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Sitting atop the luxury food chain along with Rolls-Royce, Bentley is a British automaker with a troubled history. But that seems to be behind the Crewe-based outfit, which has thrived in recent years under the control of the Volkswagen AG. After nearly eight decades of dependence on Rolls, which actually bought Bentley after the Great Depression, Bentley is once again making unique models. The Continental has been a huge hit, and the Mulsanne, the first true Bentley introduced after the VW partnership, is challenging Rolls on its own terms. For shieks, moguls, and rich posers around the world, it's a much-sought-after brand.

Though the factory in Crewe is as modern and automated as any car plant in the world, Bentley prides itself on the "bespoke" nature of its cars, with every detail handcrafted by England's finest artisans. Every Bentley is custom-made, with clients getting to hand-select all the features, from the wood grain to the type of leather to the exterior paint color. No request is too outrageous as long as the customer can meet the price. The engines are more standard, but very powerful. The Continental now comes with a V8 for the first time, though purists can still get the famed 6-liter W12. A "Speed" trim gives the illusion that the driver is some sort of professional racer. All three variants come available in coupe or convertible form. Bentley has also reintroduced the Flying Spur, dormant since 2005, to its lineup, to appeal to young nouveau-riche customers and to its rapidly-growing Chinese clientele. It drips with power and luxury. But those all pale in comparison with the hyper-aspirational Mulsanne, with a 6 3/4 liter V8 and leather sourced from free-range cows. Along with the Rolls-Royce Phantom, it is the standard-bearer for those who like to be chauffeured. A Bentley SUV is in the works. Details have yet to be revealed, but it will certainly be large, elegant, and full of the finest amenities, an off-roader for the one percent of the one percent.
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