It is quite an extraordinary car, this Bentley Brooklands. Think of it how you will (two-door version of the Crewe’s Missile Azure T, hardtop version of the Azure), but it's definitely blindingly fast. Yet blissfully relaxed. And just 550 will be made.
There's also something really rather nice about doing 150mph in a leather-and-wood lined drawing room. The scenery may be rushing by – and keep feeding the power to those rear wheels and the scenery will soon speed by at 184mph – yet inside your spacious cocoon all is fuss-free gentility. In front, there is a slight burble and growl from the big pushrod V8, 49 years old but still growing strong (and getting stronger). Below, the autostrada conveys the odd bump and thump but mostly the suspension does a fine job of wafting you over the blacktop. Just as the steering is communicative yet well damped, so the whole car keeps you in touch with reality yet isolates you from the hurly burly of fast motoring.
OK, so is this Brooklands the sportiest Bentley of all?
Well it’s certainly the fastest Bentley on sale. And no wonder it has such big speed. The twin-turbo V8, a fettled version of the engine used in the Arnage T, is the most muscled V8 in motor industry history (774 lb ft of torque, no less). Maximum power is 530bhp, at an easy-revving 4000rpm. Zero to 60 is covered in only 5.0 seconds and, more significantly, 30-50 takes only 1.7 seconds.
Yet it is no conventional sporting coupé. It’s way too relaxing for that. That gutsy low-stress engine (the war paint on the classic white-on-black chrome-bezel dials stops the fun at only 4600rpm) contrasts to most sporting V8s, V10s and V12s, which bellow and wail as their cranks spin to dizzying speed. There is none of the powerful frenzy of an M6, a Ferrari Grand Tourer or an AMG CL.
Rather, it is a car that rises above all that, a car of the utmost grace and good manners, a gentlemanly car that never intrudes on its owner and makes few demands from its driver (other than financial – we’re talking a £230,000 asking price and 14.5mpg average).
So though the performance figures are from a sports car, the driving experience is more like being in the luxury cabin of a large motor yacht. Pass the cigars and turn up the Brahms.
Click 'Next' the read the rest of our drive of the Bentley Brooklands
No, but what do you expect from 2655kg and 18ft of metal and glass and timber and leather? There is more float and waft in normal suspension mode and even with the ‘Sport’ suspension engaged (to make the car feel ‘more Germanic’ according to engineering boss Dr Ulrich Eichhorn) the big Bentley lacks the precision of a big money BMW or Ferrari. Yet it’s still astonishingly composed, you can thread together twisting mountain corners with real precision, the steering is sharp (although always light and a touch disconnected) and the brakes – especially with optional carbon ceramic discs – are brilliant.
So for a luxurious powerful motor yacht, it can do the speedboat stuff surprisingly well.
But its real metier is straight road cruising, right?
Absolutely. It blasts along motorways and A-roads with arrogant authority. You sit high – somewhere between car and 4x4 height – and look out over that long bonnet and you really are king of all you survey. Inside, the car is astonishingly roomy for a two-door: the roomiest coupé on sale today, says Bentley. Rear leg room is only a touch less than the normal four-door Arnage and headroom – despite that low raked roofline – is fine for anyone 6ft 2in and under. Plus low-speed road is brilliant. After all, more than two-and-half tons does tend to tame tarmac tears with ease.
The world's greatest grand tourer. Absolutely. Nothing combines power, panache and sheer good manners quite like this Bentley. Although Rolls-Royce – whose new Phantom Coupé launches at the Geneva Show in March – may have something to say about that.