Crewe Cut

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Plucking with painful PR consciousness at every strand that connects the Bentley marque and Brooklands, the Crewe car maker recently launched its replacement for the normally-aspirated Mulsanne and Eight saloons. Entitled the Bentley Brooklands, and utilising the device of a ‘Green Label’ badge, it represents the company’s current approach to manufacturing in hard times.

The Brooklands has few engineering changes to the 6.75-litre V8 formula, but with the adaptive suspension of the 1990s it is certainly a superior vehicle to its predecessors of the last decade. However, the 1992 model would be unlikely to approach what was, 60 years ago, the outright Brooklands record of 137.96 mph, set by Tim Birkin in a supercharged 4.5 litre…

At £91,488.97 you expect a substantial motor car, and you certainly get one. The Brooklands specification includes a seamless aluminium bonnet, but the 207.4in long fourdoor still weighs some 5180Ib. Some of this can be attributed to the catalysed, MK Motronic-managed 90deg V8 with an appetite for unleaded fuel, but the prime source of this 2.3-ton avoirdupoids is an interior that makes you feel as though every car you have ever seen from Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW is just dabbling with the idea of luxurious travel.

Rolls-Royce Bentley takes a gentleman’s club fetish for leather and wood, crossbreeds it with the hushed tones of a library and puts the whole lot on wheels. The hand-crafted Connolly leather trim, deep-pile Wilton carpeting with tailored overmats and hand-finished burr walnut veneer ooze class that wants to shriek it really has breeding, not just cash.

The exterior, with its dated black plastic front spoiler and colour coding for radiator surround and bumper tops, is not such a success. The broad aluminium wheels are distinctly odd, a kind of halfway house between spoked nostalgia and current spoked practice, but the Avon 235/70 R15 rubber did a manful job in resisting the ravages of a spirited codriver and myself. Equally effective were the four-wheel disc brakes, all Crewe cars now incorporating electronic ABS action in their specification.

From the sumptuous helm of this white leather and polished wood world we surveyed a blue bonnet from a driving position that is more Range Rover/Transit than conventional saloon. Nestling amid six dials, a 170 mph speedometer and low 4500 rpm limit promise plenty of potential performance, so long as you can keep pace with an 11.3-14 mpg thirst. Despite the electronically lightened four-speed automatic (still from Borg Warner), initial acceleration is disappointing. The use of a Green Label badge (formerly used on three-litre Super Sports and the Speed Six) verges on dishonesty. In cold figures, the Brooklands’ abilities (0-62 mph in just under 10s, at best, and a 125 mph maximum) would be unremarkable in an £11,000 hatchback.

If you want a true rendition of Bentley performance in a 1992 context, the awesome Turbo R (for £116,000 plus) does the job in style, exceeding 140 mph and slipping elegantly beneath the 7s 0-60 mph barrier. The long-striding Bentley Brooklands is absolutely fine for motorway use between an indicated 70-88 mph (1800-2500 rpm), but the passing breeze becomes more audible than the current aerodynamic bodies of machines such as the Mercedes S-class, Lexus or BMW 7-series would allow.

In Germany, where customers are the most loyal to the marque in Europe, such wind rustle could be an annoyance at a sustained 100 mph on the autobahn. Bentley points out that this is very much the model with which it expects to introduce new owners to the marque. In other words, it is the cheapest Rolls-Royce or Bentley option, Bentley now heading for the £170,000 bracket with its well-received Continental R. Americans and those in the north of England are reportedly buying both Rolls-Royces and Bentleys in more healthy numbers now.

We are promised a new engine for a leaner generation of Crewe cars in the late ’90s, and the Continental R shows that there is still a worldwide demand for a truly luxurious and prestigious motor car. Let us hope that Rolls-Royce Bentley owner Vickers really has stopped touting the most famous badges in motoring around the halls of prospective multinational owners, leaving the Cheshire car maker, under impressive chief executive and chairman, Peter Ward, to get on with what it does best — the generation of quiet excellence. J W