on the new Cullinan (and the rest of the Black Badge range) have been darkened, as has the traditionally pristine Spirit of Ecstasy figurine. That last change was the subject of some controversy within the company. One of these figurines has adorned every Rolls-Royce bonnet since 1909, only a few years after the company's very first car, the 10hp, was unveiled at France's Paris Salon, an early motor show. As such, the shiny symbol was deemed by many to be sacrosanct. The reformers got their way, though, and the Black Badge range gained its own, night-themed figurine.

Rolls-Royce's Spirit of Ecstasy.

Despite its off-road capabilities, the Cullinan drives on the tarmac as smoothly as any of its siblings. They call this dreamy, automotive experience a magic carpet ride. There's no drama here, and if you feel the need to indulge in a spot of steady-handed macramé in the back seat, it's likely you'll be able to do so.

The fact that Rolls-Royce is spreading its delicately gilded wings beyond mere vehicle-making comes from the simple premise that people talk about certain products as being "the Rolls-Royce of …", meaning they are the best of their kind. As such, you can now also buy a range of high-end goods, including fragrances, luggage, pinic hampers and chests, made by the brand.

Following the hotel event, a group of Cullinans heads out in formation from the Palm, through the streets of Dubai and on to a series of destinations around the city. It's the kind of grouping that will turn heads, even in the UAE's biggest urban sprawl, an area well known for having more than the odd piece of high-end metal on its roads.

And, let’s face it, it’s just that kind of attention that many buyers crave. The new Cullinan is here and people will want to look at it. If passers-by staring in your direction is not to your taste, there are plenty of more mainstream choices of car for you.