Exclusivity, it seems, is a tricky balancing act. The world’s billionaires want their cars to be unique to them, but they haven’t got to their position of wealth by squandering their cash unnecessarily. The world’s luxury car manufacturers, on the other hand, have to think about bottom lines and boring (but essential) things like durability.
Price the car too high, or build too many of them, and a manufacturer can soon end up with a series of white elephants that damage the brand as a whole. It’s a wallet-melting trap that many have fallen into, but Bentley hopes it can avoid.
Hence the reason that the car you see here - the Bentley Mulliner Bacalar - is strictly limited to a ‘production’ run of just 12. Each one found a home within days of being unveiled and every single person who signed up when the car was launched in March 2020 is still committed, despite the ravages of you-know-what over those intervening 12 months. Impressively, despite the various lockdowns, the car is on track to start production on schedule next month.
The cost? Well, it’s all relative at this end of the market. The Bacalar starts at £1.5 million, with a significant proportion of the 12 examples being specced closer to £2m by the time all the customer’s extra personalisation touches are added. Hardly cheap, but given that customers are optioning approaching half a million quid onto the car, it would seem to indicate that Bentley judged the base cost correctly.
We should point out that the car in these pictures is not one of the 12. This is Car Zero, an engineering development vehicle that has undergone a rigorous test schedule (more on that shortly) but is also largely what customers will receive from the middle of this year onwards.
The Bacalar spearheads a new era at Bentley, one in which it hopes its coachbuilding arm, Mulliner, will lead a personalisation charge to give customers ever more exclusive cars (if the idea of ‘more exclusivity’ doesn’t sound like a paradox too far). Mulliner is the world’s oldest coachbuilder, starting out around 500 years ago when it specialised in four-legged transport.