Motoring and Property Editor
12:48 PM 17th January 2020
Bentley Motors – A Factory Tour
‘The new Flying Spur’
A visit to the Bentley factory in Crewe is definitely something to look forward to. Home to the British car maker since 1946, the company employs 4,200 people, all charged with producing some of the finest cars in the world.
Keen to promote their green credentials, I learnt that the factory is carbon neutral with 60% of its electricity coming from solar panels in the car park.
'Ironing the creases out'
Our guide for the morning was a former trim shop employee of many years standing and he delighted in showing off the factory to a receptive audience of journalists.
The leather shop was our first port of call where we learnt that each hide is traceable back to its farm of origin. Most come from Scandinavia where barbed wire is seldom used, thus decreasing the chances of imperfections in the hides.
Machines cut the leather precisely and any usable offcuts are shipped to China where they will be made into fashion items.
A Continental will need 8 or 9 hides, whereas the considerably larger Mulsanne will absorb 15 to 17 of the finest skins. Over 2,000 hides are required every week.
'The choice of wood'
There is a choice of 128 colours, so there should be something for even the most discerning owner. Good taste is the order of the day, so nothing too lurid is on offer.
No Bentley would be complete without a smattering of wood and that area of the factory was where we headed next. The veneer storage room impressed with some £700,000 worth of the very finest burr walnut pieces in stock. For every tree felled, another three are planted.
Last stop on our whistle-stop tour was the main production line itself. A Continental will take 2 days to pass down the line, whereas the Mulsanne requires 5 or 6 days of tender loving care to complete.
‘W12 and V8 engines awaiting installation’
The engaging workforce were happy to stop what they were doing to explain their tasks in detail, before giving a quick demonstration. Although much of the line is automated, a Bentley still requires plenty of human skill to create, as witnessed by the hand stitching of the steering wheel and the forming of the wooden dashboard.
The staff we met seemed happy in their work and many had followed in the family tradition and were second or third generation employees.
Hand stitching a steering wheel’
As our tour ended, Bentley made the announcement that production of the Mulsanne was to cease this spring after some ten years. In its place would be the third generation of the Flying Spur.
This super saloon lays claim to be the world’s fastest four-door saloon car, with a top speed of 207mph. It does all this whilst cocooning its occupants in the most luxurious interior imaginable. ‘A performance saloon in a luxury suit’, said the Bentley PR representative – hard to argue with that.
My visit to Bentley was part of an organised trip with the Northern Group of Motoring Writers, of which I am currently chairman. We were therefore able to spend a little time behind the wheel.
My Bentley for the afternoon was a Continental GT finished in a delightful shade of light sapphire blue.
Bentley Continental GT V8
550PS V8 engine
0-60 in 3.9 seconds
Top speed 198mph
Combined economy 23.9mpg
Emissions 268g/km CO2
The latest V8 engine is both supremely powerful, yet wonderfully refined. Performance is effortless, the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifting almost imperceptibly between ratios.
The roads were awash, so I was grateful for all-wheel drive traction.
A quick blast up the M6 showed the GT to be an excellent and refined motorway cruiser and yet on some of the twister sections of the test route, the car proved to be most accomplished.
‘The Continental GT’
Ride comfort is excellent, though a few low speed lumps and bumps can be felt. Of course it is possible to firm the suspension up to improve handling, but this introduced an air of harshness to the ride quite out of keeping with the luxury car experience.
Much better to relax, turn up the high-quality sound system and watch the miles speed by.
All too soon time behind the wheel was over and I was soon heading home. Time to reflect on an excellent and informative day.
Factory tours are available to prospective owners and the general public, though there is a minimum age of 16. Just £30 is all that is asked and for the car enthusiast I would suggest that is money well spent.
Places are limited so telephone 01270 507696 to secure yours.