Does the company say no to any customer requests? Lofkin explains that it might steer people away from certain requests, but generally the client gets what the client wants, except for one in the US who wanted hot-rod style flames painted on the side of his Mulsanne. Bentley refused that one, instead agreeing to supply the car, so that a specialist could paint the flames on after delivery in the US. As the saying goes, money can’t buy taste.
After seeing the cars come together in the factory, we got to experience the final product, in this case the latest Bentayga V8 SUV. Opinions over its design vary, as they do for many an SUV, including its even larger rival, the new Rolls-Royce Cullinan. But creating an SUV is no easy task. Darren Day, the head of interior design at the company, tells us that it’s impossible to design a really good-looking SUV because of the dimensions and engineering that needs to go into a model of the genre.
The Bentayga is a vast improvement over the original concept though, displaying many traditional Bentley design elements, including the carefully sculpted profile lines and the frontal design. It’s a big vehicle too, something that was very apparent as we negotiated the narrow British country lanes from Crewe down to the picture-perfect Cotswolds. As you can imagine, a fleet of Bentaygas cruising between hedgerows can be a rather intimidating sight to those travelling in the other direction, and the patient Brits tended to prefer to wait for us to pass like a blue-light convoy in Sandton.
The ride was, as you would expect, sumptuous, made all the more luxurious by the handcrafted interior. After we toured the factory, touching the handcrafted dials — with their three lines of aluminium milling, took on a new resonance for me — as did relaxing in the bull-hide leather and holding that steering wheel with all its hand stitching.
Bentley is, of course, not alone in the world of handcrafted automotive luxury, but as I pulled in to the Cotswold town of Broadway to stay at the famous Lygon Arms, surrounded by the quaintest of classic British architecture, it was clear that the Bentayga, like other Bentley models, is the sum of decades of skill and history. Bentley will move with the times, as the clever revolving infotainment system in the new Continental GT shows, but it will do so while continuing to use its history to define its future.