What is it?
The Brooklands is Bentley’s new flagship coupe, and a deeply impressive, deeply seductive machine it is too.
Based loosely on the Azure convertible yet picking up in spirit where the thunderous Continental T of the late 1990s left off, everything about the Brooklands is big. And beautiful – so long as you’re into cars that cost £230,000, weigh 2665kg and are largely made by hand from unfathomably exotic materials.
Take the power and torque outputs from its venerable twin turbo V8 engine. At 530bhp and 774lb ft, the Brooklands’ 6761cc V8 is the most potent in current production, easily eclipsing anything on offer from a Mercedes or AMG V8.
Then there are its brake discs which (assuming you tick the option marked carbon ceramics, in which case add another £14,000 to the £230,000 asking price) nestle gracefully behind the new 20in front wheels and – at 420mm – are quite simply the largest ever seen on any production car.
Even the rear seat compartment sets a world record for bigness, being the most spacious of any coupe’s in history.
Only 550 Brooklands will be built over the next three years and, of these, almost 500 have already found homes. So if this is a car that’s designed primarily to build on Bentley’s increasingly strong brand reputation without putting much of a dent in the sales sheets, you’d have to say it’s a bullseye from the outset.
What’s it like?
Even in photographs it’s impossible not to get some idea of the pure scale of this car. Yet however enormous the Brooklands appears on the page, nothing can prepare you for its majesty in the flesh. On the road it looks huge but also – somehow – not remotely clumsy. Despite its 10ft wheelbase and 17ft overall length it looks lithe and athletic, and you can clearly detect the influence of the 1957 S-series Continental in its styling.
Before you so much as turn the key or press the starter button it’s best to drink in and enjoy what surrounds you in a Brooklands. Which, in a nutshell, is just about the best place to find yourself on four wheels, even by Rolls-Royce or Ferrari standards of interior design.
The interior theme is almost identical to that of the Azure but better somehow, possibly because the roof over your head intensifies the experience. After 10 minutes inside this car you start to wonder whether it might be the most beautiful thing you’ve ever sat in.
Until you climb into either of the two rear chairs, that is, which is when you realise that it’s even better in the back than it is in the front, because the view forwards is that much more panoramic.
When the engine fires the subsequent whoomf that occurs will probably come as something of a surprise. You almost expect there to be no noise at all from such a serene machine, but in reality the Brooklands hides its intentions and, once again, little can prepare you for what happens when you put your foot to the floor on an empty road.
The Brooklands has so much torque it matters not one iota that the V8 won’t rev much beyond 4500rpm, because at that point you’re already flying at the horizon as if on board some bizarre, leather-lined jet fighter. The acceleration is as potent as it is hilarious, and the first time you experience it, all you want to do is come back for more. And more.
On the road the Brooklands feels sporting but not intrusively so. The ride is super smooth but has enough detail in its response to let you know exactly what’s going on beneath your backside. Even the steering feels sufficiently well-damped to remove any unwanted kickback through the rim, yet at the same time accurate enough to allow you – once you’re confidence starts to grow – to place the nose through quick bends with genuine accuracy.
But the real star of the show is the engine. And the gearbox, which works seamlessly in tune with the motor to provide one of the more surreal experiences you’ll ever have in a motor car. On a dual carriageway just outside Florence the Brooklands felt mind-bendingly rapid, despite the near-total absence of aural drama. Only the scenery rushing quietly past the window gave any clue that I was out accelerating a Porsche 911. In a car that’s 17ft long and which weighs not a lot less than three tones with two people on board.
There aren’t many flaws but the ones that do exist are curiously irritating. The manual gear selector is the wrong way around because to change down you pull it towards you whereas it should be the opposite, ie away to change down when the braking force pushes you forwards. It could really do with some paddles behind the wheel, too, because unlike the Azure it IS a car that rewards if you drive it rapidly.
And if we’re being really picky the driver’s seats could use more lateral support for much the same reason. Overall, though, it’s a peach – the best car Bentley has produced since VW took charge, and no mistake.
Should I buy one?
If you have a spare £230k rattling around your bank account and don’t mind waiting a couple of years, then yes. In which case you’ll be one of the very lucky few to own one of, if not THE most desirable coupes ever made.
For the rest of us the Brooklands is something merely to aspire to, and to admire, even from a very long way away.