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      02-19-2008, 06:55 AM   #1
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Thumbs up BENTLEY BROOKLANDS (Reviewed by PistonHeads) [Great Review]

The new Bentley Brooklands is huge in every way.
But that doesn't mean it's not a whole lot of fun, says Steve Sutcliffe

So here, very roughly, is what happens when you first encounter the £230,000, 2665kg, 184mph Bentley Brooklands. To begin with you simply cannot believe how big it is, how long it is, yet how elegant it looks. So for a while itís all you can do just to drink in the details; the 20in wheels, the 10ft wheelbase, that beautiful sloping rear roofline. And those two monumental oval exhaust pipes that protrude subtly but menacingly from beneath the rear bumper. Theyíre the only real clue that what lurks beneath the bonnet contains sufficient energy, perhaps, to stop the earth from rotating on its axis for a second or two.

The next step is to pull meaningfully on the sparkling silver door handle, and to realise how cold it feels in the palm of your hand. And how it fills the palm of your hand so perfectly. And if you donít pull on it with some vigour, the door handle on a Bentley Brooklands will, very simply, turn you down, in much the same way you suspect a doorman at Buckingham Palace would politely ask you to Ďeff off. One firm, precise tug however and the huge door swings majestically open, and when you peer inside your senses are hit by a second wave of emotions that is stronger, even, than the first.

Itís the smell that gets you to begin with, a deliciously deep and pungent aroma of leather mixed with a hint, maybe, of the sweat produced during the 125 hours of hand-stitching that occurred during the creation of this interior. The moment you open the door it hits you in both nostrils, and then gradually works its way into the centre of whatever part of the brain it is that registers pure, luxuriant pleasure. Itís usually only limousines rented out for stag dos and hen parties whose interiors contain mind altering substances, but the Bentleyís cabin will blow your mind the instant you climb aboard.

And if for some reason the smell manages to pass you by, the sight of all that leather, so many dials, so much beautifully polished stainless steel will surely take your breath away the first time you experience it as one. After 30 seconds inside a Bentley Brooklands you already begin to wonder whether this isnít one of the most perfect car interiors youíve ever sat in. And after five minutes the debate is completely beyond all doubt.

So then you pause to anticipate what will happen, what sort of sound will greet you, when you turn the key and press the Ďengine startí button. Will the 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 explode into life like that of an Aston Martin? Or will it just begin rotating and deliver its thrust as serenely as possible to its audience? Check the spec sheet, which is sufficient on its own to make your heart beat faster; it says the 6761cc V8 produces 530bhp at 4000rpm alongside a faintly ridiculous 774lb ft of torque at 3200rpm. That makes it more potent than any other V8 in current production, including those served up by AMG. Surely there will be an almighty cacophony when, finally, you hit that magic button?

Not quite. What happens is that the V8 ignites almost immediately and sends a distinct shimmy throughout the carís enormous frame, but the exhaust itself, while far from muted, is deliberately subtle in its introduction to the world. Itís only when you prod the long travel but well-weighted accelerator that the sheer potency of the Bentley Brooklands becomes clear. Shrubs are blown clean out of the earth if they happen to be within six feet of the rear of a Brooklands thatís being revved. Even the leather on your shoes will start to curl if you stand too long in the wrong place.

The right place to be in a Brooklands is, of course, back in the driverís seat, even though many owners, you suspect, will choose to travel in the rear (and who could blame them when the view forwards is as magnificent as it is from back there). When the time eventually comes to move off, all you do is palm the big leathery gear level back into D and away she goes, gravel crunching beneath those massive 20in P-Zero tyres, developed bespoke for the Brooklands by Pirelli.

To begin with the ride is delightfully comforting, the steering eerily light yet also accurate in a way you absolutely were not expecting. Yet over the first mile or so the Brooklands feels prohibitively gigantic on the road, and the way its body seems to float and roll, even at quite modest speeds, makes you wonder what on earth it might feel like if you attempt to drive it quickly on a twisty, single carriageway road.

And yet as mile one becomes mile two, then miles three, four and five, you realise that your anticipation is, in fact, completely wrong. Yes, the Brooklands occupies a quite incredible amount of road space and, yes, you need to be acutely aware of this every second you spend behind its vast steering wheel. But the moment you get a bit of space to operate in, the Brooklands turns your expectation on its head. Not only does it steer well but, amazingly, it also handles properly, grips properly, drives properly, period. And thatís a quite incredible thing to become aware of in a car as monumental as this.

I donít mean it goes down the road with the agility of a Porsche 911. Anything that weighs the thick end of three tonnes with two passengers on board is bound to have its dynamic limitations, after all. But what the Brooklands doesnít do is simply roll over and collapse the first time you show it a decent road. It does the absolute opposite, in fact, and for Bentleyís engineers that is one heck of a big achievement.

But itís as nothing compared with what theyíve managed with the engine and gearbox, which, collectively, provide the Brooklands with its HUSP (Hilarious Unique Selling Point). Every rev-head on this earth needs to experience what happens when you find a wide enough, empty enough, long enough piece of road and weld the throttle to the floor in a Bentley Brooklands. What occurs is the crowning event in an already priceless performance, and it goes something like this.

The huge tail squats as the rear axle tries to take up the load, and unless the surface is perfect the rear tyres will try to spin before the ESP system knocks back the throttle momentarily. Once above about 30mph, though, the Brooklands really starts to go. And when it goes, youíd better have both hands firmly on the reins. Thereís little noise to accompany the drama, instead the scenery just starts to rush towards the windscreen with increasing intensity as you feel your spine being pushed firmly into the seat. It feels a bit like taking off in a 737 while listening to Schubert on a set of high-end Bose headphones.

Zero to 100mph Ė just for the record Ė takes 11.6sec and thatís with a relatively rubbish 0-30mph time. Once on the move, in other words, the Brooklands is as quick as a 911 Carrera S. Yet it weighs three tones and is as comfortable and refined as a Rolls Royce.

Encounter it once and you will be hooked. Because itís quite a car, is the Bentley Brooklands. And Bentley, even under VW, is quite some car company to have produced it.

SPEC Bentley Brooklands

Price £230,000

0-60mph 5.0sec

Top speed 184mph

Power 530bhp/4000rpm

Torque 774lb ft/3200rpm

Power to weight 199bhp/tonne

Torque to weight 290lb ft/tonne

CO2 465g/km

Urban 9.8mpg

Extra urban 20.1mpg

Combined 14.5mpg

Engine layout 8cyls in a V, 6761cc, twin-turbo

Installation Front, longitudinal, rwd

Specific output 78bhp/litre

Compression ratio 7.8:1

Gearbox 6-speed auto
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