Only 12 Bentley Bacalars will ever be built for customers paying £1.5million each for the privilege. A few more Bacalars may well exist: styling bucks and the yellow ‘show car’, plus a prototype or two that prowl VW’s Ehra-Lessien and Nardo test tracks, before being squirreled away in a storage unit, or unceremoniously squashed.
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This is TopGear.com’s very own Bentley Mulliner Bacalar*
*It’s not being built, but Bentley was brave enough to let us spec this minty-fresh speedster
So, the chance to specify one of your very own is an opportunity to be grasped robustly, and then wrung out for all its worth. When Bentley’s UK headquarters sent me an email asking if anyone from TopGear.com would like to go through the process of configuring a Bacalar, I completely forgot to forward it on to my colleagues and accidentally booked myself in for possibly the most fun it’s possible to have on a video conference call. Whoops.
Sensibly, Bentley did not simply let a fool with the artistic ability of a chopstick loose on their extremely powerful and detailed Bacalar visualiser without supervision. So, gamefully advising me gently in the direction of tasteful decisions was John Paul ‘JP’ Gregory (boss of exterior design), Darren Day (boss of interior design), and Maria Mulder, Bentley’s expert head of colour and trim. And yep, despite that wealth of expertise, I came up with this.
Bentley Mulliner’s configurator is fundamentally the same as the free-for-all one you can have a play with on the main Bentley website, while attempting to make the Bentayga look graceful. You choose a colour, whether you want wood or carbon or metal trim, maybe play about with the grille finish.
There are two main differences. One is the detail. The virtual ‘camera’ can zoom in so far, so crisply, in an infinite set of positions, you can detect the weave of the carbon fibre on the seat-backs. Spot the grain in the leather. Count the treadblocks on the tyres. It’s fanatically intricate.
The other change is the choice. When speccing a Bacalar, you don’t get a set of colours. There’s not a black, a green, a red and so on. It’s not even Bentley’s usual palette of subtle shades and hues. If you’re laying down the sort of cash that’d buy you ten Continental GTCs, you get the entire spectrum. The full rainbow. You think Netflix gives you choice anxiety? Try this. Decide the colour – any colour – and then it’s up to Bentley Mulliner to go away and actually concoct it, then get it to match across panels, leathers and trim.
For expediency, we began with the blue’n’yellow ‘Menlo’ themed Bacalar Bentley showed off last month. I didn’t want to default to a nice, easy British Racing Green with tan leather. Of course that would work fine. I wasn’t bothered by a ‘murdered-out’ black-on-black-with-black concoction. And Bentley’s own showcar already did the Skittles colour thing with its purple-flecked yellow coachwork. So, we started with a blue. Appropriate, since the Bacalar is named after a particularly iridescent lake in Mexico.
After about half an hour, we had a Bacalar in a tasteful shade of royal blue, Pirelli print on the rubber (in a modern evocation of whitewall tyres) and we’d experimented with the 5,000-year old riverwood trim inside. It was all very respectable and safe, which must’ve irked maverick exterior design chief JP Gregory, who insisted we did something… madder. How about a two-tone colour split?
I misinterpreted this. I thought this would involve flip-flop paint popular on TVRs in the late 1990s. I thought this would look naff. But Bentley’s design dream team knew better. What JP had in mind was two distinct colours split front-to-back on the bodywork. Locating the ‘join’ between the colours on the door panels made this feasible for production – if a customer sees TopGear.com’s design and fancies making it for real, it’s apparently far easier (or rather, slightly less of a giant pain in the factory’s backside) to merge the colours on a wieldy panel like a doorskin, instead of on the massive, sculpted rear haunch. Clever.
So, up front, a dash of minty-fresh ‘Light Aqua’ – an exclusive hue from Mulliner. You’ll note I’ve matched the wheel highlights and even the brake calipers to the different blues, and continued that theme on the veneer inside. Proud of that bit. And props to interior design boss Darren, who astutely noted the livery gives the car an impression of velocity, “as if the paint’s been peeled off the front by the speed, and run to the back of the car”.
Even the switchgear can and has been tweaked multiple times. ‘Black satin’ finish, with blue inserts around the non-rotating centres of the knobs that control cabin temperature and entertainment volume. You could, if you choose, have each button’s insert in a different colour. The mind boggles.
And could outlandish specs like this rapidly be a notion of the past? As I leaf through yet more cyber-swatches, Maria explains that the coronavirus crisis is already having an effect on how owners want their cars to appear. Bentley’s seeing an upsurge in desire for whites and greys, to subliminally portray an air of clinical cleanliness. That’s the best motoring factoid I’ve heard in 2020.
Now, I went a bit over the top with this in the name of having some fun with a highly specialised piece of software and some individuals with a much keener eye for trends and taste than myself. And yet… I rather like this result. It’s part dubiously-alcoholic beach cocktail part Falken Racing car.
But what I like most of all is that unlike the overwhelming majority of motoring-related renderings you see about the internet, there’s nothing here that couldn’t exist. Nothing that Bentley wouldn’t do. It’d be brain-teasing to create, not to mention eye-wateringly expensive. But it’s all possible in the Mulliner box of tricks. Luckily for Bentley, all 15 are already sold, and being specced for real.
Now, here are a few extra pictures to enjoy.