The Bentley Brand Is Now All About ‘Automotive Wellness’ And There’s Science Behind It But It Still Kinda Makes You Want To Puke

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I get that the whole point of most really expensive luxury cars is to be incredibly comfortable, and to make the owners feel like they’re, you know, worth it, somehow. Bentley seems to have done a lot of research and realized that the best way to take money from rich people is to really go all the fuck in on the concept of making people sultan-levels of comfortable by throwing every bit of expensive materials at them and cramming as much technology into a car to absolutely banish all of the noisy chaos of the world and replace it with a soothing, fancy-smelling womb and then using terms like “Wellbeing Behind The Wheel” to give it that special Goop.com cachet until we’re all jamming jade eggs up our hoo-has. Bentley is calling this new focus its “Azure Range,” so let’s see if we can figure out what the hell they’re going on about.

Bentley released a video about the new range, calling it “the launch of a new focus for Bentley Motors” and introduces it as the concept of “automotive wellness.”

If you haven’t strained your eye muscles too badly from all the rolling, you may want to direct them forward again (if you need to use your fingers to do so, please wash them first, we understand wellness here, too) and you can watch this entire, almost bearable 14-minute video about what Bentley is doing:

Damn. That’s a hell of a lot of effort to say “our cars are full of things that cost a lot of money, and you can feel that when you’re inside one.” In case you didn’t watch the video because you’re sensitive to rich people nonsense, what’s happening here is that Bentley is describing a whole new trim level for its cars, called the “Azure Range” (sharing a name with Bentley’s 1995 convertible, it seems), and this range is all about these annoyingly indulgent ideas of “wellness” and luxury somehow re-defined to feel not so much decadent as somehow good for you, physically and spiritually. It feels a bit like, oh, marketing bullshit.

I suppose it is more than that, really, but fundamentally all of this is just in service of making a comfortable car, only now the very concept of what Bentley considers acceptable comfort has been aggrandized to the point of absurdity, so much so that they have engaged the services of a scientist named Katherine Templar Lewis who is a pioneer in the quite new discipline of neuroesthetics, which is the science of how our brains appreciate art and other aesthetic concepts.

I’m not qualified to shit upon or support this discipline, though I know that humans respond to all sorts of art in extremely varied and significant ways, and I know that cars are fundamentally irrational things and always have been, so all of this rhetorical gilding and explanation for just making a really opulent car shouldn’t surprise me.

It still all feels pretty ridiculous, though.

So, what exactly is Bentley doing in these cars to make them so full of wellness or whatever?

Some of it is pretty basic: very adjustable front seats with heating and cooling and massage features, stuff that’s been around a while. There’s also a lot of refinement of NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) that Bentley quantifies like this:

For example, the two most crucial influences over onboard relaxation are ride comfort and NVH – Noise, Vibration and Harshness. Research that tracked thousands of people over a four year period found that those exposed to traffic noise over 70 decibels (db) were 65% more at risk of depression. Taking the Bentayga EWB as an example, as the lead car for the Azure family, measurements shot it to be quieter inside than its competitors, by between 4% and 26% depending on frequency and position inside the car. Secondary ride comfort is another key variable that affects onboard wellbeing – the smoother the ride, the more calming the journey. At typical road speeds and in the crucial frequency range of 5 Hz to 20 Hz, the Bentayga EWB has up 27% lower secondary ride vibration than its competitors.

Bentleys have been extremely quiet, comfortable cars for a long time, so these improvements would have to be very granular, and by comparison a ride in any of my shitboxes would seem like being in a shipping container full of live fireworks to a Bentley driver.key feature 1 1398x699 veneer.jpg

Also, for that study about traffic noise and depression, it seems to be the same one mentioned in this Daily Mail article, and a quote from the study is “This study provides new evidence of an association between high road traffic noise exposure and depressed mood.”

I wonder if perhaps it could also be that people who live next to roads with a lot of traffic noise tend to be there because those areas are more affordable, and there could be socio-economic factors at play here as well? Factors that I’m guessing your average Bentley buyer doesn’t have to deal with.

key feature 2 1398x699 front seet.jpg

Interior materials are, of course, a very big deal for luxury cars, but Bentley seems to be taking things to new, more bonkers levels (emphasis mine):

“To create the Azure range, we consulted with neuroscientists to understand the interrelationship of colour, texture, tactility and even scent to create an atmosphere of relaxed serenity. When we see pleasing forms, shapes and colours our brains release chemicals such as dopamine that not only make us feel good but are good for our body and sense of wellbeing. Sensory receptors convert physical stimuli in neural activity, creating changes in our brain and nervous system. Every fabric, sound, motion, colour and touch continuously impacts our nervous system and the Azure cabin has been finessed accordingly.”

To that end, the Azure interior design specification includes ‘wellness quilting’; the fractal patterns of precisely crafted diamond quilted upholstery create an eye-pleasing interplay of light and shade and provide an irresistible invitation to explore them with one’s fingertips.”

Fucking hell. “Wellness quilting?” Jesus, Bentley, stop, just stop. I can’t with this bullshit.

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I mean, sure that’s a lovely interior with a quilted pattern, but is that really “fractal patterns of precisely crafted diamond quilted upholstery,” or is it just quilted upholstery like the kind that’s been on cars for decades and decades?

I mean, if you really need the fractal patterns of precisely crafted diamond quilting, Walmart can hook you up for $25:

Plus, these seat covers have Swarovski crystals, so, you know, beat that with your “wellness,” Bentley.

A bit more on the hard-science side of things is the Bentley Dynamic ride, an anti-roll control system that uses the 48V electrical system developed by the VW Group. The basic system has been in use in Audis, and the operation of which can be seen in this animation, accompanied by appropriately soothing music:

It’s a system that can couple or decouple anti-roll bars as needed to provide for the smoothest possible ride, and can use electric actuators to provide over 900 foot-pounds of ant-roll torque to maintain the body at a level and flat attitude. It’s an impressive system and there’s no doubt it helps with comfort.

There’s also no question that these Bentleys are incredibly nice and well-built and very likely arms-of-a-lover-grade comfortable. I believe all of that. Key feature 4 1398x699 driver aids.jpg

But I also can’t help feeling that this incredibly overdone and self-serious approach to automotive comfort, replete with the sorts of buzzwords and vague concepts you’d hear outside of a yoga studio that you’d probably be asked to leave if you wandered in, all feel infantilizing and just, I don’t know, too damn much.

It’s an expensive car. It’s all about too damn much, all of the time, and I get that. I’m sure there’s plenty of rich people who want precisely all of this shit, and I hope Bentley can take all of their money and everyone is happy.

And, really, it’s kind of win-win, because if this is the direction Bentley is going, I don’t feel even the slightest particle of remorse that, outside of severe sewage-flood damage, I’ll never own one, never be cosseted in a cocoon of Wellness Quilting and active suspension and the most finger-pad-pleasing of porous woods.

Happily, I’ll also never care.

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53 Responses

  1. I clicked on that Jade Egg link and now I can’t stop laughing.

    “Until next time: Clean your egg after use and before using again. Keep it in or on a space that is sacred to you or has good vibes.”

    Does this apply to the car as well? I’ll need a much fancier garage.

  2. “This study provides new evidence of an association between high road traffic noise exposure and depressed mood.”

    I dunno, I kind of appreciate the fact that the go-kart suspension of my Fiesta ST transmits every imperfection of the road and that it’s not some soulless cocoon. It certainly doesn’t make me depressed, quite the opposite. But I guess that’s the difference between a car tailored for aggressive driving and a luxury car intended to isolate one from the elements.

    1. Funny enough, I bought my F150 and my new mattress around the same time. And I started driving my F150 as the daily while the Fiesta ST did weekend duty. When gas prices shot up I started driving the ST more. I originally thought my old mattress was causing me to have a sore back at work but apparently it was the ST and crappy potholed roads in middle Tennessee…

      1. What does Jesus say about proper jade egg usage and fractal-not frantically upholstery. I am willing to have my soul saved and embrace Jesus based on the strength of your answer.

  3. While automotive seat quilting personally leaves me cold, I do kinda like it as a possible signifier of “luxury car”.

    Since I dunno, the late ’90s/early ’00s, the luxury car has been basically a subsidiary of the performance car category. Instead of being purely glorious, dignified (more or less) land yachts, they boast of fat steering wheels, racing-inspired suspensions, etc.

    I want them to be their own unique category again – like in the ’30s or the ’70s.

    1. It’s sort of like the Jaguar that was basically a Ford Contour underneath. Someone said (can’t remember who or on what website, but it stands) that it said less about Jaguar slumming it, and more about how nice the Contour could have been. This “Quilting” thing should be an ego booster on lesser vehicles. By design. Anything meant to make people buy in a frenzy should be directed at the masses.

  4. If the word “wellness” is involved, no science has gone into it. The term exists specifically for that purpose: it has no meaning, therefore you can’t get in trouble for using it to make claims about your product.

    What Bentley has spent a lot of work promoting in their car is comfort. The car is more comfortable.

  5. The things rich people spend their money on. It’s gotten rather grotesque. Personally, I find everything about the Bentley featured in this article to be an eyesore. An overweight, piggish, expensive, gluttonous eyesore designed to waste natural resources. I just don’t see the appeal. Then again, marketing is all about demographics, and the bottom 99.9% of the population in terms of wealth/income is deliberately excluded from the target demographic here. Hell, virtually all new cars available exclude the bottom 80%, also by design.

    It’s rather sad to think of all the other things that the intellectual firepower devoted to marketing and advertising could be used for, given the state of the world today and all of the problems that have manifest.

  6. I’ve added a new artfully tactile emesis feature to my keyboard after reading the press crap from Bentley.

    I’ve worked for several very rich families. They were all miserable about life. One housewife would shop daily spending $$$$ to make herself feel good for a fraction of her day. I was paid $12/hr to keep the kids AWAY from “Mom” from the time I picked them up from school to the time they were ready for bed. They would knock on her door to kiss her goodnight.

    This Azure Bentley is for her.

  7. I’m going right to Volkswagen on this one. The old kind, that smelled like a barn. Like they were made in a barn. Out of the contents of said barn. (they kinda were). And that was a great force in the somethingness of the old VW’s. The agricultural versus the very close tolerances (except maybe shift linkages, which were more like a badly manufactured magic trick) was intoxicating. Admit it. Anyway I can totally get where they’re going with this.

  8. And I just can’t see no humor
    About your way of life
    And I think I can do more for you
    With this here fork and knife
    Eat the rich
    There’s only one thing that they are good for
    Eat the rich
    Take one bite now – come back for more
    Eat the rich
    I gotta get this off my chest
    Eat the rich
    Take one bite now – spit out the rest

  9. I’m calling Bullshit on this “noise & depression” data. Here’s a better study:

    “A research team led by Drs. Karmel W. Choi and Jordan W. Smoller at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University analyzed 106 factors in people’s daily lives to see whether they could find other factors that affect depression risk. The work was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Results were published on August 14, 2020 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

    The team applied a novel, two-stage approach to identify factors that can affect the risk of developing depression. In the first stage, they screened a wide range of lifestyle and environmental factors for links with depression in more than 112,000 older British adults. They looked at behaviors and social factors that people are able to change, including exercise, sleep, TV and computer use, diet, social activities, and social support. Environmental factors included how much green space and noise or air pollution the people lived around. Depression was assessed in the participants at a follow-up survey about six to eight years later.

    The researchers found 18 factors linked with lower chances of depression and 11 with higher chances. Those that showed the greatest protection included confiding in others, sleep duration, engaging in exercises like swimming or cycling, a faster walking pace, being part of a sports club or gym, and eating cereal. Factors that had the highest associations with depression were daytime napping; how much time people spent using the computer, watching television, or a cell phone; and eating a healthy diet inconsistently.”

  10. How in the world is that pattern Fractal?

    “Fractal, Noun.
    A curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation.”

    Typically, it means the pattern appears the same at any level of magnification. Pretty sure the smallest diamond is at least an inch across. It might as well be a quantum diamond pattern, or a four door coupe diamond pattern.

  11. Until the split, Bentley was leagues cooler than Rolls-Royce. VW stewardship has not done much for them, they are as bulbous as Bugattis with the added stigma of FWD proportions. This is just more of the same.
    Wellness Quilting sounds like something people at a rehab center have to do for two hours a day…

  12. Christ. Never understood the hyperfixation of making surfaces feel good to the touch inside a car. I mean, the controls and switches should be well made and solid, but who gives a shit about how ‘lower centre console bezel #4’ feels to the touch? Is this what you do in a car? Touch, pet, caress every square inch?

    1. It’s all about luxury/conspicuous consumption.
      “I am a better person than you because my lower bezel is trimmed with ostrich skin, whereas you make do with ‘cow leather’, like a peasant!”

  13. “This study provides new evidence of an association between high road traffic noise exposure and depressed mood.”

    Duh, everybody knows that a quiet car equals depression! You need MOAR traffic noise exposure to feel alive – straight pipes save lifes!

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