The upcoming Bentley SUV may seem shocking, but the British automaker is no stranger to massive luxury cars. The latest episode of Jay Leno's Garage features the former television host's 1930 Bentley, a prodigious car that has been outfitted with a prodigious 27-liter Merlin V-12 aircraft engine.
Manufactured by Rolls-Royce's aviation division, the Merlin is a legend. It powered the World War II Hurricane and Spitfire fighters that repelled Nazi air attacks during the Battle of Britain. Built under license by Packard, it also powered improved versions of the P-51 Mustang, the most famous American WWII fighter.
Leno's Merlin-powered Bentley is actually the same one featured on Top Gear, where it raced the 47-liter BMW V-12-engined 'Brutus' around the Dunsfold track, provoking many Battle of Britain references in the process.
The Bentley produces between 650 and 700 horsepower, but it's probably best not to think of it as a race car, because it weighs around three tons. Modern amenities like electronic fuel injection and power steering help make it, as Jay puts it, "tractable."
On the street, the Bentely is the opposite of Jay's lithe and minimal Lotus Elan 26R, but it's just as appealing. Where the Lotus grabs attention with its impossibly-small size and amazing performance, the Bentley demands it with its girth, while the fact that it can go around corners at all is surprising.
Variety really is the spice of life when it comes to cars, especially old, British ones.