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Bentley’s exclusive Mulliner brand is returning to low-volume manufacturing with the striking Bacalar convertible
Bentley has unveiled its first low-volume special edition of its recent history, revealing the two-seat Bentley Bacalar – a two-seat open-top roadster. Designed and built by Mulliner inside Bentley’s Crewe HQ, the Bacalar signals Bentley’s expansion into low-volume and bespoke manufacturing for top-tier customers. Limited to just 12 units at an unspecified price, the Bacalar is already sold out, proving demand is there for a very special Bentley.
The Bacalar is based on the MSB-derived underpinnings of the Continental GT, but features completely bespoke bodywork, drawing parallels with the EXP100 GT concept revealed last year. Despite its close connection to the GT, the Bacalar’s aggressive aesthetic and surfacing quality likely preview the design language destined for mainstream Bentleys of the near future.
The most striking aspect of the Bacalar is its completely open cabin, without any form of roof hiding under the dramatic cowling behind the seats. Without the need to connect to a roof mechanism, designers have been able to lower the windscreen, which is ensconced in a single piece of carbonfibre, and increase its rake to create a sleeker silhouette. The wings and door panels are also constructed in carbon – a manufacturing technique that not only reduces weight, but also the cost of parts per unit when manufacturing in the tens and not thousands. The rear deck and clamshell are of aluminium.
The aggressive new nose is also bespoke, combining the traditional Bentley grille with an aggressive lower bumper and a single-roundel headlight design intersected by a horizontal bar that bleeds out to the wheelarch. This is a design element that we expect to appear on future production Bentley models. The vented bonnet, wing-mounted breathers and motorsport-inspired clip details by the bonnet shut line all sit within a more muscular and complex surfacing language than that of current Bentleys, culminating in the massive rear haunch that dominates the silhouette and drives the fastback-like rear.
The stretched tail, floating Bentley badge and sculpted rear lighting structures also reference the EXP100 GT, and like the front lighting units give us a look to Bentley’s next-generation design language. The aggressive rear valance and diffuser, the latter punctured by trapezoidal exhaust pipes, contrast against the elegant ovals usually associated with Bentleys. Its overall proportions are close to that of the Continental GT Convertible though, with only a subtle 20mm widening of the rear axle, while the 22-inch wheels are an identical size to the largest wheel option currently available on the standard car.
The interior is a mix of bespoke materials and finishes applied to a dash borrowed from the Flying Spur saloon, while there are unique door cards and panelling behind the seats. Replacing the rear seats is a luggage set – very Bentley. But less so is the contemporary palette and material application that combines fine, semi-gloss leathers, reclaimed timbers and the finest wool fabrics. Rather than being a set collection of finishes, owners will be able to specify both the interior and exterior to their own taste.
Under the skin is the same twin-turbo W12 engine as found in other Bentleys, here rated at 650bhp and 899Nm of torque, 24bhp and 84Nm more than the standard W12 Continental GT. The rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, 48V anti-roll system and three-chamber air suspension also remain.
This type of low-volume manufacturing is core to the Mulliner brand, as it can trace its roots back nearly 500 years, designing and manufacturing luxury horse-drawn carriages. No other manufacturer can rest on quite such a historic foundation, so the Mulliner brand’s revitalisation into a more substantial part of the Bentley business is a welcome addition.