They say that the first auto race happened about five minutes after the second car was built, and there was probably an obvious winner (heck, the first “official” US auto race only had six starters, and two finishers). But progress begets parity. Before long, the cars started to get closer to one another in terms of performance and the drivers’ relative talents became more and more important to ensuring victories – but talent is a tough thing to eyeball. You need something a little more precise.
What you need, is a watch. Ideally, something you can depend on to deliver accurate results, lap after lap, shine or rain. Maybe something Swiss, you know?
For those of typical means, ultra-luxury automakers like Bentley exist in a vacuum. We see an M3’s worth of options on a Flying Spur and scoff at something so preposterous, so alien to our understanding of a dollar’s value.
It’s true enough that the law of diminishing returns tends to really kick in when MSRPs soar into six-figure territory and beyond: Is a Bugatti Chiron 50 times better than a C8 Corvette? Probably not. But years ago, when I was handed the keys to my first Bentley press car, I approached the prospect with a similar mindset and came away a changed man.
With manufacturers having realized there’s a small but very interested market for historically relevant automobiles, we’ve seen some of the fancier names in motoring embrace “continuation models” with astronomical price tags.
Some of these cars are arguably better than the real thing, too. Jaguar and Aston Martin revived a handful of their finest products from the middle of the 2oth century, adding a smattering of modern technologies to make the cars more livable. And lacking the authenticity of being a true original results in substantially lower MSRPs — though calling them affordable would be a misnomer, as some continuation models still go for millions of dollars.
Case in point is the new/old Blower Bentley, which is the ultra-rare racing variant of the 1929 Bentley 4½-litre with the Roots-type supercharger sitting in front of radiator like a giant nose. Bentley announced in 2019 that it would build a dozen examples of the automotive icon — all of which were sold long before the manufacturer tightened a single bolt. Considering the staggering amount of work required to build a true continuation car (the manufacturer actually had to disassemble and scan every single part on an original 4½-litre just to create a digital blueprint), the coronavirus pandemic has been a sizable setback. Bentley now says that phase one of the plan has concluded and the automobile serving as the prototype/template for all subsequent models (Car Zero) has begun construction as parts start rolling in.
If you detected a whiff of sarcasm in that headline, your nose wasn’t off. Yes, style and beauty is entirely subjective, but the range-topping Bentley Bentayga has never found itself at the top of any writer’s sexiest-dressed list.
And that’s okay! It’s big, it’s bold, and it sells, so Bentley naturally loves anything that generates profits in a market quickly shying away from traditional body styles. Still, better is always possible, so the marque took the Bentayga to the plastic surgeon.
Bentley Motors plans to quash roughly a quarter of its workforce. Not long ago, following a profitable 2019, CEO Adrian Hallmark said that the brand was on track to have a stellar 2020.
Alas, it was not to be.
The coronavirus lockdowns left Bentley losing £88 million ($111 million USD) for each month of lost production and sales, throwing the whole year out of whack. Much like the mucus man writing the sentence you’re reading now, it would seem high-end British nameplates (despite Bentley ownership by Volkswagen Group) aren’t in the best health. Aston Martin recently announced the cutting of 500 positions, while McLaren had to axe 1,200 jobs in May.
Bentley types are a discerning breed. Well versed in the world of leather and wood and highly respectful of heritage, these people interact with the brand like a museum curator. And the most discerning among them, those who claim to be most committed to preserving all that’s good and pure about the marque, aren’t happy with the automaker’s plan to hit “repeat.”
A present-day automaker churning out copies of a 90-year-old model? Blasphemy!
While some degree of valueless virtue signaling accompanied the launch of Toyota’s Prius, most hybrid customers are an exceptionally practical lot. Fixated on the long game, they’re willing to weigh the added cost of supplemental electrification against an uptick in efficiency — attempting to calculate the duration of ownership required before they can start raking in the savings. However, the math doesn’t always work out like you’d think.
Recently assessed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 2020 Bentley Bentayga Hybrid may not be the model for high-end customers looking to maximize their fuel economy. According to Green Car Reports, which obsessively tracks all things electric, Bentley’s Hybrid is actually less efficient on the highway and boasts a shorter maximum range than its V8 alternative.
Despite the grand proclamations from various mass-market automakers about the imminent arrival of an all-electric future, not everyone’s so eager to hop on board. Many OEMs have proven hesitant to pump too many dollars into EV development. Further up the societal ladder, luxury automakers, especially those from Germany, have no choice but to pad their lineups with EU-pleasing electrics, but the ultra-lux crowd is a different story.
Rapid movement in trendy new directions is typically not a defining feature of this rarified class.
Bentley, a marque that conjures up images of leather and wood as much as it does large displacements and prodigious thirst, isn’t immune to the eco-conscious (and regulatory) pressure heaped upon automakers these days. It does plan to field an EV, but it won’t happen for a while. And when that model does arrive, it may tread a very different path than the Germans.
Bentley Motors’ initial attempt at an SUV did wonders for its volume. While its status as an automaker catering exclusively to the rich keeps annual production totals exceptionally low, the Bentayga now accounts for almost half of its total output. After the model’s introduction in 2016, the Bentley’s annual deliveries shot up 33 percent in Europe.
That wasn’t a coincidence.
Ever since Porsche’s massive success with the Cayenne (introduced in 2002, if you can believe it), super-premium marques have been hunting for a way to make expensive crossovers work equally well for them. If you’re seeking supportive evidence, look no further than the Lamborghini Urus, Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Aston Martin DBX, or Ferrari Purosangue. Bentley’s Bentayga also qualifies, though the company has a slight lead over the field, giving it the opportunity continue capitalizing on the segment by introducing another model — just like Porsche did with the Macan.
One of the most exclusive convertibles in the world when it was new, the Bentley Azure was a Rare Ride even in the Nineties. But today’s example is a special pre-production model. It was sent off to Pininfarina as a new Continental R, while the Azure was only a dream in Bentley’s head.
Let’s take a closer look at this incredibly rare cabriolet.
Even if antique autos aren’t your jam, you’ve probably heard of the Blower Bentley. It’s the exceptionally rare racing variant of the brand’s pre-war 4½ Litre model. While perhaps not as iconic as the 6½ Litre/Speed Six, the Blower has become prominent for its ultra-thirsty, persnickety powertrain and straight-line performance. By attaching a Roots-style supercharger to the engine, Bentley turned the standard 4½ Litre into an absolute freight train. Upon seeing it in action, Ettore Bugatti famously referred to the gigantic car as “the fastest lorry in the world.”
Seemingly inspired by other British manufacturers’ recent foray into continuation vehicles, Bentley has decided to rerelease the 1929 Team Blower for a limited production run. Like Jaguar’s XKSS and D-Type, as well as Aston Martin’s DB4 GT, the Bentley will be recreated as painstakingly close to the original as possible.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Bentley is not Chevrolet. The British luxury automaker’s executive suite does not spend its time searching for the thinnest sliver of white space in the brand’s lineup, eager to find a home for a new utility model.
Thus, the Bentayga — an SUV boasting questionable styling that debuted in 2016 — will continue on as the brand’s sole utility vehicle, its CEO says. For now, at least, Bentley has no interest in fleshing out its go-anywhere-in-style lineup.
Bentley’s celebrating its centenary this month, but rather than launch some dingus special edition, the automaker issued a promise that the all-new Flying Spur will redefine contemporary craftsmanship and luxury when it finally debuts. It’s also offering a limited run of extravagant books illustrating the brand’s history.
While the cheapest of these printed works will set you back £3,000 ($3,837), there will be a “100 Carat Edition” that costs £200,000 ($255,811) per copy. Weighing more than 66 pounds, the book comes laden with 100 carats of diamonds. At over 3 feet wide, and housing gatefolds that can double those dimensions, Bentley proudly proclaims the 800-page monstrosity as the “heaviest book ever produced” for an automotive brand.