Bentley is reviving its coachbuilding days with cars the ultra-exclusive Batur. Ted Welford tries it out.
Bentley’s Continental GT is hardly a car for the masses.
But to some, that isn’t enough, which is why this Crewe-based luxury manufacturer has recently started reinvigorating its more exclusive sub-brand for those wanting to take personalisation that bit further.
Known as Mulliner, it’s split into three divisions. The first, Mulliner Curated, is where the firm has come up with a series of exclusive designs that are pre-configured. Second is Mulliner Bespoke, whereby customers are able to configure their own cars from scratch essentially, with near endless choice when it comes to colours and interior personalisation.
This arm of the firm has grown dramatically in recent years, with more than 750 ‘bespoke’ cars made in 2023 so far alone. In days gone by, customers would likely have visited Bentley’s Crewe factory to go through things, but these days the Mulliner team often fly out to wherever their customers are, be it their Miami office or Monaco yacht.
The third part of Mulliner is Coachbuilt, where it builds unique, limited-run cars. It does both ‘modern’ cars based on its Continental GT, as well as ‘classic’ continuation models, which are in essence brand-new versions of old cars.
In its infancy, Mulliner was commissioned to build Royal Mail carriages, before falling under the umbrella of Bentley in the 1950s where it became known for its coachbuilding, which was where specific bodies were created for existing cars. Essentially, you would buy the Bentley and then it would be sent to a coachbuilder to be finished off. It’s this that the firm has revived in the past couple of years, but all in-house this time.
Things started out with the Bacalar in 2020, which was a roofless Barchetta – a first for Bentley – that was limited to just 12 units. Then in 2022, it followed it up with the Batur. Named after a lake in Bali, Indonesia, this is ever so slightly more ‘common’, though with just 18 produced, you’d be lucky if you ever saw one.
Though it starts out in life as a Continental GT underneath, the Batur is a coupe GT car that is extensively modified, not just for the way it looks but the way it drives too. It’s the Batur we’re looking at today, plonked in the driving seat of a supercar. It’s worth adding this isn’t one of the 18 customer examples, but is car ‘000’ – this engineering prototype that has clocked up tens of thousands of test miles around the world.
If you’re spending millions on a car you want it to stand out, and the purple finish on this Batur most certainly does that. Combined with a new ‘face’ for Bentley, which will go on to be used on its electric models going forward, the grille also has a purple tint to it, with this colour extending to the cabin too.
It’s under the bonnet that is perhaps the ultimate highlight of the Batur, however. Featuring the most powerful Bentley engine ever, it’s an extensively redeveloped version of the firm’s legendary 6.0-litre W12 engine, which is being discontinued in 2024.
Courtesy of a new intake system upgraded turbochargers and various other changes, it puts out 740bhp, almost 100bhp more than the regular Continental GT’s W12, while torque stands at 1,000Nm.
Starting up the Batur is theatre in itself, not least because this example uses 18-carat gold for the start-up button. It’s a special occasion, and the engine roars into life with a louder note than is typical from Bentley, but still in a reserved and sophisticated manner.
Given the Batur’s value, Bentley isn’t just handing us the keys and giving us free rein, but has instead arranged a shorter route, but still on public roads. We start from Rookery Hall Hotel – , which Bentley actually owns – just a stone’s throw from the firm’s factory in Crewe, Cheshire.
Pulling onto the tarmac, it’s immediately clear this isn’t a standard Continental GT. Not only is the titanium exhaust louder, but it feels noticeably stiffer and less floaty than Bentleys often feel.
That W12 engine is a masterpiece, too. Bentley might have been selling more of its V8s in recent years, but this engine will always be the firm’s most famed unit. Put your foot down and the Batur’s pace is phenomenal, with a lightning-fast eight-speed automatic gearbox helping you to scythe along. We didn’t have a full chance to give the Batur the beans, but even at three-quarters throttle, it’s clear this is quite the beast. Bentley doesn’t quote performance figures, but we’d expect 0-60mph to be around the three-second marker.
The handling is well-judged and more involving than a standard Continental GT, and it certainly feels like a far more dynamic proposition than Bentley’s other models. Ceramic brakes come as standard with the Batur, though they were exceptionally grabby on our drive, making it fairly tricky to come smoothly to a stop.
Despite being firmer than a standard Continental GT, which we drove the Batur back-to-back with, the Batur is still comfortable, with excellent refinement once that W12 quietens down at a cruise.
Even on the roads around Crewe, where seeing Bentleys is a fairly common occurrence, the Batur gets plenty of heads turning. From its huge bonnet that stretches out, to its sweeping lines and, of course, that ridiculously bright purple finish, this looks and feels like a special car before you’ve even got in it.
But what’s most impressive, is that – as nice as the unique styling and gold aspects are – this isn’t just a dolled-up Continental GT, the Batur feels like a different character. It’s a fitting end for this magical W12 engine and shows Mulliner’s ultimate potential.