What's the Bentley Batur really made of? Time to lob it at a volcano (and a storm) | Top Gear
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What's the Bentley Batur really made of? Time to lob it at a volcano (and a storm)

Do you find a standard Bentley a bit... mass produced? Well, meet the very exclusive (and very purple) new Batur

Published: 31 Aug 2023

Thus far, the Bentley Batur is the most expensive and most powerful production Bentley ever produced. It costs upwards of £1.6 million before local taxes and options, and accommodates one of the final iterations of a 6.0-litre W12 bi-turbo engine that’s nearly two decades old, made ‘more efficient’ by people with big brains and complicated spanners. Though ‘more efficient’ in quaintly demure Bentley speak translates as ‘more powerful’ than ever before – 730bhp, with 737lb ft of torque (1,000Nm if you prefer numerical cleanliness), delivered from 1,750rpm until 5,000rpm on a torque curve that looks like a park bench. It is gravely expensive, exclusive, powerful and very, very fast.

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Photography: Mark Fagelson

Which hurts. Because for the past four hours, I’ve been doing a maximum of 35mph in torrential rain, deploying about 60 of the available horsepower. Visibility is down to roughly 20 feet, and you get the feeling that just beyond the thick duvet of mist might be actual views, if only because the climbing, serpentine roads are dropping heavy hints. But Storm Oscar wrapped suffocating and soggy arms around Tenerife as we arrived and all bets are off – the roads might be interesting, but with this kind of weather the Batur is horribly overendowed. The backpack nuke of holiday hire cars. 

At least it gives time to ponder what is a strangely compelling thing. Released last year as an 18-car coachbuilt limited edition by Mulliner, the Batur is both a sister car to the roofless Bacalar and a nod to the forthcoming vision of electrified Bentleys – in style, at least. A two-seat coupe – the rear seats are now a bench which can house a bespoke fitted luggage set – designer Andreas Mindt’s Batur features carbon bodywork that apes the Continental GT Speed on which it is based, but plays with the shapes so that it resembles a Conti from a sci-fi movie set in 2035. Which it kind of is. 

Only the windscreen, the header rail and a few interior shapes remain of a GT Speed, the new face featuring slimmer LED headlights flanking a more upright grille. A pair of spines slash back from just above those lights, drawing back all the way to the base of the C-pillar, what Bentley calls an “endless bonnet”, and a feature that lengthens the car’s profile. The usual billowing haunches give the car bulk, and a neat, tucked up rear end – again with tighter lights – provides athleticism, slash cut titanium exhaust tips a nod to the powerplant up front. It’s surprisingly subtle for a car with this kind of pricetag, much more striking out in the real world where camera lenses can’t steal the perspective. 

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bentley batur

And yet, millions for a car based on a £230k GT seems daft. The interior feels like an intensely lavish version of the Speed, albeit with gorgeous finishes including 18-carat gold organ stop vents and rotary controls – also available in titanium – sustainable leathers and tactile textures. The optional Naim Audio stereo is possibly the best in-car audio in existence, but then again it should be for £50k. But it’s still recognisable. The outside may be entirely different, but once you’ve clocked the badge, you won’t need to interrogate the DNA very hard to figure out the parentage. 

But when you spend a couple of days in one, you realise that the Batur is more than just the sum of the one-off parts and familiar bones. It’s on the second day that revelation arrives, and it has more to do with the weather than anything else. Driving through Tenerife’s rainforest-lite on the way up the mountain, the landscape gets progressively less lush and more Martian, and as the elevation changes, we pop out through the clouds and find... sunshine. Glorious, weighty sunshine, heavy with afternoon gold. And a volcano. 

It’s an epic backdrop and the Bentley steps up. The Batur’s paint suddenly deepens, expands, comes alive. The details resolve and the shapes define. The future shape of electric Bentleys? It still seems a bit farfetched – that long bonnet screams internal combustion. But away from the Batur’s suddenly revealed grace, the trees have disappeared, replaced by crunchy volcanic bone as far as the eye can see, great swathes carved out of the hill. Mount Teide might be dormant at the moment, but the last time the volcano spoke, it left the mountain with scars. Still, it’s harshly beautiful, and the morning’s percussive rain has driven off the tourist population, presumably now lightly sautéing in Piz Buin down on the beach. Bar a couple of hardy souls in rented Seats, the roads in this national park are essentially empty. And the roads are good.

There are, however, issues. The storm has jammed watery paws into the rockfaces and dug various bits of mountain free, all of which follow gravity’s lead until they come to rest on the roads. Which brings up a couple of proper heart in mouth moments. Finally with some forward vision and less snaky grip, the Batur is scrolling along at a not inconsiderable pace, scything around like a leather lined bobsleigh and being impressive and calmly speedy. And then we round one corner and find the road covered in rocks. Big rocks. Rocks the size of beach balls, which definitely won’t sneak under the car between the wheels. A sharp intake of breath, allow the first fist-sized stones underneath the car and then a sharp jink to the right, followed immediately by another swerve to the left, and more dodging of flinty bullets strewn across the carriageway. A geological elk test on a damp road with a 60m drop to one side, in someone else’s million pound car. 

bentley batur

In a vehicle that weighs more than two and a half tonnes, this should have ended with an awkward conversation with the insurers and a respray, if not a trip to the beach the quick way. And yet the Batur lunged like a hot hatch, and we simply flickered through the impromptu chicane with nothing more serious than an elevated heart rate and slightly soiled ego. 

It would be nice to say that the skills of the driver helped avoid disaster, but that would be a lie. The Batur simply managed to convince physics to glance the other way by having every mechanical and electronic trick at Bentley’s disposal tucked under Mulliner’s body. There’s air suspension with 48V active ride control. There’s an e-diff, and four-wheel steer, as well as that four-wheel drive, and massive carbon-ceramic brakes. And while you’ll always be vaguely aware of the Batur’s mass, it’s happily concealed by engineering efficacy. Probably only 10–15 per cent more than a GT Speed, but enough to feel, enough to impress. And that feeling intensifies the more you push. The Batur has different turbos to the Speed, different breathing for both inhale and exhale, larger chargecoolers. It’s not night and day different, but the way that power simply arrives and hangs around means that pulling smartly through the first four of the eight speeds is far and away too much for these wandering roads – even on the straights. And yes, the launch control is reliably spectacular – the Batur feels ever so slightly faster than the official figures. Be warned though, this is no rapier, all light and precise, but a cleaver that can cut a corner into bloody chunks. Mind you, in a fight, I’d always be more afraid of a cleaver. 

Bluntly, a big fat Bentley really shouldn’t shine on twisty mountain roads like this. What feels like a blousy, comforting GT has no real right to be able to grit its metaphorical teeth and bear down like it does. It’s got near silent waft and bellowing blue murder at the flick of a gold-rimmed dial. Possibly the most expensive real world daily driver in existence. So is it worth the price of admission? Well, some would argue that it’s not outrageous or extreme enough to warrant the cost, but a product is only as valuable as the price someone is prepared to pay, and all Baturs are already sold. Very rich people are still rich, as it turns out. The Bentley Batur is a car for those people who have moved through the showing off stage of rich and are now comfortably into stealth wealth. For whom bespoke is the norm, and couture is the need. It’s a shame that most will languish doing low miles or in collections, because for once, this isn’t some highly strung nearly car made of cobwebs and marketing, but a solid daily. At the end of the day, isn’t that the least you can ask for 1.6 million quid? 

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