Sir has arrived - in the Bentley Brooklands

James Martin knows how to turn heads - but it helps if you're at the wheel of a £230,000 Bentley Brooklands

Never, ever, have I felt as bloody important as I do in this thing. You're looking at a quarter of a million pounds of pure British luxury, and I've never sat in anything quite like it. It turns heads. People assume you're a hedge-fund super- villain, but from the inside, you couldn't care less. Sitting behind a 6.75-litre, hand-built, 530bhp twin-turbocharged engine, you breeze through the capital's congestion zone laughing at ex-mayor Ken Livingstone as you use your personal Bentley phone in the arm rest to pay the £8 charge. Pah, like £8 really matters… I could dig out more in loose change from the back of those hand-stitched, quilted leather seats.

  James Martin and the Bentley Brooklands

James Martin and the Bentley Brooklands

As I tuned the radio to something wafty on Classic FM, I realised how lucky I am.

I get to drive some of the best cars in the world. Some average ones, too, but moments like this are to be savoured.

Normally when I get to London, I park the car and get an early night ready for Saturday Kitchen. But not this Friday. I went for a drive. Nowhere special – just cruising around enjoying the Bentley experience.

I found myself near Piccadilly Circus at around 10:30pm, just as Grease the musical was kicking out. The traffic was awful, and in any other car you’d be screaming out of the window at the theatre groupies blocking the road. But not tonight. I sat there as happy as Max Mosley in a gimp mask.

Opening my double-glazed window using the handmade chrome button, I watched them all crowding round the stage door, programmes and pens at the ready, when one of them squawked, ‘That’s James Martin, that is!’ Without taking her eye off the stage door, her mate replied, ‘Nah, he’s not that successful to own a car like that.’ ‘Not that good a chef,’ said a third.

bentley brooklands

‘It is him,’ said a bloke, ‘and he must be doing something right. That car’s the thick end of a million quid.’

Not quite that much, but thank you, sir, I thought as I drove off. Not that I needed his back-up. To be honest, I was in a world of my own, and carried on driving for another couple of hours, lost in pure pleasure. It was well after midnight when I got back to the hotel and sat down with a smile on my face to start writing this.

So where do I begin? Well, let’s start with the name. Brooklands in Surrey was one of the world’s first purpose-built racing circuits, a three-mile-long banked oval laid out by a land-owning motor enthusiast to give British manufacturers somewhere to test their cars.

That was in 1907 – this car celebrates the centenary – but it was in the Twenties and Thirties that Bentley made Brooklands famous, with a series of record-breaking lap times by British boys in Bentley Speed Sixes and supercharged Blowers – basically gigantic engines with a wheel on each corner.

Interior of the Bentley Brooklands

Interior of the Bentley Brooklands


That was real racing – no seatbelts, no crash barriers, a proper man’s sport – and Bentleys have been serious cars ever since. They’ve never been cheap, which weeds out the boy racers, they’re less midlife-crisis-y than Ferraris, more discerning than Rollers… All in all, the ‘winged B’ is about as desirable as cars get.

I had the firm’s Continental GT coupé on order – a beautiful car, with an awesome 6.0-litre W12 engine – but I started to go off it when every player in the Premiership got one. I cancelled my order when I saw Kerry Katona driving one.

There’s a happy ending, though, because the Brooklands is the car nobody else can have. They’re only making 550, and most of those are already spoken for. At twice the price of the GT, it’s more than twice the car, even just in terms of pure acreage.

What’s more, the entire cavernous interior is encased in leather from the ceiling to the dashboard – it’s the only car in the world with this level of trim.

Hand-built in Crewe, no two Brooklands will be alike. You can choose from 27 different hides, four types of wood and countless paint schemes – and if that’s not enough, you can use Bentley’s bespoke service to match the whole lot to your favourite suit, or the wife’s handbag.

It boasts the biggest rear cabin of any coupé in the world, with rear seats that are fully adjustable just like the front ones, all hand-stitched leather with optional logos on the headrests.

Not even the best Aston or Ferrari can match the workmanship in here: the gleaming cabinetry looks like it was done by Thomas Chippendale. All the knobs are highly polished ‘knurled’ chrome, as are the air-conditioning vents, which seem to waft you with better air than you’re used to breathing. Despite all this, though, my favourite piece of work is under the bonnet: a massive 6.75-litre V8 block signed by its maker, one P A Titley.

I’ll tell you now, Titley’s a genius. This imperial palace of a car does 0–60mph in five seconds and tops out at 184mph, thanks to the highest torque output of any production V8 on Earth. The phrase ‘grand tourer’ isn’t grand enough, ‘supercar’ isn’t super enough… It’s the perfect car for a trip to Tesco (yep, I did that, too).

In a world full of gimmicks, with hybrid this and hydrogen that, thank God Bentley has stuck to its guns and simply made its best even better. Everyone will want one. Hardly anyone will get one. But I know that from inside one of these, nothing else in the world matters. I’m going on the list. 

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