Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Bentley’s Extraordinary Journey Is One You Don’t Want to Miss

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Big and interesting things are happening at Bentley. From its drive toward electric to its own theme song, the automaker proves it is still the unrivaled luxury automotive leader.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once summed up his love for cars by explaining that it’s the best of worlds: you’re outside, but inside; you’re sitting, but moving.

The Bentley experience embodies this paradox with the comforts of home: cozy seating that warms or cools you—some even give you a massage. There’s the paneled dashboard that disappears with organized precision at the push of a button like a closet door, storing your favorite things in a Marie Kondo-approved manner. Luxury, indeed. Cluttered? Never.

That outside we all crave is just a sunroof away. The car flies us down the roadway like a bird of prey deftly maneuvering turns and twists until we reach our destination.

You don’t need to be a car person to appreciate a Bentley. In fact, it’s almost better if you’re not a car person at all the first time you sit behind the wheel of Britain’s finest export. If any car could—should—turn you into a car person, Bentley sits at the top of the list with its sleek interiors, superior sound system, and that Bentley engine made for journeys both physical and entirely metaphysical.

And as the luxury automaker turns toward a more sustainable future with its Flying Spur hybrid and ambitious electric vehicle targets, the journey has never been more important.

2023 Flying Spur
2023 Flying Spur | Courtesy Bentley

The Flying Spur’s speedometer ticks well past 200 mph (for those who dare). The experience at just half that—I only took it to about 115 mph—is unlike any other car, let alone any other hybrid engine. This, your grandma’s Prius, it is not. While other engines get angry or sluggish when pushed past 80 mph, the Flying Spur engine seems almost grateful—and the personifications don’t stop there.

My drive up the 118 north of Los Angeles freed the Spur from the constraints of the crowded city streets. There, it stretched out, like the long sinewy legs of a stallion let loose in the wide open country to do that thing it was clearly put on this earth to do—journey.

Journey factors big in Bentley’s future. In January, it announced a $3 billion “dream factory” at its headquarters in Crewe, England. That announcement was part of its “Beyond100” sustainability strategy, which the car company also isn’t shy about.

Global CEO and Chairman Adrian Hallmark said last year that Bentley plans on becoming “the world’s most sustainable luxury automaker.” Its first fully electric car is expected by 2025. Its journey away from fossil fuels has already started with the Flying Spur series.

It’s also exploring sustainable alternatives to leather for its interiors, a growing trend in luxury automobiles; BMW just announced its plans to release a leather-free interior by next year. Mercedes-Benz is also exploring more sustainable alternatives.

2023 Flying Spur interior
2023 Flying Spur interior | Courtesy Bentley

Bentley has experimented with Vegea, a vegan leather made from grapes. It has also used sustainable lumber recovered from bogs instead of using virgin tree materials, among other upgrades. The newest Spur brings in additional eco elements including the use of Dinamica Pure at all occupant touch points. Dinamica Pure is made from 73 percent recycled polyester.

The Flying Spur, aka “the best luxury sedan in the world,” is now in its third generation. Bentley says the Flying Spur focuses on customer enjoyment, “whether sat in the driver’s seat, or as a chauffeured passenger in the luxuriously equipped, handcrafted cabin.”

Then, there is the sound system. Whether the Bang & Olufsen or the Naim system—Bentley offers both—the auditory experience is as much a part of the Bentley experience as its speed. Part of that, I’m certain, is because as you take the car well past the legal speed limits (ahem) there is no noisy engine, as is the case in most cars, to be distracted by. 

bentley-flying-spur-hybrid
Bentley Flying Spur | Courtesy

As the Flying Spur ticks smoothly into speeds where most other cars feel like they’re about to break apart, it gets even quieter—like that stallion hitting its stride, at one with the wind. It’s here where Bentley makes the journey about you—the driver—the passenger, really, even if you are the one behind the wheel. 

Of course, you can play any music you want while driving a Bentley. And the truth is, you’re not going to make a bad decision here with the cabin’s acoustics and the superior sound systems. You can take it to the modern dancefloor (those are back, by the way)—Beyoncé’s Break My Soul is as good a choice as any. You can go pre-covid for nostalgic Billie Eilish with the sneaky Finneas beats on Bad Guy. Go further back to ‘80s rock anthems if you’re feeling it—Guns ‘n Roses is never a bad choice. You can also take it to an unlikely destination, the anti-luxury stripped-down 1970s sounds of The Grateful Dead also work surprisingly well, even if a tad ironically.

Then, there’s the British connection, a geographical synergy of sorts. Give the Stranger Things hit, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, its proper tribute. But it’s the Rolling Stones that make for the most truly blissful Bentley driving. Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) is especially sublime. You Can’t Always Get What You Want gave me life as I pushed into triple-digit speeds that the Flying Spur handled as smoothly as Mick Jagger moving around the stage, even in his 70s.

Composer Steve Mazzaro for Bentley
Composer Steve Mazzaro for Bentley | Courtesy

But with Bentley, you don’t need a playlist at all. The automaker takes care of that, too. Just like everything it does, it sourced the finest material, working with Steve Mazzaro, a Hans Zimmer protege who composed soundtracks for Dune and No Time to Die (which also saw Billie Eilish contribute the title track). Mazzaro, an Ohio native who now resides in Los Angeles, composed the theme song, entitled Extraordinary Journey. It is a soundscape as power-filled and melodic as the car itself.

According to Mazzaro, composing the song had as much to do with the technical specifications of the car—the location of the speakers, and just how sound ricochets through the cabin of the vehicle—as it did with the look and feel of the car and Bentley’s design philosophy. It’s a bit of maths, yes, but don’t be deterred—there’s a whole lot of soul in the equation, too. 

The track is big, like a 1980s Whitesnake anthem meets an epic action movie score. It’s big like the Bentley engine, and big just like the feelings that welled up inside me as I soared up through the hills overlooking Los Angeles feeling like one of the city’s beloved red-tail hawks in search of the evening’s prey.

“It had to be edgy,” Mazzaro told me at a recent dinner meeting at the Pendry hotel in West Hollywood. And it is edgy. It’s bullish at times and completely unapologetic, just like the car. It’s tough love. It straps you in and sends you flying. It’s a journey inward as much as an external representation of the car.

Steve Mazzaro in a Bentley
Steve Mazzaro in a Bentley | Courtesy

“To me, Bentley represents elegance and class but also power, speed, and mechanical complexity,” Mazzaro said in a statement last March. “So for this piece I used guitars, plus powerful, heavy low synths and very technical drums combined with intricate hand percussion. As with the workings of a car, you don’t see them, but you know they’re there, working in the background. I wanted to take the listener on a journey, with the essence of a film to be in a listener’s subconscious mind, so there’s flow to this piece—starting a specific way and then leading the person somewhere.”

Does a car need its own theme song? When it’s a Bentley, it certainly does. And as I drove the car back down to the Hollywood Hills feeling wholly refreshed, I was certain we all need one too.

Since the pandemic changed the world as we all knew it, journeys have taken on new meanings. Intention is everything. Choices matter more than ever. Consumers are traveling more consciously, shopping more responsibly, and savoring moments like never before—even if it’s just a local car ride.

The timing couldn’t be better. As it gears up for its electric future, Bentley is setting the stage with a literal drumroll introducing what’s to come—an extraordinary journey, indeed—not just for the carmaker itself, but for the entire automotive industry. And for all of us, too.

Bentley isn’t missing a beat.


Bentley provided complimentary vehicle use for this story but views and opinions are the author’s.

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