One is a German designed, developed and built super luxury sedan the other is a German designed, developed and British super luxury sedan. Or as we British like to say… saloon. One is a German vision of corporate elitism aimed at extremely high net worth individuals, the other is a German vision of corporate elitism aimed at extremely high net worth individuals.
One is British, the other is German paradoxically both are owned by ‘ze’ Germans. You and I know them as Mercedes and Bentley. As you may well know Bentley is owned by the Volkswagen Group, the Continental GT was the first car to be made under the detailed eye of its German overlords.
Before Bentley was taken over by VW in 1998 it’s fair to say that the company was living on borrowed time. Bentley came into life as the British Empire was in decline. But in the mind set of little Englanders the sun never set on the Empire.
For these little Englanders the Empire was still alive and well in mind and spirit and Bentley Motors was the last vestige of Empire, a car that made you proud to be British. However back in 1998 Bentley was like the crumbling façade in the last days of Empire.
Thank King and Country for the German’s, we’ll skip past the first half of the 20th Century because you see Germany became the bad boys of Europe for a while because it wanted to emulate itself on the British Empire. That’s why 1940 was a very bad year.
Anyway this isn’t a poor history lesson we’re here to talk cars. Or are we. You see the German car manufactures have never understood us Brits and how we can do high end, luxury cars so well. They have tried and failed to out do Bentley and Rolls Royce.
You see it’s not about superior engineering, it’s about that something else. I think it’s called flair and you can’t manufacture flair because it is a natural by-product of instinctive thinking. The British have flair in abundance we just don’t exploit as well as the Germans.
That’s why when Bentley and Rolls Royce were sold both VW and BMW wanted a slice of that Britishness. So what we have today is kind of like proto-British entity in Bentley. Bentley today is a German vision of Britishness.
The Continental GT is basically a VW Phaeton, no one wanted a dull German vision of German genericness in the form of a four door luxury sedan. But re-engineer the Phaeton as a Bentley Continental GT and there you have, the rest is history.
The Mercedes tried to emulate what we Brits can do so well when they resurrected the super luxury Maybach brand. The Germans wanted to recreate that British effortless luxury motoring with a hint of rock and roll. But the 1997 Maybach had an instant image problem. In that it had no image at all. It lacked flair and used components from the A Class.
The Maybach had an additional image problem, it was a German vision of German success a finely cut suit with oversized shoulder pads and wide double-breasted lapels. It was embarrassing. And so were the sales. That’s why Mercedes ended production of the Maybach in 2013.
However the Maybach name lives on as an S Class derivative, and Mercedes have done what Germans always do in times of defeat, to borrow a bit of British flair and inject it into the S Class Maybach. They just can’t help themselves can they.
Perhaps Mercedes borrowed a little too much because side by side the S Class Maybach looks very similar to the Bentley Flying Spur. If you really want luxury automotive German flair at its best then we wouldn’t go for the S Class Maybach. We would go for the only German luxury sedan worth going for and that’s why our choice would be the Bentley Flying Spur.