On July 10 this year, one of Britain’s most revered brands will complete a glorious centenary. Bentley, as a true marque of luxury craftsmanship, has perfectly melded innovation, speed, and style in every car they’ve built. Right since its genesis in 1919, its pioneering founder WO Bentley had one vision – “Build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class” – and today, they’ve redefined the very meaning of a grand tourer. In its 100 years, the automaker not only brought style to racing, but also pledged allegiance to the royal family and their armies, and has made a mark in nearly every field of motoring, on and off the track. We picked out the best cars they created on this journey.
The 1930s ‘Blower’ is perhaps one of the most recognisable and memorable cars Bentley ever produced. It was named on account of the vast supercharger that was bolted onto the 4.5-litre engine, which was installed in the pursuit of more power, increasing it from 110-bhp to 175-bhp. It was one of Bentley’s many Le Mans racing cars. To satisfy racing regulations at the time, 50 builds of the car had to be produced and sold. Today, they are valued at up to £750,000.
The ultimate expression of luxury in the 1980s, the Mulsanne was designed to be the ultimate combination of style, performance, and comfort. Bentley launched this 4-door as it passed the torch on from the Bentley Arnage, marking the end of an era. Its reign was luxurious yet short-lived as it closed production 12 years later. However, given the Mulsanne’s unmatchable English mafia suave, it was brought back into production in 2010. The current Bentley Mulsanne is a direct threat to the Rolls-Royce Ghost, packing the same luxe appeal and 556-bhp from its 6.8 litre V8. The price tag: Rs 5.5 cr.
The 1930 8 Litre’s design boasts Bentley’s largest rolling chassis, and the reason for its cultural relevance is that it was the last model designed by WO Bentley before his company was sold to Rolls-Royce. The automobile oozed vintage charm but was one of the Bentley’s riskiest models to debut. It was meant to be the ultimate luxury vehicle for people who were flush with cash, but there was a big problem: The car was unveiled one year into the Great Depression. Today, a Bentley 8 Litre can sell for over US $2 million at auction, a true relic from a lost time.
This is the car that brought Bentley into the 21st century. Launched in 2003, it reinvented the idea of what a grand tourer was, and demonstrated how performance and luxury could be combined into one package. It also dramatically changed Bentley’s customer profile, helping attract younger buyers. With a 626-bhp engine, the Continental GT is capable at cruising at 207-mph on interstate roads, a true expression of power gliding. Having one of the best interiors in modern motoring today, the Continental GT is a preferred ride for celebrities across the globe. Currently priced at Rs 3.58 cr.
The story of the Bentayga involves a major revolution for the luxury autosphere. When it debuted in 2016, the idea of a luxury automaker building an SUV was severely frowned upon. Yet, the brand was of the opinion that if their loyal customers desired Bentley’s luxurious treatments in a larger vehicle SUV, it must be created. (At the time, the only available options for luxury SUVs were the Land Rover and the Porsche Cayenne). This opportunity for creating a pure-bred luxury SUV in the market also led to the genesis of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. The updated Bentayga Speed that will be making an on-road debut next year is the world’s fastest SUV boasting a W12, which churns out north of 600-bhp. For a luxury SUV, the Bentayga comes with a stunning top speed of 190-mph.
Although not a road car made available for sale, the Speed 8 holds real significance for Bentley because it marked their return to racing after a 73-year absence. In 2001, it brought the British automaker back to racing and more significantly to Le Mans, where they had had huge success in the 1920s. The Speed 8, powered by a 4.0-litre V8 engine developing around 600-bhp, won the 24-hrs Le Mans in 2003. The gap is the longest ever recorded between two wins for the same manufacturer. Obviously this vehicle was never designed for the road, but if it was, it would cost a hefty US$400,000.
All images: Courtesy Bentley