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“You have a day to live the life of a millionaire,” said the Ed. “So suit up!” Did he say billionaire? Can’t remember and doesn’t matter – the cars in question were Bentley vehicles, one with over 1000Nm of torque(!) and a gold-plated Flying-B on the hood, the other with a W12 motor that HBO’s most famous Baller rolls down Sunset Boulevard in. The ultimate millionaire cars. And I’m at Delhi’s millionaire-row, home to bureaucrats, plutocrats, ambassadors and politicians, to live the life of a millionaire. Out here Bimmers, Mercs and Audis are a dime-a-dozen and to stand out you need something extraordinary. Something with legacy; something that is fast, massive, and tells the world you’ve arrived. You need a Bentley. And I’ve got two!
Now the Bentley Mulsanne EWB hasn’t been officially launched in India and only 50 of these Hallmark Editions, handcrafted by Mulliner (Bentley’s customisation studio) will be sold worldwide. Two have been allotted for India, both of which have already been sold. “The owner will be picking it up next week from us, he’s currently holidaying in Europe. All our clients are,” the head of sales at Bentley Delhi tells me. While he’s away, I’m here to sink my toes into the shag pile and marvel at what really is a piece of handmade art.
And the Mulsanne is the ultimate expression of personalisation. It takes over 400 hours to hand build a Bentley (a reference point – Maruti Suzuki makes 3000 cars in a day). The Mulsanne is so massively customisable no two cars will ever be alike. This exterior shade on the one photographed here is ‘pale velvet over black velvet’, and you can have it in any shade you like; even in your wife’s favourite Louis Vuitton. On ‘my’ car, the hallmark gold Flying-B hood ornament is made of 23.9 karat gold and probably costs more than the Uber I took from the airport. Notice the ‘thin fine line’ running down from the A-pillar to the tail lamp? That pin stripe is gold too. The fuel filler cap is jewelled while the massive 21-inch alloys by Mulliner are polished with materials so exclusive, I’m not privy to it. The more you stare at it the more the details smack you in the face. And even if you’re not a detail person, the Mulsanne EWB’s sheer size will bowl you over. With a length of 5825mm (19 feet!), the EWB is almost as long as two Maruti Suzuki Altos nose to tail, and even wider than a Mercedes-Benz GLS by almost 100mm. This is not a small car by any stretch of the imagination.
“On ‘my’ car, the hallmark gold Flying-B hood ornament is made of 23.9 karat gold and probably costs more than the Uber I took from the airport”
And in keeping with the Bentley Boys tradition, 60 per cent of Mulsanne buyers opt for the Speed variant. 39 per cent go for the regular variant – regular being very relative here – and as for the EWB, well, that is for the one percenters; the Baller of Ballers. With almost a foot more rear leg room you can play football, baseball or whatever ball you’ve chucked to get to the point of Bentley ownership.
“The EWB is almost as long as two Maruti Suzuki Altos nose to tail and wider than a Mercedes-Benz GLS”
With no Jeeves to hold the door open, Gaurav our photographer, volunteers. “Oh f**k, this is heavy,” he exclaims. “Behave, Gaurav,” I admonish my man servant. He nods and points me to the ‘1 of 50’ door sills that remind me of the exclusivity, boosting my ego to no extent. Two of only 50 of these special-edition Mulsannes are in India! Chew on that for a bit. And then I rest my backside on the seats modelled after the first class cabin of an airliner; business class is for peasants. The owner of this car clearly has eclectic tastes so instead of leather the primary material used for his seats is linen. After all back in the day the chauffeurs used to sit on (hard-wearing) leather while the Maharaja would sit on silk-upholstered seats. And our Baller must have really spent time speccing this car because while the front seats are upholstered in black linen the rear is all beige and cream.
“Flip down the table and you notice a massive centre console that resembles an airplane cockpit, allowing you to control everything including the panoramic sunroof and even the electric curtains for that cave-like feeling”
There’s more. The table that folds out of the rear armrest is made of 721 parts. It even gets its own dampers and springs, and can be tilted up to 30 degrees to hold an A3-sized sheet of paper, logical really since all the zeroes on your balance sheet are hardly likely to fit on an A4-sized sheet. Flip down the table and you notice a massive centre console that resembles an airplane cockpit, allowing you to control everything including the panoramic sunroof and even the electric curtains for that cave-like feeling. In between signing up your favourite band to play at your birthday party, you can switch on the brilliant 2000-watt 20-speaker Naim audio system and, trust me, you will not miss the feeling of a live concert. Gaurav flips a switch over the leather wrapped armrest and that opens a window between the seats, in a slow and elaborate fashion. “Tadaa! Here’s the piece de resistance,” I say to Gaurav as we notice three crystal flutes, waiting for champagne to bubble out of them. Champagne not your drink? Bentley will make a scotch rack along with whisky tumblers for you. And I need a drink, after learning about the Mulsanne EWB’s 8-figure price tag of `7.7 crore! And I can tell you that all the customisation on this particular car pushes the figure to well over nine figures. Before taxes and what not.
Time to try out something more reasonable, The Rock’s SUV. Keeping with tradition, the Mulsanne sticks with the six-and-three-quarter-litre V8. It even has pushrods, it’s that authentic. Though with a torque output of 1020Nm there’s nothing ancient about the way it hustles along (100kmph in 5.5 seconds!). With the Bentayga though, there’s no legacy and so the engine is as modern and outlandish as anything on the planet. It is the W12 motor, Volkswagen Group’s middle-finger to the greenies and electric-car-driving weenies. Blown by two turbochargers the Bentayga is a member of a very exclusive club, a club of only five, a club of the fastest production SUVs on earth. A standing start to 100kmph? 4.1 seconds! Top speed? 301kmph! The speed is as vast as the Taiga, the world’s largest transcontinental snow forest from where the Bentayga name comes (portmanteau of Bentley and Taiga). An SUV for the Baller who wants to experience The Thrill of Driving.
“With the Bentayga though, there’s no legacy and so the engine is as modern and outlandish as anything on the planet. It is the W12 motor, Volkswagen Group’s middle-finger to the greenies and electric-car-driving weenies”
Gaurav rides shotgun while the Bentley chauffeur takes the backseat. “Seatbelts?,” asks Gaurav. Our man reminds us that we are in Delhi, “Sir, yahaan kaun pakdega?”. Looking for an empty stretch of road outside Lutyens Delhi we head over to Shanti Path. Quietly we wait for the traffic to pass, as Gaurav gets his camera ready to film the launch. I floor the throttle and off goes Gaurav’s phone in the air as g-forces overcome his piddly muscles. Not even a few metres and we have already hit unimaginable speeds as the exhaust growls and burbles like a demon! And the way it builds speed is something I’ve never experienced. This is speed driven by torque, not horsepower like in a traditional supercar. On a full throttle it goes from 5 to 90 per cent of max torque within 1.1 seconds; there’s a giant, unrelenting, inexhaustible and downright lunatic shove as we create some ashanti on Shanti path. As we slow down the chauffeur quietly buckles up his seatbelts and it occurs to me that the The Rock is probably a car guy. The Bentayga is not just show. Oh it is a lot of show but along with that it is also good fun to drive. And it boasts a fine marriage of ride and handling. Sure the steering is lifeless, but it does remind you of a rugby tussle: so difficult to unravel, yet satisfying enough when you get it right.
So this is how Ballers roll. And turns out Ballers aren’t 50-year olds. I’m told the average age of a Bentley owner has come down from 38 years to 30 years. Average! So there are twenty-somethings who also roll in Bentleys! “Should have bought Bitcoins when I had the chance,” I murmur to my fellow 30-something photographer as the sun sets over pish-posh Delhi and we hand over the Bentley fobs.
“If only you’d shown more interest in ball games when growing up,” replies Gaurav.