Bentley's Mulliner Makes a Coachbuilding Comeback With Stunning Bacalar
There will be only 12 of these Bacalars, making them "the rarest two-door Bentleys of the modern era."
Few, if any, automakers can claim heritage in a new model stretching back to the 1500s. Partly, that's because cars themselves were invented 300 or so years after that, in the late 1800s, and partly because there aren't many tangible links between modern companies and anything from the Renaissance era. Bentley's Mulliner division stands as the lone exception: The outfit started out as a saddler, and before it was constructing bespoke bodies for horseless carriages in the early 20th century, it constructed bespoke bodies for horse'd carriages beginning in the 1760s. Now, Mulliner has a new, thoroughly modern project: The jaw-dropping Bacalar.
Unless you were hit on the head by a very large apple while discovering gravity—or learning reasons not to sit beneath apple trees—nothing about the Bentley Mulliner Bacalar should appear to have anything to do with carriages. It does, however, mark Mulliner's triumphant return to coachbuilding. The gorgeous droptop Bentley is, loosely speaking, a Continental GT convertible underneath—but its every body panel is unique, as is its interior. (The only carry-over exterior parts from the Bentley Continental GT are the door handles, because Mulliner wanted to keep their keyless entry sensors.) It is named for Mexico's Laguna Bacalar, located in the Yucatan, and certainly seems ready for sunny-weather cruises, be they in some exotic location or someplace as droll and common as Laguna Beach, California.
Coachbuilt, Eye-Popping Design
Mulliner considers the Bacalar to be inspired by Barchetta sports cars, as well as Bentley's earlier EXP 100 GT concept, and the topless two-door definitely is sportier than you'd expect the product of something so old-fashioned as coachbuilding to be. The windshield header is low, and the glass is raked nearly horizontal. There are two low-slung humps trailing behind each of the front seats—there is no rear seat, as in the mainstream Continental GT—and they flow beautifully into a subtle decklid spoiler. The low theme is exaggerated by thin, wide-set taillights and the glowing LED elements extending from each headlight like cat-eye mascara.
Most of the Bacalar's surfacing is simple, with gentle forms and sharply ironed creases doing most of the visual work. Things get a little busier up front, where the designers clearly tried forcing the Bacalar's face into a purposeful scowl; viewed dead-on, the Bentley's hood creases arc toward the grille from above, while dimples formed between the side intakes and a full-width lower intake jut toward the grille from below. This straightforward effect is cluttered slightly by vents above the headlights and a bony spine running down the center of the hood, through the grille, and into the lower intake. Would we call anything about the Bacalar ugly? Not at all, just picking nits because the thing is so damn pretty it's knocking on perfection's door.
Modernity courses through the coachbuilt Mulliner project, highlighted by the carbon fiber used to form the door skins and front fenders and the use of three-dimensional printing in during the car's ideation. To suit the Bacalar's more sporting intent, Mulliner widened the underlying Continental GT's rear track by 20 millimeters, or about 0.2 inch, and fitted 22-inch wheels featuring three separate finishes. The flowing rear deck is pounded out of aluminum, and Mulliner even used a fancy paint trick to partially forgo traditional badging: The Bacalar name lives in the dark-finished lower rear bumper element and is lightly veiled under a "lacquer of sustainable rice husk paint."
Luxury, Sustained Inside as Out
There is no firm end to the exterior or beginning to the interior on the Bacalar. A wraparound cockpit design brings much of the outside in and vice versa. Both occupants sit low in the car, enveloped on all sides by the windshield, rear deck buttresses, and a tall sloped center console. There is a litany of bespoke detailing, from a new style of knurling—essentially, texturing for metal—that adorns the air vents, various steering-wheel and dashboard controls, and speaker grilles to anodized titanium and dark bronze finishes throughout.
Every Bacalar can be extensively personalized, but Mulliner describes at least one as incorporating—for baseline reference—Beluga leather and natural wool upholstery to incredible effect. On the yellow car in the photos, those materials are "Khamun" and Yellow Flame in color. It's enough to make the Alcantara used on the special D-shaped steering wheel and shift lever seem downright uninspired by contrast. Think about it—when each seat's quilting alone requires 148,199 individual stitches to hold together, touching a material found in mainstream performance cars every time you drive the Bacalar seems like a letdown. Instead of Alcantara, we beg Bacalar customers to use their imaginations—why not try llama nostril hair? Or puppy fur?
Or not—faux suede certainly seems more sustainable, and Mulliner makes a big deal about the Bacalar's "sustainable craftsmanship and ethically sourced materials." You're safe for now, llamas. This produces some cool consequences, however: The dashboard features a section cut from open-pore Riverwood, a supposedly sustainable and definitely gorgeous dark wood "from naturally fallen trees that has been preserved for 5,000 years in peat bogs, lakes, and rivers found in the Fenlands of East Anglia, England." While we're sure new trees fall into the peat bogs every day, that's quite the sustainability cycle—we hope Bentley has enough Riverwood for the next 5,000 years.
The wool interior bits, including the Wilton-woven deep-pile carpeting, is as sustainable as a pair of Allbirds Merino wool sneakers, and the paint incorporates the aforementioned rice husk ash, a rice industry byproduct. (Allegedly, this reduces rice husk landfill waste—an issue we heretofore didn't know was a thing.) Look, we'd poke fun at all this "woke" eco-consciousness, but it delivers a compelling visual and tactile experience. Besides, it's a top-down commitment: Bentley's factory in Crewe, where the Bacalar is assembled, is "the world's first certified carbon-neutral factory for luxury car production."
Offsetting all that environmental friendliness in the production process is the Bacalar's twin-turbo 6.0-liter W-12 engine. Spun off of Bentley's twelve-cylinder engine, used in the Continental GT, Bentayga SUV, and Flying Spur sedan, this powerhouse has been boosted to 650 horsepower and 667 lb-ft of torque. It works though an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic to propel the Bacalar's pretty self to performative feats surely similar to those of a Continental GT with the same engine. That two-door's advanced 48-volt electrical system is included, and powers the Bacalar's Dynamic Ride System and its active anti-roll bars. Other modern touches include the Conti's Bentley Rotating Display, a three-sided section of the dashboard that can be flipped to reveal a touchscreen, a trio of analog gauges, or a plain ol' section of blank 5,000-year-old Riverwood.
So, what's stopping you from heading to your local Bentley dealer, asking for the Mulliner special, and packing the Bacalar's custom Shedoni luggage with your wads of cash before peeling out for the nearest sunset cruise? Well, for starters, you need said wads of money to afford one; it seems each Bacalar costs $1.9 million, which isn't anywhere near starter-Bentley, Continental GT dough. Also, Mulliner will produce only 12 Bacalars, and they've all been spoken for. Mulliner is here to stay—as if its 500-year run indicated anything else—and it will be doing more Bacalar-style coachbuilt projects going forward, in addition to special versions of mainstream Bentleys and work on classic models. Think it can't juggle the workload? Hey, it won't be Mulliner's first Renaissance.