If you want to wake an entire Cotswold village at 6am then go buy a Bentley. Yes, if only it was that simple… A £138,000 alarm clock is way beyond the reach of most people but I can assure you, there’s no finer way to blow the cobwebs off daybreak.
I’ve just reluctantly handed the keys of the GTC back to the Bentley driver. And no, his job isn’t as great as it sounds because the car is ferried back to company HQ in Crewe on the back of a 13 ton lorry. At least he gets to drive it up the ramp…
Over the last few days I’ve been using the ‘sport’ setting, firmer up the suspension and seeing just what a two ton missile can do with 500+bhp under the bonnet. The GTC is not a sports car to be thrown around country lanes, it’s just too large for that. But for out and out performance, wow!
When you have a budget this large to spend, Ferrari, Porsche and all the rest of the super car marques come in to play. However, if you want something quintessentially British (OK, I know Bentley is now quintessentially German owned too!) the Continental is the only carriage you will ever need. Now, home James and don’t spare the horse…
It’s the curse of the automatic lid closing mechanism that these days you can’t cram stuff in a boot when you need to. We’ve all done it – squeezing in a few too many items, then having to press the lid down hard, with a triumphant flourish.
You can forget that with a Bentley. The lid will lower all the way down, then at the last minute refuse to lock in place and open fully again. At first it’s funny, then it’s infuriating, especially when you can’t see what the heck is causing it to abort mission.
Normally I’m a tidy packer but today where was a load of kit thrown in the back. It took five attempts and a lot of fiddling before the lid finally locked in place. It was just a plastic bag that caused the mechanism to melt down…
I mention this because even a Bentley can trip you up during everyday us. There’s not a lot wrong with this superbly engineered car but the Continental does come with a rather swanky, bespoke sunglasses case that looks very cool indeed. Just one problem – you can’t actually fit a large pair of sunglasses inside….
The Continental hasn’t actually changed much design-wise since it was launched 11 years ago. I suppose that when most people think of a Bentley, they drift back in time anyway. Churchill, bulldogs and the thwack of leather on willow, was how one friend described it this weekend.
The V8 engine certainly barks into life when you press the start button on the centre console, there’s acres of leather in the cabin, and the adjustable front seats would even accommodation a portly Churchill. Not so sure he would have approved of air conditioned and heated chairs though, or ones that gently massage the occupant either.
But if we are talking about style, well, the Bentley isn’t everybody’s cup of Earl Grey. It’s squat, muscular and very wide, which gives more than hint of the mighty power plant under that long bonnet. And while it looks more macho than a bodybuilder’s mankini from the front, something has gone strangely awry with the rear.
Awry not wrong but the GTC certainly ain’t a beautiful sight from the back. The ‘flat’ styling looks as if this Bentley has been rammed into a brick wall at speed. And because the hood has to fold into a section directly in front of the boot lid, this is a car with a very large bottom indeed.
The engines powering the Continental were developed by Audi and power some of their fastest cars. The 6.0-litre W12 might sound like a better unit than the 4.0-litre in our GTC but don’t be fooled – this V8 will be more than enough for most people.
It’s certainly more than enough for me. This morning I sent the pheasants scattering from the field by my house, as the Continental roared into life. It has to have the coolest set of twin exhaust pipes fitted to any car.
Not only that, the grumble is low, resonant and almost threatening. As AA Gill once wrote about a TVR, the pipes sound like ‘two lesbians moaning in a bucket’!
It’s a big car but steering the Bentley down a country road is an absolute joy. The GTC is nimble despite the size, like Mike Tyson in a ballet dress. Only much prettier.
You can push the convertible along at a great rate of knots without even realising the speed, despite the car weighing 2300kg, the body doesn’t roll and the brakes stop it on with rapid ease.
It’s all wonderful but oh, the sound of those exhaust pipes…
Let’s be sensible here. It may be pouring with rain all over England today but if you are a footballer considering a new Bentley convertible for the missus, the low cost option is the latest 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. No, really, if it makes you feel better, the ‘entry level’ GTC at £136,000 is most definitely the model to opt for.
Why? Well, although you can probably afford any car you want anyway, the V8 is far and away the cheapest to buy and run. And if you are planning to take it long distance for a weekend away, the 4.0 model will go considerably further on a single tank of fuel. Supposedly around 500 miles in total, although heavy use of the right foot will blow that figure away.
The GTC also has everything anybody could ever want in a car. All the obvious stuff, like sat nav, heated seats and cruise control of course, plus a few wonderful features to make you giggle. These include air conditioned seats, amazing noise insulation from the folding soft-top, plus a dashboard style to mirror the winged badge of Bentley itself. Brilliant.
Somehow, I have resisted the opportunity to drive the GTC today. Instead, I’ve been savouring the style of a great car, sitting in the driver’s seat and marvelling at the trim, and just inhaling the aroma of the cabin. Yep, you get all that with the Bentley before you even turn the key. What happens then? Find out tomorrow…
If I was buying one, I probably wouldn’t choose white. But that aside, the 370Z is the perfect antidote to the sanitised BMW, Audi and Mercedes sports cars that blend in and then disappear in a supermarket car park.
That certainly won’t happen with the Nissan. While some of the styling reminds me of a Porsche 911, it’s the sort of car that could give you a complex, if you worry about people looking at you.
It’s impossible not to fall for 370Z. It sticks two fingers up at the mainstream opposition, all is all the better for it. If you want a coupe that dares to be different, take one out for a spin.
It’s a muscle car for the modern age. Heavy steering, long-throw manual gearbox and brutish looks. Most importantly, it will make you happy, every time you see it parked on the driveway.
Nissan has only ever surfed the edge of performance car. But when the Japanese manufacturer has dipped its toe, the vehicle has been branded with a Z. Not surprisingly, in the UK they became known as Zed cars.
The first appeared in 1969 when Nissan was still branded Datsun here. However, the Nissan Fairlady Z was only sold in Japan until it was rebranded 240Z and sold abroad for the first time in the early 70s, followed by the 260Z and 280ZX in later years.
The re-styled 300ZX arrived in 1983 and it survived in various forms until 2000, when many thought the age of Nissan sports cars was gone for good. Not so, and the 350Z, which sports the DNA of our current 370Z test car, was introduced three years later.
The 370Z is still known in Japan as the Fairlady – a moniker thankfully dropped for the European market!
There are several reasons why the 370Z feels amazing to drive and one of them is the cabin. The dashboard lay-out is a cool combination of retro and modern that makes BMW and Audi appeared rather dull by comparison.
The seats are low slung, with part electric adjustment, the six-speed manual gearstick falls easily to hand, while the steering wheel material is tactile and easy to grip.
The transmission tunnel, transferring all that power from the engine to the back wheels, is large but it also makes the perfect arm rest, with a roomy cubbyhole and single cupholder.
My only real issue is that the Nismo is strictly a two-seater – there is no space in the back at all for passengers. The luggage area is respectable but the rear screen lies very low and prevents any large objects being stowed.
It’s difficult to find a petrol station open on Easter Sunday – so driving the Nismo requires a little extra care. I’m managing 23mpg, even though I’m trundling about like a octogenarian. Apologies to any such readers out there…
On the upside, that 3.7-litre engine is just explosively fast. I’ve read reviews claiming it’s course and outdated but in a age of silky smooth, turbocharged units, the Nissan is refreshingly engaging. So, if you want BMW/Audi ease of use, go elsewhere.
We’ve had a week of dry weather but today the heavens have opened and I imagine the 370Z is going to be quite a handful, with 340bhp going through the back wheels.
Still, with 19-inch alloys as standard and razor-sharp handling, what else could you need to enjoy your eggs this Sunday?
Nismo is the motorsport and performance arm of Nissan. Not as well known as BMW M Sport, or the performance arms of other European manufacturers, Nismo has still competed in Le Mans, Daytona and the GT Championship.
When the 370Z Nismo model was launched last year, Nissan insisted the car was not a full-blown Nismo variant, more of a makeover. All I can say is, when are they planning the real Nismo 370Z because this one is outstanding.
While the 370Z has always been a heavy car, tweaking the 3.7-litre V6 to 340bhp adds the extra performance the Nissan needs to border on super car potential.
Some have called the engine harsh but I disagree – think of it as more of a sophisticated muscle car and you won’t be disappointed.I love driving this Nissan, even at humdrum speeds it feels superbly balanced and sharp.