A chat between Jack Baruth and Derek Kreindler discussing the Bentley EXP9 SUV. Because we love it so much!
Jack: The moment I saw this rude beast slouching towards Geneva to be born, I instantly stopped regretting not buying the Arnage Red Label I almost picked up in 2005. Yeah,that was going to be awfully hood rich of me, but this thing makes the dodgy finance of a used dinosaur look classier than Princess Grace.
Derek: I understand on an emotional level how it is vulgar and crass but when you really take it in, it really is nothing more than a Range Rover with a Mulsanne front end grafted on to it. T he RR is the apex SUV in terms of conspicuous consumption. Something HAD to come along and replace it, now that you can buy used Range Rovers for 5 figures that aren’t that different from a 2012 model. There had to be something expensive enough to prevent this “prole drift” from happening – enter the Bentley SUV. It is, as rappers nowadays would say “mad ignorant”.
Jack: I figured it was a Phaeton with a Mulsanne front end grafted onto it. I mean, the Porsche PanArabia showed that you can make a car from a truck. Why not make a truck from a car? What’s the platform beneath? Do we know?
Derek: Nothing was said, and since our NetJets account was suspended by Herr Schmitt, we’ll have to wait until Bentley sends it to our tract-house after an angry letter campaign…Seriously, it’s probably a Cayenne our Touraeg platform. Where are they selling these things? Russia. China. The UAE. In at least two of those places, having a real SUV matters for going to your dacha or dunebashing in the same spot where your Pakistani chattel have made a de facto refugee camp. A jacked up Conti platform won’t cut it.
Jack: Well, at least the ugliest EXP in history is no longer a Ford. Seriously, this thing is slightly worse than the ’82 frog-eye and FAR worse than the reborn glass-tail ’86. Here’s what bothers me about this Bentley. Once upon a time, Rolls-Royce and Bentley made vehicles for English gentlemen. The aesthetic of the vehicles reflected this, unless you’re talking about the Camargue. Bottom line, though, if people who were NOT the target market wanted to buy them, they at least had to take a fairly tasteful and reasonable car. Nowadays, they market directly to the trash. With that said… Have I ever told you the Phantom Pig story?
Derek: No, Please do.
Jack: Alright. It goes like this. The men at Crewe hear a rumor that there is a man who is using an early Phantom to haul pigs. This is, like, in the early Sixties. Before Lennon had a Phantom, even. One of the company reps is tasked with checking it out. He finds a massive estate on which thousands of pigs are busy rooting. The wealthiest pig farmer you can imagine, and as Chaucer would say, verray and parfit.
He sees the man drive up, and sure enough, there are pigs in the Phantom. Wearing ribbons
“Sir!” the rep exclaims. “I am from the Rolls-Royce Motor Car Corporation. Is there a particular reason there are… pigs… in our vehicle?”
“MY vehicle,” the farmer responds. “These pigs are my best. I transport them to shows.”
“Sir!” the rep exclaims again, already feeling like he is slipping a bit in his argument. “We must insist that you do not use the finest motor car in the world to transport PIGS!”
“Pigs paid for it,” the farmer replies, herding a particularly bristly boar out the door, “so pigs will bloody well ride in it.”
You see what I am getting at here.
Derek: I do…and that’s why we now have the Breitling/Bentley collection.
Jack: Please, I thought we’d agreed those didn’t exist. Like Matrix #2 and #3.
Derek: W.O would surely approve of those far less than the EXP. At least you can take the EXP to a Fox Hunt or to the Henley Regatta with some justification. As far as I’m concerned, any discussion of Bentley “brand values” went out the window with that collaboration.
Jack: The Phaeton GTI, I mean, Continental GT, didn’t help matters.
Derek: Anyways, Bentley has always been a bit of a rogue’s car…Woolf Barnato was a Jewish diamond prospector from South Africa, HARDLY a member of the Eton/Magdalene College /KGB double-agent crowd that comprised the male half of the British upper-class.
Jack: Yes, but Woolf was the recipient of a Henry V for racing the things. You know… “For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; even if he’s a freakin’ Jew, This day shall gentle his condition” or something like that.
But here’s the problem; As long as they were sellng the Arnage, I could convince myself that the other shit - the Volkswagens, the Russian-gangster quartz watches, the Chinese-made umbrellas - just weren’t, you know, real.Same way we’ve all agreed that Jar-Jar just isn’t part of Star Wars, and that Ted Kennedy didn’t really exist.
Derek: I hear you. And there is something special about those 6.75L cars. Just last summer, my friend Timmy (a classmate of my brothers, four years younger) drove by me in an immaculate, cream on biege 1989 Mulsanne.
The next time I saw Timmy, he was driving his 2011 GT-R, so I asked him about the Mulsanne. It turns out the car belonged to his father since new – but the two of them forgot it existed. It sat for nearly twenty years before they finally got it running again. Timmy drove it that one time, then back to storage it went. You can bet that they are the kind of people who will buy an EXP, since they already have a Ford GT, BMW Z8, GT-R, Jeep SRT-8 and an Escalade already in their garage. They own a Mulsanne and couldn’t care less. You or I would cherish that car. So, you see, times change, aesthetics change, sensibilities change – vulgarity is forever
Jack: Well, to be fair, there’s only $25K between anybody and a Mulsanne. But it’s a commitment to own one. The American Rolls-Royce Owners Club is full of middle-income people who are faithfully extending the lives of the Clouds, Shadows, Spurs, and whatnot. Takes time, effort, and patience. Will anyone, I wonder, bother to save a Bentley SUV once it’s thrown away by its second nouveau owner?
Derek: I never understood that argument “will anyone remember this car in 25 or 30 years”. I mean, who cares – 99 percent of what’s made in any given segment is forgettable crap. The people who you see selling their “1 owner, survivor” 1982 Toyota Tercel that’s been babied since new? Two words; forever alone. If even a Mulsanne will only run you $25k, how memorable is it, really? We can appreciate the fact that it is a Bentley, but it’s really not that great when examined objectively. Besides, who is to say that this SUV won’t be cherished? My little cousin is 8. Maybe in 30 years he will get nostalgic for a Bentley EXP like I do for a Grand Wagoneer.
Jack: I would suggest that the reason people keep Mulsannes is because of the story associated with those cars. The idea of English nobility faithfully clinging to an old “Roller”. It wasn’t really true in 1989, but the Mulsanne felt like it was at least in touch with that story. Ironically, wanting to be part of that story is what brought the rapper, the sheikhs, and the gangsters in. They wanted a touch of the proverbial class - but when the new Mulsanne arrived, the last vestige of that story, of that class, completely disappeared.
You and I are really attending the funeral of the old Bentley, and the EXP is simply the cap laid onto the casket.
Derek: For my two pence, I’d way rather have the new Jag XJL Supersport. That car is so elegant it should be French. The inside is still British. The engine sounds and feels American. It has little touches of rapper aesthetics, like the purple velvet lining of the rear armrest with the cigar cutout. And you can have two of them for the price of a Mulsanne. And they’re owned by Indians rather than the Bosch! In the span of 60 years, they went from homespun cloth to owning one of Britain’s industrial crown jewels!
Jack: You have a point. But the Jaguar, just like the Bentley, isn’t really an English luxury car. It’s someone else’s idea of an English luxury car. What WAS the last true English luxury car? The XJ40? The Silver Seraph?
Derek: Honestly, I’d say the 2005 XJ. It was just like the XJs of old, but it used an aluminum frame and body. There was just one problem. Nobody bought it. Theold-world Jag faithful were all dead, and those like my Dad or my Uncles, who could afford one, had bad memories of their childhood E-Types, Wollseleys and Vivas never ever working. So they went elsewhere. Lexus, BMW and whatnot. Trying to retain “authenticity” doesn’t work unless you’re Bristol and are willing to tell customers to piss off because you disagree with their vision of a car. When you’re a volume car maker, it doesn’t work. You have to evolve, adapt or get blown out. Even though my Dad had an E39 530i, considered the apex of non-M BMW sedans, he pined for a 2005 XJ Vanden Plas. But he wouldn’t do it. Not even on a lease that ended before the warranty expired.
Jack: Well, there you have it. Here’s to the 2005 Vanden Plas. The last English luxury car. And here’s to the future: an unimaginably crass explosion of Dubai-centric garbage. Not an explosion. Let’s say a landfill. Stretching to the sky. A mountain of garbage. And the only vehicle that can take you to the top of that mountain in style…
Derek: The EXP9
Jack: We really can’t say “Cheers”, can we? How about “Будем здоровы”? That’s “to your health” in Russian, apparently. Here’s to health! To the Russian gangsters! The Arabian oil kings! The African dictators! The guys who rent cars to rappers for videos! To the future! “Будем здоровы”!
Derek: Shukhran, habibi.