DRIVING IMPRESSIONS <br>Bentley Brooklands

Bentley Brooklands

By Adminflying b Magazine

Elegance, beauty, strength.

Brooklands holds a special meaning for Bentley. For one, it is the oldest racing circuit in England, from which the Bentley Boys have carved out a glorious history. But it is also the name of a stylish coupé with a traditional V8 released in 2007. What does it mean for the coupé to bear a name associated with past racing triumphs? The answer may already be in the air, even before you get behind the wheel of the car.

Translation: Mako Ayabe and Michael Balderi


Brooklands, the Holy Land

On the banks of the River Thames, a dozen or so kilometres southwest of Heathrow Airport, lies the oldest circuit in the UK: the Brooklands. It was in 1907 that Hugh Locke King, a Surrey landowner, built a state-of-the-art automobile track on this site, the birthplace of Britain’s aviation industry, where the first aeroplane took flight in England.

The circuit was initially built as a long, banked oval with a circumference of 4,453 metres. It is said that Brooklands had a profound influence on the layout of famous courses built later, such as Indianapolis and Montlhéry.

The Bentley Brooklands driven by Margaret Allen and Tim Barkin's Blower Bentley Special have set numerous speed records and made legends on this course, which Jiro Shirasu enjoyed driving on in his younger days.

When I found out that Bentley had unveiled a new coupé bearing the name Brooklands at the 2007 Geneva Show, 100 years after the Brooklands Circuit was built, I knew instinctively that they had created a coupé of the highest calibre. I was looking forward to the day when I would be able to test one out.


Very Very ‘Bentley’

Driving the Bentley Brooklands made me realise that ‘manufacturing automobiles is truly a culture.’ Brooklands has a special charm that no other automobile has, and I felt that no other manufacturer, especially one from outside the UK, could possibly imitate it.

As many of you know, Bentley's model lineup now has two pillars: the first is the Continental Range, which was introduced after Bentley became part of the Volkswagen Group and has determined the company's current success. The second is the traditional Bentley represented by the Arnage. Although their models are all emblazoned with ‘the Flying B’, they are fundamentally quite different in character.

The Continental Range is a new model with a narrow-angle V12, or W12 engine, as its power source and token of German-style quality consciousness. This level of perfection is impressive, free from the slackness that was common in British cars not so long ago. On the other hand, it is also true that the Arnage Range, with its traditional V8, has a deep and distinctive flavour that is consonant with, and continues naturally from, the Bentley lineage. Impressed by its world-class luxury, quality, and mature sporting flair, many enthusiasts still feel that ‘this is the Bentley.’

So what about the Brooklands? In essence, it is unmistakably a Bentley. In fact, I feel that it is ‘very very Bentley’ with the craftsmen's heart and soul invested in each and every one.

The body, with its solid yet handsome silhouette, is different from the previous coupé, the Continental R. The Brooklands boasts a truly magnificent physique, but depending on the angle, it can look powerful or delicate and elegant. The carefully crafted bodywork and the extremely high-quality paintwork no doubt contribute to this impression.

One of the highlights of the model is the striking interior, which catches the eye as soon as you open the solid and dignified doors. What luxury, what presence. Certain people assume that any car which has walnut and Connolly Leather interior is luxurious, but this one is far beyond that level. The comfortable layout of the gauges and switches, the relaxing feel of the upholstery from the moment you sit down, and the tasteful colour scheme — these are just a few of the features that make the driver’s seat such a special place. I think the crew know perfectly how to design the interior details from their knowledge and experience. One can only be overwhelmed by such perfection.


What You Don’t See on the Specs

The Bentley V8 engine used in the Arnage Range has two tunings: one is the 6747 cc unit in the Arnage R, and Azure, which delivers 457 ps maximum power and 89.2 kg-m maximum torque, and the other, a highly tuned version in the Arnage T, which has the same displacement but delivers 507 ps/102 kg-m.

The V8 that sits in the nose of the Brooklands is a ‘third V8’, so to speak, with an increased displacement of 6761 cc, maximum output of 537 hp and maximum torque of 107 kg-m. The transmission is a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission, which revs only 1580-1600 rpm when cruising at 100 km/h. At high speeds, the Brooklands V8 has a quiet, smooth sound, but when the throttle pedal is pressed and the needle on the rev counter exceeds 4000 r.p.m., a heart-quivering, ferocious exhaust note resonates. The sound tuning is superb.

If you read this and think that Brooklands is a monster only boasting power, you are mistaken. Rather, it is the chassis that harnesses this colossal power.
The test drive took place in Siena, 30-40 km south of the centre of Florence, an area dotted with villas owned by wealthy Italians. The roads are not particularly narrow, but there are many Category B roads with rough patches. Yet even in this environment, the Brooklands remains as graceful as its looks, despite the combination of its 2655 kg super-heavy body and 537 ps high-power engine. The cabin is calm even when cruising at high speeds, and there is not even a hint of an uncomfortable thrust.

This is without doubt due to the generous rigidity of the body and excellent suspension. What truly caught my attention, though, was the steering. It is actually slow but smooth and responsive. This must be due to the exquisite balance in its engineering. Thanks to this, the car's overall feel is smooth, making the very act of driving comfortable and enjoyable.

Bentley's engineers seemed absolutely confident about the driving experience. It’s certainly true that there is not a single flaw in the powertrain, chassis or suspension. It's perfect.


Mainstream Bentley

While Brooklands is perfectly engineered, there are surprisingly few new technical standouts that this model has to offer. The only thing that is typical of the latest models is the availability of carbon/silicon carbide disc brakes, but they are optional. The engineers say that as long as extreme use is avoided, such as racing on a circuit, these brakes will last as long as the car itself. Compared to the carbon brakes on Ferraris and Porsches, they have a remarkably long life. Furthermore, the brakes reliably support the car's 2.6 tonne weight and make no unpleasant noise when hit.

When it comes to new models, we journalists expect to see a lot of the latest technology highlighted in press releases, but the fact that Brooklands has not adopted any notably new technology is the essence of the brand. The surprise is precisely the way in which classical technology, handed down from generation to generation, has resulted in such a unified design, engineering and driving experience. Only Bentley could have pulled off such a feat in today's automotive industry.

In fact, the power of craftsmanship in the automobile industry mirrors that in other fields, like watchmaking, where no matter how sophisticated Japanese watchmakers may be, they can never threaten the position of the Swiss. It is fair to say that British car manufacturers are in a shambles, but their spirit remains strong.

The Brooklands has been announced with a limited production run of 550 units over three years. At the time of the announcement, however, 500 had already been sold. The fact that the interior of one Brooklands is made from the same amount of leather as 16 head of cattle makes it the most unlikely car to be mass-produced. Smaller production does not necessarily equate to high quality, but Bentley's stance has helped to underpin their brand value. This is undeniable. (Total production has now exceeded 10,000 units, but the company has not taken the path of expansion and has deliberately kept production at 9,600 units for 2008, with no intention of exceeding 10,000 in the future.)

Indeed, the success of the Continental Range is among the reasons why Bentley has been able to thrive today, after numerous financial crises. However, it is precisely in the eight-cylinder series that the essential ethos of the Bentley brand flows. Riding in the latest V8 model, the Brooklands, I felt as if I had been given a good lesson in what true luxury means.

That Bentley has named their latest model after a sacred place in the automobile industry must mean that they were supremely determined and confident.


This is a revised version of an article that appeared in Flying B No 001 (2008). The information provided here was accurate at the time of publication.


Surprisingly modern interior, including a multi-function display that fits into the centre of the instrument panel. Three types of wood panel are standard, with a further six available as a Mariner option.


V8 twin turbo tuned from the power unit used in the Arnage Range. Displacement was slightly increased by 14 cc to 6761 cc. Output was 30 ps higher and torque 5 kg-m higher than the Arnage T.


The nose is crowned with the traditional ‘Flying B’. The badge is different from the badge on Continental models and has the feel of good old-fashioned craftsmanship.


Centre console with multiple chrome parts. Even the feel and response of the switches have been thought through.The transmission is a new generation 6-speed A/T.


Optional carbon/silicon carbide disc brakes are visible inside the 20-inch wheels. Disc diameters are 420 mm front and 356 mm rear.