Reflections On Chrome IV: Bentley Continental

It’s not often a Bentley parks anywhere near me. Look what I found.

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For a car costing as much as this one, this is not very good. It’s not as if the car is especially visually busy. It is a two-door car so there is not much going on to distract one from this kind of cheap detailing. Now you can accuse me of petty jealousy. However, I don’t aspire to this kind of car. Even if I had millions more pennies in my bank account than I actually did, I still wouldn’t want to drive something this wide and this uninteresting.

I think expensive cars have the potential to use more costly and difficult solutions in the pursuit of artistic excellence. There are elements of this car that are indeed miles beyond what is possible on a €10,000 car. However, none are as visible as these two joints on the chrome window surround. Not one but two joints. I have seen far cheaper cars do this kind of thing in one piece. It’s not easy to believe production limitations related to the laws of physics prevented a one-piece strip of chrome.

2011 Jeep Cherokee chrome detail with line

Looking at the rest of the car’s exterior I saw nothing that would surprise the owner of a Ford Mondeo or, glossy of glossies, the Opel Insignia. When one pays as much as one does for a car like this, such infelicities as those two mean little joints really jar. You get a better level of finish on a Jeep.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

13 thoughts on “Reflections On Chrome IV: Bentley Continental”

  1. That is a big let down, especially in light of your piece on the Kia Pro Ceed the other day. That said, the Continental is more of a series production vehicle than any Bentley that has gone before, averaging 5,000 sales even on a bad year. And let’s face it, most of the money is spent on the interior, which is still one of the best in the business.

  2. Agreed it doesn’t look good, though I guess there are secondary considerations. Apart from ease of manufacture, insurance companies have (quite correctly) encouraged manufacturers to think more about ease of repair. Fitting a costly one piece chrome trim during manufacture is one thing. Having to remove and refit it as part of a bodywork repair is another.

    1. If you have to ask the price then you can´t afford it: is it not possible there were a dozen other ways to save the cost involved to make this a one-piece item? One can safely assume all the other companies who used one peice items, among them Audi, no less, managed to strike a better compromise. I can see lots of very good, quite pragmatic reasons to justify such a little bit of penny-pinching but in principle a Bentley manifests its owners freedom from financial gravity. The philosophy is one of “the best possible and the best practical” That means Bentley don´t have to make parts of our gold just to bump up the price, for example. If Audi can manage a smooth, one peice bit of chrome trim on an A4 or A6 then Bentley can. Bentley either needed to raise the price of the car a little or else to make something else less visible a bit less good (and nobody would have known). This kind of thing makes one wonder where else they actually did save money on this car.

  3. For the sake of argument , what if they said it’s a higher-than-standard grade of chrome (super-shiny and highly resistant to corrosion), and it doesn’t lend itself to one-piece manufacturing, would it make it more acceptable?

  4. This is a textbook case of the difference between real and perceived quality. Before, a premium price meant you got a premium product, you could actually see and touch where the money went, as the money went into making it into a higher order of standard. There was a noticeable difference in premium and non-premium products.

    Today, there are no difference in quality between products, everything is made to more or less the same standard. And the Bentley Continental is just a VW Phaeton in drag, there is no difference in quality between them, only price. The premium of the premium product is brand cachet all the way, and what people are paying for is the brand and not the product. The premium price is just vaporware and brag factor all the way.

    When the Mercedes S-Class has gooseneck boot hinges, when the Bentley Continental have visible trim seams, when the Rolls-Royce Wraith don’t have seamless A-posts, you know this is the case.

    1. Thanks for that. You know, every time I think of this Continental I can’t help thinking of the Opel Insignia. What I mean is that the Insignia has a more lush and lovely air about it than the Bentley. To be sure the Bentley has a V8 and a higher top speed yet nothing about the way it looks conveys the 10-fold price difference. I can’t use the 180 mph performance and the lavish interior is not well-designed enough. The Phaeton is more convincing than this vehicle. More realistically, a Volvo S80 is more usefully and visibly nicer than this car. Between the Opel and the Volvo I’d have a hard time choosing but the Conti I would have no problem rejecting: visible seams, flimsy-looking body work and a brash interior. Nej tak.

    1. Really? Maybe you´d like to add some insight and enlighten us.
      With respect I think we do know something. Maybe you mean we don´t know it all.
      That I can´t deny.
      With respect to this Bentley, I have seen the same type of brightwork done with one piece and so it can be done. Bentlyey chose not to do it. Audi can and Kia can.
      I look forward to your reply.

  5. Hi Richard. Apologies for the arrogance. I am an expert when it comes to Bentley believe me. And the reason for the 3 piece bright ware is not to save cost. It was actually much more expensive to create 3 sections rather than one.
    Due to the nature of the trim in the roof line, and the super close rear drop glass. The sliding forks (adjustable due to hand built nature) that retain the bright-ware are required to locate Up-into the bodywork, Back-into the bodywork and Down-into the bodywork. Per piece, if you can visualise what I mean. The forks themselves are about 60mm long. Meaning a one piece chrome plated metal strip would not be able to be “stretched” in 3 directions at the same time. Impossible. Now, the reason behind using the adjustable forks is to “drag” the bright-ware into place. Is to eliminate low spots and creases caused by simple push style clips used by lesser brands. Welding clip mounts distorts the piece too much. They can get away with it when their chrome is actually painted plastic. It’s more forgiving. I hope this makes sense 👍

    1. Hi JP: this reminds me of David Pye and his point that every design is in some way a failure. He means that every design is a compromise of some sort. Many are the compromises needed on something like a car.
      Every part of the car that is pushed to be the best it can be presumably either adds to the cost or takes budget from somwhere else. A designer and the managers need to judge where to say “this is important it gets priority” and where one says, “no, we draw the line here because we are endangering something else.”.
      Speaking with my designer´s hat on (I am trained as and have worked as such and teach this in a third level institution) I would want to ask this: so what would you have to do to avoid a chrome piece with a split. It is possible but something has to give and I guss Bentley said nfw to the consequences of a single piece of chrome. From your explanation the trim in the roof and the distance to the rear drop glass are the hard parameters. Is it the case the the “problem” with the chrome turned up late in the design process by which time it was impossibe to fix it on cost/time grounds?

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