Impressive details make new Bentley stand out
Along with The National’s motoring editor, Kevin Hackett and several other sage members of this trade, I am privileged to be a jury member of the Middle East Motor Awards, an august body which votes for the best cars in a multitude of categories to find the leading vehicles in each segment, and to choose a car of the year for the region. Rendering that down to what is involved, we find ourselves, at this time of year, when it is hottest and least desirable to be out, driving endlessly in all sorts of cars in order to evaluate them. It is a tough job but, as they say, someone has to do it.
Nonetheless, there are highlights, and while I have no intention of giving away my judgement on any one car at this early stage of the proceedings, the rapid-fire jumping from one offering to the next in two-or three-day, back-to-back road tests often throws up some quite delightful detail.
So it is with the latest Bentley Mulsanne, flagship of the marque and in current press fleet form, a wonderful combination of materials and colours: elegant, understated and refined, perfectly matched across several grains of leather and piles of carpeting, and complete in its thoroughness to the extent of the boot lining. Even the bits inside the glove box, which would normally be unseen scruffy plastic, are finished in unblemished materials; the movement governing the picnic trays and iPad docking ports is worthy of a handcrafted clock and the glasses in the hidden rear chiller, along with the carpeted footrests, leather-clad scatter cushions and the colour-coordinated umbrellas in the boot, absolutely reek of splendour applied in the most thoughtful and discreet way – all as it should be in a car that costs more than Dh1.5 million.
But it was an almost unnoticed detail that caught my eye – a thing of extravagance that could easily have been omitted but, in doing so, would have compromised the flow of the eye across the flanks of this very special car. It was the tiny, triangular quarter-light glass in the front corner of the front doors – a costly-to-produce component that could easily have been replaced by metal and the mirrors moved to disguise the blind spot such a decision would have created. But no, those little jewels are there, mounted carefully in their brackets, sealed with their own beading, making the glasshouse more elegant yet more complicated.
And why? Because without them, there would be a block – a visual comma in the smoothness of flow across the A-pillar, a smudge on an otherwise perfectly clean sketch. The entire travel of the eye over this massive automobile would be abruptly halted by an albeit tiny, solid, body-colour panel, the sweep of the line destroyed by the double-take made in evaluating the whole.
Yeah, I know that sounds like pretentious brochure-speak but the devil truly is in the detail and without those little lights the car would simply not be so well balanced, so nicely proportioned or so ‘just right’.
Much of what we write about cars is subjective – I may think a particular feature is a good thing; you may not. What we aim to do, though, is to give readers food for thought, to give an impression on which to build a personal view. The Bentley Mulsanne appeals on so many levels and, despite being aspirational beyond this writer’s wildest dreams, cannot be excluded from observation or criticism. To be able to find and bring such tiny details to the fore is what makes the task so interesting.
Small details are often missed but it is important, from time to time, to give them the prominence they deserve. Without the effort that goes into such elements, though in the grand scheme of things they may be insignificant, the whole would be much less than the sum of its parts. And isn’t it nice to know and appreciate that there are still one or two motor manufacturers who really care?
Updated: August 21, 2014 04:00 AM