As an automotive journalist who recently turned 30, sometimes I feel like I got into this business too late. «If only I were born a decade or two earlier,» I’d lament to myself. «If only I did this job when the E46 CSL was new,» I’d catch myself thinking. «Imagine being at the launch of the 996 GT3,» I’d fantasize. «Or having an original NSX as a press loan.» But then cars like the 2023 Bentley Batur come along and convince me that I entered this racket at just the right time.
You see, despite it costing $2 million before tax, being limited to just 18 units (which are all sold, bee-tee-dubs), and each taking up to six months to build, there’s yet another Exclusivity Fact in the Bentley Batur’s cap: it uses the most powerful version of the Volkswagen Group’s W12 engine that will ever be made. Yes, the double-V 12-cylinder is being discontinued next year after all of the 740-horsepower, Batur-bound examples have been built. It’s a relic, for sure, and perhaps the sort of relic that will age questionably, making future, more environmentally conscious generations go, «Ew, why?»
But I’d be lying if I said I’m not glad to catch the W12 just as it sings its seemingly omnipotent swansong. The Bentley Batur is fabulously mighty, fabulously expensive, and the perfect sendoff for one hell of an internal combustion engine.
2023 Bentley Batur Specs
- Base price: ~$2 million
- Powertrain: 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 | 8-speed dual-clutch automatic | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 740 @ 5,500 rpm
- Torque: 738 lb-ft @ 1,750 to 5,000 rpm
- Seating capacity: 2
- 0-60 mph: 3.3 seconds
- Top speed: 209 mph
- Quick take: Peak W12, peak grand tourer.
- Score: 9/10
Let’s start with that name. What is a Batur? As of this writing, the top Google result is still a volcano in Bali, but in terms of automobiles, the Batur is Bentley’s most powerful car yet. Six liters, two new turbos, a new intercooler, and a new intake add up to 740 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph takes 3.3 seconds and the car tops out at 209. It also shares chief chassis components with the refinedly rowdy Continental GT Speed albeit with a slightly wider rear track and weighing almost 90 pounds less thanks to a rear-seat delete and carbon body parts.
Speaking of the body, the Batur’s coachbuilt-by-Mulliner shell is practically all new. In fact, the only exterior panel that’s shared with the Continental is the windshield. A lower, more upright grille sits in between teardrop/wing-shaped headlights, the rear end sort of looks like a personal alien space vehicle, and its 22-inch wheels are unique to this car. If you happen to be fortunate enough to come across Bentleys on a regular basis, get used to this design language because the company says this is the look that will take it into the EV era.
The inside of the Batur is fundamentally the same as it is in the Conti, except here, the opulence is cranked up to 11. Body-matching paint on the door cards fades out from front to rear while a special natural carbon composite (a supposedly more sustainable alternative to carbon fiber) covers the center console. And etched into the dash in front of the passenger is the 12-cylinder engine’s audio signature.
Just like in other Bentleys, all of the buttons and knobs are a clicky, tactile joy to operate while the touchscreen spins around at the touch of a button to reveal physical gauges. This cabin’s figurative and literal centerpiece, however, would probably be the drive mode dial that’s made of 3D-printed, 18-karat gold.
Grand Tourer Supreme
Press the engine start button that’s ensconced in said dial and the W12 barks to life with an oily, refined-yet-ferocious titanium exhaust purr. Snaking it down the driveway of the six-star resort you happen to be staying in, all of the Batur’s inputs exhibit a satisfying, leather-bound substantialness, especially the steering. It’s a quick, precise, and sumptuously hefty rack that isn’t completely numb or insulated. Guiding this car around both tight mountain roads and through sweeping highway bends feels luxuriously trivial—not a bad thing as I don’t even dare imagine the bill that comes with scuffing a $2 million car’s paint against a barrier or rogue curb.
Just like the Continental GT that this car calls its base, the Batur is a supremely good grand tourer. Three-chamber air suspension and a 48-volt active anti-roll system keep things smooth and comfortable as do the disturbingly comfortable seats that are heated, ventilated, massaging, and a shape I feel like I could sit in for literal days.
The handling, ride, and general on-road demeanor are well and good, but like an emerald in a sea of diamonds, the highlight of the Bentley Batur driving experience is arguably its engine.
It’s a W12 Thing
I’m fairly certain I’ve driven smoother, mightier engines than this W12 before, but I can’t seem to recall what they are at the moment. I love how it sounds—it’s a sophisticated, trebly, unique noise—I love how impossibly smooth it is, and, of course, I love how it lets you absolutely gap motherfuckers like little else. Highway passes are a mere thought away, and in Sport mode, it’ll even do some subtle burbles on upshift and accelerator liftoff.
Batur naturally excels at doing the grand tourer thing of making 110 mph feel more like 75 and, by this engineering prototype’s own admission, speeds that exceed what the tire pressures can safely handle arrive alarmingly easily. Thankfully, carbon silicon carbide brakes slow the Batur down valiantly and with little drama.
Oppressively quick, well-balanced, and exceedingly smooth, the Bentley Batur is hands down one of the most complete and satisfying cars I have ever driven. (As it very well should be, given that seven-figure price tag.) But it also has an unmistakable, unquestionable Bentley-ness in its drive that more pedestrian members of its family can’t match. The Flying Spur sedan and Bentayga SUV, as wonderful as they are, still drive with a slight whiff of «Volkswagen dressed for a wedding.» The $2 million Batur thankfully does not.
Despite it being a nimbler coupe, the Batur feels statelier than those cars, simultaneously creamier and more granite-like somehow. And, it has to be said, that zenith-grade 6.0-liter W12 is enough to make this car an exceptional machine that transcends the humble roots of its parent company all by itself—ironic given that it is, at its core, two VR6s slapped together.
The Batur feels special not necessarily on the back of the coachbuilt Mulliner bodywork, funky paint tricks, or gold switchgear (although those things don’t hurt its case) but on the back of its sheer quality and competence as, y’know, a car.
Given its rarity and price, though, the Bentley Batur will very likely be one of those cars that exists mainly as a collectors’ item rather than a driving machine. A Wall Street hedge fund magnate’s four-wheeled trophy. The latest in a long line of shiny, motorized conversation pieces for a wealthy sheik in Dubai. A career milestone and pinned Instagram post for some spoiled hack of a car blogger. That sort of thing.
Strip away the flakey purple paint and the gold vent pins and the brain-melting price, though, and the Batur remains quite a special machine. It is one the grandest grand tourers to ever exist, a surprisingly adept canyon cleaver, and a vessel for the ultimate version of an all-time great gas engine.
The Batur previews Bentley’s future through its design while its engineering represents the best of everything the brand stood for in its past. It exists as a marked turning point in Bentley’s history and is a car that—like that Ford F-150 Raptor R we recently tested—could only really have been built at this very moment in time. And you know what? I’m hella glad to have been born late enough to savor it.
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