What It’s Like To Buy A $200K Bentley In 2014

The car maker’s design initiative hinges on “techno-lux” and it only costs $200,000.

There are 1.4 billion ways to customize a Bentley. I just sorted through all of them in less than an hour, and so can you.


Right now, in conjunction with NYCxDesign, Bentley is hosting a pop up studio in New York’s Meatpacking neighborhood. Until Saturday, May 24, you can (by appointment) commission a bespoke Bentley design, with a new, guided, interactive experience.

Owning a Bentley has been a mark of luxury since the company launched in the early 20th century. Now the car maker wants to update their regal image. Their design initiative is to give their clients “techno-lux”–the ability to create an accommodating, cozy office out of your car’s backseat. Along with the usual trappings like privacy screens and a refrigerator for beverages, new Bentley backseats now have iPads embedded in tray tables that fold out with the push of a button. These features are meant to appeal to the Jony Ives of the world (Ives, incidentally, has one) by creating an experience that is both seamless and intensely personal. The new Bentley Studio is all about how you arrive at that design.

When I walk into the pop up studio, a concierge greets me and asks me to pick one of three plastic key cards. I choose one with a marbled wood-grain print, and step towards a kiosk with a screen. Stock images–of sailboats, piano keys, bourbon and cigars, hanging gardens, eyelids coated in gold makeup, and so on–rotate on the screen. Whenever one appeals to me, I tap my card on the screen.

Twenty fantasy-glitz images later, I am now sitting in front of a giant, curved screen. Those pictures I chose have been reconceived as a short series of graphics that function like mood boards: They reveal that my taste (in cars, at least) leans more towards serenity than it does adrenaline. My palate includes a light blue, a bright green, a burnt orange, and a milky off-white. I zoom in and out of the graphics by waving my hand over a Leap Motion controller. If for some reason I don’t like the color output, I can go put more images on my card.

Then I go talk to Nigel, a product and interior designer. He’s manning the analog portion of the Bentley studio experience. His booth has sheet-sized swatches of leather, drawers of puck-sized color samples (for the car body), and a drawing board with colored pastels mixed together. If a client ends up with color samples for their interior or the dash (or any other part of the car) they don’t like, Nigel can adapt them into more palatable shades. (To wit, one man came in and wound up with neon pinks and oranges in his mood board. Naturally, he didn’t want neon pink stitching in his Bentley, so Nigel blended and darkened it, into a burgundy tone.)

Finally, after you’ve whirled through all those images, with just a plastic key card as your passport, you end up at a screen. You are looking at a fully realized rendering of your custom Bentley. And a $200,000 bill.


About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.