Bentleyness. Noun. The quality that makes a car feel like a Bentley. Bentleyfication. Noun. The process of instilling Bentleyness into a car.
You won’t find Bentleyness or Bentleyfication in the dictionary, but since both phrases are used liberally by Matthias Rabe when discussing the key challenges in his new role as Bentley’s head of engineering, we thought it would be helpful to offer some definitions. Because his biggest task is ensuring that Bentley models continue to be imbued with Bentleyness as the firm moves into the electric era.
Rabe, who joined Bentley from Volkswagen in August last year, taking over from Werner Tietz, is charged with leading development of the cars that will underpin the most profound changes in the storied brand’s 102-year-history. “For sure it’s a challenge, and it’s important to have a high respect for everything Bentley has achieved,” says Rabe.
Unusually, his current company car is one that the firm doesn’t make any more: a pre-configured Mulsanne Speed, one of the last built before production ended at Bentley’s Crewe factory in June 2020. “The Continental is the heart of the brand, so when I arrived here, that was my first choice,” says Rabe. “Then I had a chance to drive a Mulsanne. For me, the products are the transporter of the brand values. Having driven the Continental and now the Mulsanne, that’s absolutely Bentley. I want to preserve this Bentleyness, this special thing, in the future.”
Rabe’s arrival in Crewe coincided with Bentley, under the leadership of Adrian Hallmark, laying out a bold roadmap for the future. Under the Beyond 100 strategy, Bentley will become an electric-only brand from 2030, building on proven Volkswagen Group technologies. “Our strong message in Beyond 100 is to go full electric by the end of the decade,” says Rabe. “To do that, our machines not only have to be fascinating cars, but they must make people say: ‘Oh, that’s really a Bentley. That’s really a cool car.’”
As well as his daily-driver Mulsanne, Rabe’s Bentley education has included trying some of the cars in the firm’s heritage fleet. “Driving a 1953 Continental or sitting in a Blower is fantastic,” he says. “More than 80% of our products produced are still drivable, which really shows how strong the brand is. I try to embrace that, and transform that to the modern way in the future.”