If owners can’t drive their Bacalar in the rain, that’s a minor issue. You can rest assured, people who can afford to buy this $2 million car have others they can get wet.
The lack of a roof gave Bentley designers a kind of freedom they rarely get when it comes to figuring out where to hide a bent top and installing unsightly latching mechanisms.
“When you don’t have a roof, you can let the flow of the cabin into the contour of the exterior. So it’s a lot about car design language,” said Bentley spokesman Tim Hannig, who accompanied me on the drive. “And we wanted to create something of extraordinary beauty. Hence, no ceiling.”
Only a dozen baklars will be made. With so few being built, and at that kind of price, the Bacalar is, essentially, a privately owned concept car. However, unlike most concept cars, it is street legal.
No one could give an exact price for the Bacalar I was driving because it was, literally, priceless. “Car Zero,” as it was written extensively on the side, is the prototype Buckler, and Bentley has no plans to sell it. It was painted white for testing so that any potential cracks or defects in the body were more easily visible, and was recently repainted a deep sea green.
The all-wheel-drive Buckler has a turbocharged 650-horsepower 12-cylinder engine, but it’s not intended to be a street-shredding high-performance sports car. Customers who want that sort of thing can shop at Lamborghini, Bentley’s sister-brand. (Both are owned by the Volkswagen Group.)
With its smooth ride, comfortable seats and ample trunk space, the Bacalar is designed for the kind of car that anyone can drive each day, even if one probably won’t.
Hannig told me about the car He drove us to the side of the road on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, while the heavy clouds remained, the rain had stopped. And, for good measure, he pressed the gas pedal hard several times, causing brutal acceleration and a sonic rumble from the huge engine.
As I waited for my chance to drive, I introduced myself to the Bucklar’s unique interior. The wood trim comes from a tree that fell in a wetland 5,000 years ago and was preserved there in a process that also stained it almost black. Bentley left the color alone. The analog clock in the center of the dashboard is pale blue, the color of Lake Bacaller in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Its water is famous for its shimmering color.
The Bacalar gets a three-way rotating panel in the dashboard, a feature that is also available in other Bentley models including the Continental GT. One side is “blank”, which looks like the rest of the dashboard. but at the press of a button the panel Can flip around to show three old-fashioned dials, including the compass. Flip the panel over again and it shows a digital display screen like the one in almost every car these days. There you can see a navigation map, choose a song to play and do all the things that drivers do with the screen.
About the only other interior piece shared by Buckler with the Bentley Continental GT is a panel of switches near the gear selector. This is largely due to the panel, which is open to the world, which houses the air conditioning. According to Hannig, it was better to keep the wasted feature than to redesign the Switch panel and remove the buttons.
The emphasis on design also means that the Backler doesn’t have a backup camera, even though there is a screen in the dashboard. Adding that feature would require a camera lens that, the designers realized, would add an unsightly glass grain to the beautifully designed rear end of the car. Luckily, thanks to its four-wheel steering, the Buckler was able to easily make a U-turn so I could exit the overlooked little parking lot.
Bacalar is not immediately eye-catching from the outside. For most people, it would probably register as “a good Bentley.” Just look for a moment and you notice how the headlights are spread out around the front corners. You can also look at the hood scoops or the overall proportions of the car. The buckler is short and muscular, with bulges on the back of each seat. As it progresses, you will certainly notice that the back end splits into layers like a flower bud.
From the driver’s seat, the Bacalar feels like a quintessential Bentley. Strong and fast, but comfortable. The steering has a good feel and responsiveness and the engine delivers ample and good sound power.
But Bacalar customers are not paying for the performance. They are paying for the unique design of the car, which gives them something they can call their own. Hannig told me that all 12 Bacaller production cars are now designed for each customer’s particular taste.
“Every car has its own complete personality,” he said.
Despite the hefty price tag, a car like this may make a reasonable investment because of its extreme rarity, said Donald Osborne, collector, car appraiser, and head of Rhode Island’s Audren Auto Museum. The fact that it has no roof may limit its long-term appeal, however, he said.
There are other cars one can spend this kind of money on and get an absurd level of speed and power that most owners will never come close to being able to enjoy. Bacalar offers just its beauty and its uniqueness. It’s also nice enough to drive on a pleasant day by the sea. It might be a bit impractical, but it’s nice when a very expensive car offers such accessible pleasures.