Currently reading: £1.5m Bentley Mulliner Bacalar starts test programme
Just 12 examples of the open-cockpit grand tourer will be made and are already allocated to customers
Rachel Burgess
News
5 mins read
16 December 2020

The Bentley Mulliner Bacalar has begun a test and durability programme ahead of the limited production run starting in 2021, which includes proving the 200mph+ top speed.

The £1.5 million Bacalar spearheads a new era for the British car maker’s coachbuilding division, which will launch an ultra-exclusive model as often as every two years. It is limited to just 12 units, all of which have already been allocated to loyal customers.

The two-seat design is heavily inspired by the EXP 100 GT concept, which was revealed for Bentley’s centenary last year, with the two cars having been designed side by side.

Features echoing that concept include the single front lights, rather than the twin arrangement found on current-generation Bentley models, and the dark bronze brightwork. The strongest similarity is the dramatic rear end, including the blade design of the tail-lights.

The Bacalar was first revealed in early March, but Bentley has now released a set of six Bacalar specifications created by its design team to show the many possibilties available for the coach-built two-seater. 

Bentley head of colour and trim Maria Mulder said: "The six example specifications we have created each have their own personality and purpose, but what they share in common is that only Bacalar can reflect this level of personalisation and attention to detail."

The six are named: The Clerkenwell, the Menlo (pictured below), the Fulton, the Greenwich, the Brickell and the Randwick. (Scroll through the above gallery to see the rest.)

Talking more broadly about design, head of exterior design JP Gregory said: “This is the first modern coachbuilt Bentley Mulliner. A [coachbuilt] product is something that Bentley is quite famous for.

“The character of the Bacalar is inspired by the future of luxury mobility. We’re already starting to deliver on the vision we showed on the EXP 100 GT.”

“The barchetta design throws the visual weight backwards. There’s a seamless flow between the interior and exterior.”

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The interior references the Birkin Blower racing car of 1929, said Darren Day, head of interior design: “We were heavily focused on a wraparound cockpit, including behind the seats. This was designed from scratch: every little detail from the speakers to the knurling. I wanted to see something you couldn’t produce in a production car.”

Owners of the Bacalar can request a bespoke luggage set to fit behind the seats.

The only features carried over from more mainstream Bentleys are the door handles, because of the keyless entry, and the cap of the steering wheel, because of airbag functionality. Interior shapes familiar from other Bentley models include the dashboard and centre console buttons, but entirely new materials are used to set them apart.

These include 5500-year-old riverwood, naturally felled in Cambridge, and wool and tweed from the Scottish Borders. The dials and clock have a dark blue surface, intended to reflect the lake after which the car is named: Lake Bacalar in Mexico.

Bentley design director Stefan Sielaff said: “When we started to develop the Bacalar, we were still working on the EXP 100 GT. It’s a good experiment to do things differently. We almost don’t see any chrome or traditional materials. It’s a big step forward in a modern interpretation of what Bentley can be.”

The Bacalar uses Bentley’s famed 6.0-litre W12 powertrain to produce 650bhp. That’s 41bhp more than the standard W12 and peak torque is raised to 664lb ft. The car can achieve 0-60mph in 3.5sec and has a top speed of more than 200mph.

The Bacalar marks the beginning of a major drive for Mulliner, with the division’s boss, Tim Hannig, describing it as “one of the biggest untapped opportunities to satisfy customers”.

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Hannig identifies three pillars of Mulliner: Mulliner Classic, Mulliner Collections and Mulliner Coachbuilt.

Mulliner Classic was kick-started last year with a 1939 Bentley Corniche recreation and news of a continuation series of the Birkin Blower. Mulliner Collections includes models such as the recently revealed Continental GT Mulliner Convertible. And Mulliner Coachbuilt includes the Bacalar, with more to come.

Hannig said: “We have started to do coachbuilt models. Traditionally, Mulliner was always that. The Bacalar and the Blower are a pilot for us. There’s a real appetite [for these cars]. People say: ‘Why didn’t you do something like this earlier?’”

Of future coachbuilt models, Hannig said: “We will make sure we can maintain or increase the workforce. The Bacalar is about the sensation of driving. We might, at some point, do something which is about ultimate comfort. We didn’t want to be vulgar, and it’s not about being the fastest car out there.”

Sielaff added: “You can see the Bacalar on the road much quicker than a big production project. This will be the first of more to come. A modern coachbuild could happen frequently, but it will change depending on the number we build. If a customer wants one or two cars, the price would be higher, but we can do it. But 10 or 12 cars is the limit in terms of being able to do everything by hand, like with the Bacalar.”

Q&A: Stefan Sielaff, design director, Bentley

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Why did you decide on this bodystyle for your first modern coachbuilt Mulliner?

“We could do anything: a shooting brake, a coupé… We wanted it to relate to the Blower as a typical British sports car. Have you ever seen a Blower with a roof? There’s something classically British about it: people drive here in summer and winter without a roof.”

What would you like to carry over to series production?

“The strong reduction [of lines] on the body and not having too many details on the exterior. Also, the treatment of material: making it more sustainable. And craftsmanship; that makes Bentley so special.”

Do your younger customers want something different from more traditional buyers?

“Younger customers have a completely different mindset. The attitude of status symbol isn’t so focused on bling bling. It’s a more modest way, in saying ‘we know what we have and we don’t need to show what we have’.”

This is the first time you’ve done a bronze Bentley badge…

“Yes, it’s always a risk to change the badge. It might upset some. But [at this level] if a customer wants chrome or black instead, that’s fine.”

READ MORE

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Bentley S2 meets Mulsanne: Driving Crewe's first and last V8 engines 

New Bentley Mulsanne 6.75 Edition is final outing for iconic V8

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scrap 16 December 2020

They say it's all about exclusivity at the top of the market, so the fact there will only be 12 is no doubt worth a lot to the buyers, but the price seems insane to me. 2 of these or a GMA T50 and some change? Perhaps a Valkyrie or Lotus Evija? They are all genuinely bespoke and special in a way that this just isn't.

Citytiger 23 September 2020

I think

it will go down as a contender along with the Bentayga for the ugliest Bentley ever made award.. 

scrap 16 December 2020

Surely the Bentayga is the undisputed champion here? Simply unfathomable.

Pierre 3 April 2020

Stunning, but there's always a but...

I'm sure it'll be even more stunning (possibly overwhelming) in the flesh, but I really do wish that ostentatious consumption, which will always be with us, didn't attempt to validate the felling of 5,500 year old trees for cosmetic purposes.