Already known for a model line that complements baronial styling with brute power, Bentley now wants to revive the art of coachbuilding within its Mulliner customisation division. And its first step is a doozy: the roughly £1.6 million Bentley Mulliner Bacalar, a roofless two-seater. Adrian Hallmark, the automaker’s CEO, gives Robb Report an exclusive look at the W-12-powered car and insights on what we can expect from the 101-year-old marque moving forward.
Why introduce the Bacalar now?
This is the first year of Bentley’s second century, one where we will reinvent the company with the aim of becoming the benchmark for luxury cars. We celebrate that with an open car, just as we did 100 years ago. The Bacalar is a pure two-seater like the famous Bentley Blower of the 1920s, but with considerably more comfort.
What platform is it built on?
While the Bacalar shares a chassis and power train with the Continental GT, the body and interior are completely its own. The only exterior carryover is the door handle—and that’s only because it incorporates the keyless entry system. The interior also presents all-new design, surfaces, features, details and materials, including our first use of anodised bronze, wool-based fabrics and 5,000-year-old river wood.
Why so limited a production run?
Part of the value of the Bacalar is that it’s the most bespoke two-door Bentley of the modern generation, so handcrafting a small number ensures its exclusivity.
What element of the car stands out most to you?
I am as excited about what the Bacalar signifies as I am about the car itself. It marks the return of Bentley Mulliner to genuine coachbuilding, a long time in the making, and it affords customers the chance to develop the car to match their personal tastes in conjunction with our team of designers. It’s too early to speculate on future product, but Bacalar is the first of what will become a series of coachbuilt cars by Bentley Mulliner.
Bentley experienced more than a £200 million loss (by today’s rates) in 2018, and new designs in small quantities can cost dearly. How will you handle the epic revolution of electric mobility?
Although the size of the change is significant, we are committed to offering electrified products across our entire range. We are in the fortunate position to be part of a group that is driving this rapid development. There
is simply no other manufacturer investing in electric mobility today as much as the Volkswagen Group is. It is driving its own revolution, and so to be able to take advantage of this expertise and experience will help us achieve our goal.
The most significant changes are of course around technological development, but we have had to make changes to our build process, colleague understanding and even our retailer network. In the next 10 years, we will invest £3.2 billion to £4 billion—if you include all products and infrastructure. We simply have to make bold decisions when it comes to what we spend it on.