Rear-door inserts handcrafted from a single block of American Walnut or American Cherry
BY MARK MAYNARD
Wood is an organic element that adds natural warmth in an inorganic mode of transportation — but not all wood is equal. The ultraluxury car segment has long been a purveyor of unique wood veneers for vehicle interiors. And the types of woods used by some makers, such as Rolls-Royce, are archived, catalogued and identified by the vehicle, make and model. When a repair is needed, the core of archived wood can be used to make repairs.
The woods used are often bookmatched so the adjoining surfaces mirror each other, giving the impression of an opened book. To highlight the graining, many makers have sought distinction by offering the patina of aged timber or salvaged lumber from trees that had been submerged. Even the Ram pickup had a wood option that showed damage from barbed wire. Some makers have worked silver powder into the pores as a highlight.
In less-luxurious applications, the wood is sometimes a photograph or plastic representation. But because safety standards for wood trim require it to be so completely treated to avoid splintering in a collision, even the genuine article can look like saturated plastic.
Now, Bentley is offering what it calls a ground-breaking three-dimensional wood trim, designed for the rear door panels. It is a world-first for the automotive sector, Bentley says, and is now available in the all-new Flying Spur grand-touring sedan.
The diamond-shaped pattern is enhanced with a three-dimensional surface finish machined directly into the wood.
The three-dimensional wood works well in the back seat, Bentley says, because the rear doors have an especially large surface to showcase the level of craftsmanship. And the open-pore veneer would potentially clash with the smooth high-gloss veneer used in the front-seat area.
“Typically, ultra-luxurious and expensive features such as this are most appreciated in the rear cabin, particularly important for those who may choose to be driven rather than drive,” Bentley said.
The new veneer option from the Bentley Mulliner “Collections” is a design statement, “bringing tactility to the natural beauty of wood,” Brett Boydell, Bentley’s head of interior design for the Flying Spur, said in a release.
Each rear door and quarter panel is crafted from a single block of sustainable American Walnut or American Cherry timber, “in a harmonious marriage of traditional skills and modern technology,” Boydell said.
The U.S. option package is $13,270.
Roots of the wood
The concept for 3D-machined wood was first shown in Bentley’s EXP 10 Speed 6 concept at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015. The design was inspired by the diamond-quilted leather used in the Mulliner Driving Specification interior.
Developing the three-dimensional wood took 18 months by expert technical craftsmen to bring the complex concept to reality.
The organic 3D parts are not made using veneers, as is typically applied to the fascia and waist rails. Instead, each is created from a single block of timber, Boydell said. Operators carve the wood with a multi-axis routing machine to a tolerance of 0.1mm, less than the thickness of a human hair.
The cuts are then hand-finished and an open-pore lacquer is applied to allow the true color and texture of the wood to preserve a refined, natural appearance.
The back or “B surface” of the log is machined to match a die-cast aluminum door-panel template. The plank of wood is then bonded to the template and then the assembly is placed back into the machine and the front or “A surface” is cut into its three-dimensional form.
The American Walnut and American Cherry timber are sustainably sourced from North American hardwood forests, Boydell said. Only logs with no knots or resin inclusions through the depth of the wood are used.
American Walnut is one of the most sought-after species of wood in markets around the world, he said. “It is darker than European Walnut, as well as tough, hard and of medium density. American Cherry is highly prized for furniture and interior joinery — the wood finish varies from rich red to reddish brown.”
The new Flying Spur
The all-new Flying Spur grand-touring sedan is rich in limousine-style comfort and a benchmark of innovative technologies. It is hand-assembled in Crewe, England, at the world’s first carbon neutral luxury car factory, Boydell said.
The third-generation Flying Spur (the four-door variant of the Bentley Continental GT coupé) is built on a new aluminum and composite chassis and features electronic all-wheel steering for the first time in a Bentley. The system integrates active all-wheel drive and Bentley Dynamic Ride, which the company says is the “world’s first 48-volt electric anti-roll system to deliver phenomenal handling and ride.”
New, three-chamber air springs offer a greater range of suspension adjustment between limousine-style ride comfort and sporting levels of body control. It allows the Flying Spur a breadth of capability not seen in the luxury segment before, Bentley says.
At the heart of the Flying Spur is an enhanced version of Bentley’s 626-horsepower, 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W-12 engine. Its 664 foot-pounds of torque are channeled through the dual-clutch eight-speed transmission for faster, which was updated for eve smoother gear changes. The new direct-injected engine can launch the 5,400-pound sedan to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, Bentley says, and has a top speed of 207 mph.
The redesigned 2020 Flying Spur has a starting price of about $215,000.