2023 Bentley Batur Review

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Bentley’s ultra-exclusive Mulliner Coachbuilt car impresses in Matt Prior’s first drive of the model.

I suppose you’re not paying just for the metal, carbonfibre or leather, with the Bentley Batur. It’s the chance to have a look behind the door, access what others don’t and, importantly, own something nobody else does.

All Bentleys try to offer a bit of that, which is why there are 46 billion ‘curated by Mulliner’ option combinations for a Bentley Continental GT alone, and why people spend on average $56,000 on those.

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You can double that amount for those who opt into the next-level ‘Mulliner bespoke’ line-up. This is one of the reasons why Bentley posted its biggest-ever profits last year, up 82% on just a 4% increase in vehicle sales. Do a bit more work, earn a lot more money. I’ll try suggesting this at my next pay review and let you know how I get on. Bespoke by Prior.

For some, though, even these increasingly exclusive option combinations aren’t enough. And this is where the highest echelon of Bentley’s Mulliner division comes in – the old-fashioned coachbuilding bit. A car made just for you (or for you and 17 others), with options just for you: enter the almost $3.8 million Bentley Batur.

There are currently only two Baturs in existence, both of them working prototypes of a limited-edition Continental GT Speed-based coupé that signals the future of Bentley design, the end of the W12 engine and the pinnacle of the bespoke coachbuilding programme that Mulliner offers. It was launched with the Bacalar in 2021; the Batur is the follow-up.

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Bentley says there are three things to note about the design: the ‘resting beast mode’ stance, like a lion sitting down, around the rear haunches; an ‘expression of strength’, or the upright grille, like a horse’s chest; and an ‘endless bonnet’ (this all works better when you can see the PowerPoint), which is why you’ll note the Batur’s side-profile bonnet line smoothly extending to the rear window, to accentuate what’s under the hood, to which we will come.

Ultimately, it’s meant to be reminiscent of the 1950s R Type Continental, arguably Bentley’s, and one of the world’s, most beautiful cars.

Is this one too? I am not so convinced but don’t think that’s surprising. Onto a current mechanical architecture has come a body that’s wilfully different from that of the latest Continental GT and is “a chance to see our future design language”, according to Paul Williams, Bentley’s chief technical officer for Mulliner and motorsport.

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Yet it still must use the same hard points, windscreen, header rail and A-pillar uppers and can’t be so far removed from the existing car that it gets physically crash-tested. All Baturs will be individual vehicle approval-registered in the UK before they go anywhere else, and they can only be shipped to and used in the US under Show or Display regulations.

In terms of future design cues, I’d look at the headlights and grille. I’ve a hunch – it’s only that – that this is as extreme as it will get. “We don’t do jarring or super-aggressive,” adds Williams.

The Batur’s bonnet, endless or not, hides the company’s W12 petrol engine, all 6.0 litres and twin turbochargers of it, uprated for the last time. Bentley has announced the engine will be withdrawn next year, even though it still meets regulatory standards and Bentley is meeting its own obligations. It just suits the company to park it as it heads to being fully electric by 2030.

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The W12 is a compact, complicated and powerful technical marvel. Is it time to feel bad, then, about having so often recommending a lighter and better-sounding V8 over it? Go on, maybe just today. You can still order a Continental GT Speed with the W12, but be quick about it. There aren’t many build slots left. If I could, I might. But back in the real world…

To send it off, the Batur is the most powerful Bentley yet. A new turbocharger compressor wheel and scroll, 33% bigger intake pipe and 35% better intercooler capacity mean it has 545kW at 5500rpm and 1000Nm from 1750rpm to 5000rpm.

It drives through the Continental GT Speed’s regular eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, with active rear-wheel steer and an electronic limited-slip differential, to a marginally adjusted chassis. The rear track has been widened by 8mm but only so it looks better, and other changes are tuning details as Bentley seeks to make its “most dynamic” coupé to date.

The carbonfibre body only reduces the kerb weight by 40kg, to make it 2233kg. The extra poke reduces the 0-100km/h time bto 3.4sec and increases the top speed to 336km/h. And to befit the increase in performance and drama, the car defaults to Sport mode when you fire it up.

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I’m told you shouldn’t think, though, that all this is at the expense of refinement, which is something of a Bentley speciality, after all. Bentley might just give its cars the broadest remit of anyone: be refined, be rewarding to drive and, oh, do 336km/h, won’t you?

Williams says the hand-built nature of the Batur gives refinement advantages. A craftsperson able to take their time to fit seals accurately can make Batur quieter even than the standard car, they reckon. And so to it.

Inside, there’s some immediate familiarity to the Batur because it retains the dash-top, gently rotating tri-faced display panel and most switches from the regular GT. Elsewhere, though, little is left unchanged – the instrument design, door cards, seats, some significant switches, which can be 3D-printed if you prefer. The rear +2 seats have become a storage shelf, while the body means the boot has a compact lid, although it’s quite deep and wide inside. Tailored luggage is available. Of course.

The Batur is absent from the Bentley’s online configurator, so you will either go to the factory for a chat about it, or they will send a designer to you. What’s unusual is how 3D printing allows you to tweak the interior switches. One of the two prototypes has gold ‘organ stop’ vent controls, the other an experiment in machined titanium – its edges are a little too sharp at the moment, as prickly as grabbing a gooseberry.

There’s more personalisation than ever for surface materials, too: ask nicely and they will go out the back to the veneer store, where the rare woods are kept. At times there won’t be enough for a full production run, but they can usually scrape off enough for one or two cars.

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It’s tempting to think this level of detail, rather than the engineering programme, is where your money goes, but I suspect a few quid has been spent here too. The new engine calibration will have been durability tested somewhere hot and somewhere cold; leather surfaces need to be baked in sunlight and used to see how they age.

This sort of thing is happening in our test cars, one of which has done  over 30,000km already. It’s why I’m surprised by how together they feel, but also why in one there’s an emergency electrical cut-off switch in a cupholder.

The Batur feels much like a Continental GT Speed on the move. Blindfolded – not that I’d recommend it in a two-million-quid car on roads with volcanic rocks to either side – an owner would know what this was.

There’s a new steering wheel design, but it’s still modestly sized, with a rewardingly thick rim. The steering is very smooth too, medium-heavy weighted and with just the right amount of response for a high-performance grand tourer.

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The engine remains a subtle companion, woofling gently on idle and allowed to burble and pop in only slightly unruly fashion on the overrun, then growling slightly gruffly when you ask it for everything it has. It’s all done by 6000rpm, but its response is powerful and boosty and addictive. If you’re asking me whether I still prefer the V8, then today I am disinclined to make the comparison.

This generation of Continental GT, even with the considerable weight of a W12, is way more agile and rear-biased than previous Continentals, and all of that character has been retained here. I wouldn’t like to say what losing only the weight of a sheep has had, specifically, but it feels like an agile Continental to me – which means it can turn in at speeds you wouldn’t necessarily expect it to, with the active rear steer helping it ease into a turn, and even during normal, sensible road driving it can feel like it’s diverting to the rear to help straighten the car on a corner’s exit. For a car of this size, it feels compellingly, admirably willing and agile.

And, yes, to my ears and trousers it feels just as quiet and refined as a conventional Continental GT – which is not always the case with a limited-run production car, and especially one in prototype form. I can’t think of another example of a limited-edition vehicle that feels so refined and so luxurious. The usual focus – McLaren, Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, others – is on opening up the sporting side of things, and to hell with the comfort.

In the Batur’s form you have a car that is as rare as those – a car you can take to Monaco or Monterey and be the only one there – and still slink into silken comfort as soon as the show is over. I find something particularly compelling about that and, in a weird way, find it reassuring that while some car makers struggle to find buyers for extreme hypercars, luxury is sufficiently valued that all Baturs are sold.

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Bentley's ultra-exclusive Mulliner Coachbuilt car impresses in Matt Prior's first drive of the model. I suppose you’re not paying just for the metal, carbonfibre or leather, with the Bentley Batur. It’s the chance to have a look behind the door, access what others don’t and,...2023 Bentley Batur Review