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Keith Richards named his “Blue Lena.” Keeping Up With the Kardashians aired an entire episode about Kim Kardashian getting her first. Quavo and Saweetie recently had a custody battle over theirs after breaking up. Jay-Z leaned on one for the album cover of Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life. We’re talking, of course, about Bentleys.
There’s something about the flying B that acts as a magnet for celebrities. Seemingly every A-lister owns (or has owned) one of the luxurious rides, from Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, and Kobe Bryant to Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Ludacris to Robert Downey Jr., Dr. Dre, and Future. You often see the rich and famous hiding out in other high-end cars, but, over all other luxury carmakers, Bentley has a viable claim to the celebrity car of choice.
While they’re handsome status symbols, so are all the other uber-expensive sports and luxury cars out there. So what is it about Bentley that wins the hearts (and hundreds of thousands of dollars) of all of our favorite artists?
With the new Bentayga Extended Wheelbase coming later this year, we went to the Bentley factory in Crewe, England, to find out what all these celebrities are paying for.
Step inside a Bentley and you’ll immediately want to touch everything. The leather is sourced exclusively from bulls, which yield a thicker hide than cows (without any stretching from pregnancy). The bull hide isn’t too special (you can buy bull leather belts on Amazon), but Bentley’s meticulous selection and inspection processes are special: After receiving the leather only from North European bulls, experts check for blemishes or bug bites. Any imperfections and the leather is sent to other manufacturers.
For the dashboard, customers can choose from thousands of material combinations, including rare woods sourced from all over the world and even a real stone veneer. “Material selection is an incredibly complex process,” Bentley’s Head of Interior Architecture, Darren Day, tells Rolling Stone. “Leather, woods, metals, and even stone elements have to combine an often near-impossible set of abilities in order to be included.” Besides looking perfect and abiding by Bentley’s strict eco-responsibility practices, Day says the materials all need to be malleable by hand and resistant to temperature fluctuation and sun exposure.
Combining all these elements — from the veneer material to the leather color to stitching and piping, as well as the exterior paint color — is up to the customer. All told, “there are literally billions of possible ways to configure a Bentley,” Day says, “meaning no two are ever the same. That appeals to our customers around the world.”
But, for a small percentage of the Bentley clientele, the billions of possible design configurations aren’t enough. Here’s where Bentley’s in-house coachbuilder, Mulliner, comes in. “The whole purpose of Mulliner is to allow customers who want to take the personalization of the product and the experience to the next level,” Director of Mulliner & Motorsport at Bentley, Paul Williams, tells Rolling Stone.
And “next level” might be an understatement. “You get some crazy requests,” Williams says. “One of our favorite ones was a customer who arrived with a salt and pepper shaker, and they wanted the exterior of the car to match the salt and pepper shaker.” Of course, Williams and the Mulliner team delivered — after creating an entirely new process of developing paint to match the patina of the customer’s kitchenware.
Williams points out that the hyper-personalization offered by Mulliner is another draw for celebrities: “We get a lot of celebrity customers,” he says. Mulliner (and Bentley at large) are very protective of clients’ privacy, so they can’t tell us any names. “I think one thing that [celebrities] love about working with us is that you can be a little bit more discreet and you can do stuff with Mulliner that’s a bit special. We can offer them time, we can send people to you, as well.”
Another detail you’ll notice in Bentley cockpits is that technology is relatively hidden. There’s a revolving screen nestled in the veneer dashboard, which the driver can choose to interact with using touch controls or analog buttons. “The choice remains in the driver’s hands how much or little he or she wishes to engage at any time,” Day says. “We believe in a perfect blend, without compromise of digital and analog.”
As audiophiles, a highlight of the Bentley experience is the optional Naim for Bentley sound system (a likely selling point for Bentley’s many musician customers). On the 2023 Bentayga SUV, the Naim system encompasses a whopping 20 speakers powered by a 1780-watt, 20-channel amplifier, and will set you back an additional $8,970.
Luckily, you can get a taste of Naim’s quality without buying the Bentley: Check out this Naim for Bentley Mu-so music system. It’s an all-in-one, high-resolution audio system with a Bentley-inspired design that’s meant for your home.
Bentley might be known for cloudlike comfort, but performance is equally important. “With Bentley, you can have Ferrari performance, but in a proper luxury-type of car,” Williams says. The Bentayga Speed, for example, weighs 5,542 pounds and has an optional third row of seats, but claims a 0-60 acceleration in just 3.8 seconds thanks to a W12 engine putting out 626 horsepower. (Check out a review of the first Bentley Bentayga in The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime).
Combine all this — the rare materials, the performance, the blend of tech and analog good looks, and the insane customizability — and you start to understand why so many celebrities opt for a Bentley. “I personally believe that for this type of a market, it’s often around your car as a way of reflecting a little bit what your personality is, or the personality you’d like to put up there,” Williams says. “As people see our cars and as we expand their look and the colors and how you can really personalize, that appeals to people and it enables them to express their personality through what they choose to drive.”
Bentley’s latest is the Bentayga Extended Wheelbase — a longer, even more luxurious version of the brand’s best-selling SUV — launching later this year. Seven inches are added between the axles, translating to substantially more legroom.
The EWB also gets an Airline Seat option, which turns the rear seats into first-class thrones capable of reclining up to 40 degrees. Once the EWBs are on the road, we won’t be surprised to catch Drake, Rihanna, or any other A-lister napping in the back.