What if it were possible to combine the locomotive charm of a racing Bentley from the 1930s with something as lavish as a manor? What if you could be brutish and over the top on the one hand, but still classy and sumptuous on the other? You can. Enter the Brooklands, the Bentley’s Bentley. The ultimate old-world, rear-wheel drive, massive turbocharged V8-powered rocket barge. Tonnes of old-world hand-built charm but with modern engineering and reliability thrown in. In essence a car that will age very little, its charms undiminished.
Now, hold on billionaire boys. Don’t reach for your bank statements. You can’t be the first one to roll into your country club in this car. There will only be 550 Brooklands built and the two allocated for Indian customers are already long gone. But read on to see what you missed.
The effect of seeing the car for the first time in traffic is hard to describe, especially here in Mumbai among the cabs, Marutis, Hondas and Skodas. Here is a car whose shape is as impractical as there is. Viewed in profile, the relatively small cabin area is dwarfed by overhangs so massive that you could land a small aircraft on the bonnet! It looks more a craft of the Indian Navy than a mere automobile, steaming effortlessly past the traffic that flounders and bobs in its wake, those double-barrel headlamps and that massive Bentley cowl lending it that an ominous air. And it just stretches for acres and acres!
The block-like body is capped with a tight-fitting roof, the long wheelbase is just unreal for a two-door and the rear of the car drops away in 1960s Bentley Continental-style. The design is actually similar to the Continental of the 1990s but this coupé is actually based on the newer Azure convertible. Bentley apparently left all the extra strengthening material of the convertible in, despite the car having a roof and that has added hugely to the stiffness of this coupé.
Like everything about this car, its weight is extraordinary too. You can hear loose pavement crumble as the Brooklands rolls forward and each door feels like it would weigh half as much as a Nano. The figures that strike you are 2.6 tonnes and 17 feet. That’s large SUV territory.
Bentley’s crown jewel, however, nestles under the hood. A motor of the finest vintage literally, this V8 is as old school as they get. Charmingly designated six and three-fourths of a litre, the motor uses industrial-size turbos to develop that insane 107kgm of torque and 530bhp. And it’s that torque, a record of sorts, that helps fling this heavy car effortlessly forward.
For reference, Volvo’s massive B7R intercity bus, regularly seen on our highways, makes 122kgm of torque!
Now you get it.
The turbocharged V8 fires with a volcanic rumble that’s deep, dark and ominous all at the same time. All you need to spring this piece of real estate is a mere dab on the accelerator. Numbers on the speedo tumble effortlessly despite the Brooklands’ considerable weight and you’re soon skipping forward briskly with a lightness of step that is surreal. This is what all Bentleys have done famously for years and years and the Brooklands carries this tradition to the next level. What’s more, the ride is pliant and absorbs everything our extreme roads hurl at it, despite the low 40 profile tyres. There’s a bit of pitter-patter from the suspension that gives you some indication of the mayhem below but comfort on this, the softer setting of the adjustable dampers, is very good. There’s just something special about the manner in which heavy cars like this Bentley can absorb all the Mike Tyson-type of pounding without tossing passengers around in the least.
Seeing a Brooklands – which possesses all the waft and wake of an ocean-going liner – under full steam is an awesome sight. Despite the massive dimensions, pointing that long bonnet in the right direction is pretty effortless. The steering is surprisingly direct, the behemoth goes where it’s pointed and there’s no heave-ho of the tiller needed.
Few cars manage to cruise as well. But this car is a missile too. Selecting ‘sport’ stiffens the suspension and adds more urgency to the power delivery. Time to unleash hell.
With a shimmy from its rear end and some squat, the Brooklands leaves the line powered by a controlled explosion from the rear wheels. There’s so much torque that this Bentley is ripping the frayed edges off some of the patchwork on our roads, spraying grit and pebbles as it struggles to put all that torque down to two contact patches. This tidal surge feels as unstoppable as a force of nature and there isn’t any build-up or peak in the power delivery, it’s just there when you want it – whaaam! The motor rumbles, turbos whooshing like industrial-size vacuum cleaners, and the scenery rushes at you in concert with your right foot. The car feels more potent the faster you go and even short bursts of acceleration feel like the car is making giant bounds.
‘Go’ translates to a massive, unrelenting surge and ‘stop’ just shuts it all down, bleeding all that momentum like it just doesn’t exist. Of course it does. You must remember that unlike a much lighter sports car, the combative forces here are simply titanic. Massive kerb weight and huge commercial vehicle-like torque on the one hand, up against the largest disc brakes the world on the other. A battle royal indeed and this makes the fact that you can somewhat hustle this car on an empty ghat road even more impressive. Yes, it even drives and steers pretty well.
It’s the cabin though that really stands out. Made with the same attention to detail as Victorian furniture, the huge cabin including the roof is trimmed exclusively in leather. Looking like the inside of a World War II bomber due to the profusion of chromed dials, the busy centre console, the ‘quilted’ leather seats and simple massive rear seats make this cabin among the most comfortable on any coupé. The perfect ambience in which to slip forward effortlessly past warp speed.
However, along with the car’s slightly antiquated charm come a few negatives. The Brooklands lacks some of the fluidity of more modern Bentleys like the four-wheel-drive Continental Flying Spur. It feels much larger on the road than the CFS and is slightly more ponderous too. Also, the motor doesn’t rev to more than 5000rpm, where there is just the slightest hint of strain.
Named after England’s legendary banked oval track of the 1920s and ’30s that stuck to the maxim, “the right crowd and no crowding”, the Bentley Brooklands is the perfect gentleman’s express. BuckinghamPalace with 20 Saturn V moon rockets strapped on. And who doesn’t want that?