Aficionado drives into the Bentley world and looks at the century old ethos that has produced some of the fastest and most luxurious models over the years.
Bentley’s ‘B’ winged badge, as always, continues to be an icon for luxury motoring and, when the brand turned 95 earlier this year, it was clear that the William Bentley ethos still pumps through the veins of everything that is Bentley. Although British motoring may have seen better years, Bentley’s factory in Crewe, England, continues to provide the industry with the greatest lessons in coupling modern innovation with classic heritage.
In recent years, Bentley has added a new dynamic to the blend; the combination of speed and luxury now drives the philosophy behind some of its latest models. With the century old British icon amazingly maintaining its influence on the luxury motoring sector, Aficionado goes into detail regarding Bentley as an idea and the drivers behind an unmatched culture of modernity, heritage and, of course, speed.
Aficionado also sits with Bentley Middle East’s director, Stephen Reynolds, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which took place from June 26 to 29 in Sussex, to get an idea of how the carmaker views the region. And in the backdrop of some of the best motoring examples around, Reynolds talks on behalf of Bentley and an elite group of brands that pride themselves on nothing short of excellence.
“Bentley is an interesting brand; simply a great combination of history, craftsmanship, power and performance,” says a confident Reynolds. “The Middle East is a very important region for us and, if you look at the Middle East market, people very much like and buy into the Britishness of the brand.”
Celebrating Britishness. Britishness is not necessarily synonymous with luxury, save for a few great brands, yet, for Bentley, the British heritage is part of the wider philosophy. And speaking with Reynolds, the word craftsmanship is often repeated as he explains some of the key factors that add to the brand appeal. “In the Middle East, there are many discerning customers that want these hand-crafted brands featuring engineering excellence with a sense of history. And Bentley wants to continue that tradition and meet their demands more and more,” explains Reynolds.
Bentley dates its origins back to a North London suburb, where Walter Bentley, in partnership with his brother Horace Bentley, was selling French DFP cars. Both had aspirations to design and build their own range with the Bentley name. It was on a visit to the DFP factory in 1913 that Walter Bentley noticed an aluminium paperweight and got the inspired idea of using the lightweight metal, instead of cast iron, to make engine pistons. The first Bentley aluminium pistons went into service in aero engines for the Sopwith Camel during World War I. In August 1919, Bentley Motors Limited was registered and a chassis with a dummy engine was exhibited at the London Motor Show in October of the same year.
In essence, Bentley started off as a hand-crafted performance brand, purpose built for racing. And it was the success in the 24 Hour Le Mans Gran Prix d’Endurance, coupled with difficulties from the Great Depression, which lead to the sale of Bentley to Rolls-Royce in 1931. From then, Bentley was given the platform to grow and stretch across a much wider spectrum.
“One of the great strengths of the Bentley brand is this incredible reach. The year 2003 was an interesting year. Bentley won the Le Mans race, an unquestionable achievement considering the pedigree we have in that event and, at the same time, we developed the state limousine to be used by the Queen of England for the golden jubilee,” says Paul Jones, head of Bentley Product.
Being part of British motoring history, of course, worked well for Bentley’s presence in the Gulf region’s luxury sector.
Luxury in the Middle East.
Understanding the business of luxury can add a great value to any brand and, for exclusive products, such as many of the Bentley models, segmenting your luxury-savvy consumer is vital.
Speaking at the recent arab luxury world conference, which took place on June 2 and 3 in Dubai, Adirano di Torcello, director of art and finance at Deloitte, reiterated the point regarding accurate segmentation, explaining that, in the region, there are three main categories “royals, merchant families and entrepreneurs”, before going on to advocate the belief that most luxury consumers are often stressed that they have too much money and need guidance on how to spend it.
Indeed, this is why the Bentley philosophy sits at the heart of the brand, aptly highlighting president and founder of Wealth X David Freidman’s emphasis on the importance of creating “an amazing retail experience through correct and
In this sense, it seems that Bentley is doing just that, a car manufacturer that does not shy away from its exclusivity, something that the region takes a liking to very much.
The Middle East’s high-end luxury auto market is an exciting one. Spending power in cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha exceed many others around the world and, for that, manufacturers such as Bentley, which usually target older, established men, are now faced with a market made up of young, high income-earning buyers.
In saying this, the timing of the new Bentley SUV couldn’t be better. And when Aficionado catches up with Ahmed Shariefi, general manager at Wattayah Motors, which represents both Audi and Bentley in the Sultanate of Oman, he claims the entrance into the SUV market will have many in the region on the edge of their seats. “So far the general public has only been able to see concept versions of the new Bentley SUV, which falls into the uber-luxury SUV segment and I’m sure the GCC will be one of the top regions for this model.”
Reynolds goes on to add: “People have picked up on some spy shots, but it will not be out before 2016. The SUV will be fantastic for the Middle East, the interior is fabulous and brings the whole performance edge to this sector.”
Although Bentley may not be the first to produce a luxury SUV, it is the first brand in its calibre to do so. And considering the demand for such cars in the region, many are expecting great success across the GCC, in particular.
Driving forward. The Bentley brand has continued to strive towards excellence through an undying commitment to craftsmanship and heritage. Always at the forefront of the latest technologies, Bentley has emerged as a lasting saviour of British motoring.
In saying this, many are waiting for Bentley’s response to the growing need of reducing emissions and the development of electric vehicles. And although Jones tells Aficionado that this is something they are working on, he does admit he can’t see an electric-only Bentley in the near future and that the combustion engine is forever central to the Bentley way.
The Bentley Continental GT3R
If there’s one car that can define the blend of speed and heritage, it would be the new Bentley Continental GT3R. First place winner at Silverstone 2014, the car was developed by Bentley Motorsport division, which has ensured the incorporation of the crafted performance of the old Bentley 1; a high-performance 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 for this new two-seater GT. Developing 580 PS (572 bhp/426 kW) and 700 Nm of torque, together with a 100kg weight reduction and shorter gearing, the Continental GT3-R is the fastest-accelerating Bentley to date.