I drove the Bentayga in the UAE when Bentley launched the falconry special edition. The trouble with the Middle East is that nothing seems too expensive or vulgar.
But driving one around the countryside of England, I wondered how the great and good of the Cotswolds would react to such a statement of ridiculous wealth.
Well, perhaps because the Bentayga has such ‘dubious’ styling and is a tad understated for some, nobody seemed to bat an eyelid.
I mean, this car is twice the price of a Range Rover!
Perhaps if they sat inside the wonderfully silent cabin, sunk their feet into the sumptuous deep-pile carpet and ogled at the amount of wood and chrome on display, they might see things differently.
The fastest, most powerful SUV money can buy is a remarkable first step into the ‘utility’ market for Bentley.
Both petrol and diesel engines haul 2.4 tons of metal to amazing speeds without the minimum of fuss.
Oddly though, even with a raft of extras that would buy you Porsche Cayenne for the same money, the Bentley leaves me unmoved.
It is a wonderful way to travel in pure luxury but unlike some other Bentleys I could mention, it’s more of a brilliant tool than a soul machine.
June 2 It may be Bentley’s fastest motor but there’s still only one way to drive a GT Speed. S-l-o-w-l-y.
After a week steering this behemoth it feels almost rude to suggest anything as vulgar as performance. That’s for Porsche 911s and those nasty red Ferraris.
No, a Bentley is for going gently. Soaking up the atmosphere, listening to Test Match Special on the Naim radio and generally revelling in the warmth (stop laughing) of a balmy British June.
Indeed, if Andy Murray wins Wimbledon and England beat Pakistan at Lords next month, all I need is a GT Speed to make it the perfect summer.
Right I’m off to Woking collect another British slice of madness – the McLaren 650. More tomorrow…
Shifting a car weighing 2.5 tons means a seriously big engine – which in turn ensures the GT Speed convertible is capable of just over 200mph.
However, despite the fabric roof, the GT Speed is remarkably quiet at high speed. It’s easy to forget you are in an open top car at times.
There is some noise from the C-pillars which fooled me into thinking I had left a window open but otherwise the Bentley purrs along in silence. Until you slip it into Sport mode, of course.
As you would expect, there is not a rattle, squeak or judder anywhere. British engineering at its best – and at a great price!
A summer cold during the week of a Bentley convertible loan is not a good thing but it has saved me a small fortune.
Why? Well, the Speed’s 626bhp engine is massively thirsty, that’s why. Even when I try to drive at a sedate ‘Bentley-style’ pace the petrol gauge needle seems to be pulled relentlessly to the left.
Had I not been tucked up in bed with a box of tissues, I’m certain I could have burnt my way through a few hundred pounds keeping the Speed on the road. I’m averaging well under 20mpg.
And I know people who can afford £200K plus for a car aren’t bothered by fuel bills but I wonder if these big engined monsters are going to be consigned to the motoring history books before too long..
May 28 Fascinating how two fast and expensive British cars can polarise people. Last week’s Morgan Plus 8 is every bit as thirsty and environmentally unfriendly as today’s Bentley Speed.
Yet on the road, other drivers perceive the retro Morgan as a throwback to the glory days of motoring – when flat caps and goggles were the norm. They loved the old school shape and many waved as we passed.
The Bentley is the complete opposite. It may be manufactured in England too but drivers are induced into a road rage, serving up looks of contempt and pure loathing.
I suppose they automatically assume that I’m minted – and we all know how the Brits like to knock a success story. Of course, I’m not loaded but living with the GTC Speed would seriously hack me off if I had to deal with this every day.
The consolation for Bentley owners is that the Speed feel wonderful on the sumptuous inside, which is where it really counts I suppose.
I can’t help thinking that incredible supercars like the Bentley GT Speed will soon be a distant memory. When I’m talking nonsense in a nursing home in 50 years time, staff will laugh at my memories of a ‘personal transportation device’ averaging 19mpg, costing £200k and sounding like a spaceship on lift off.
By then we will all be moved from A to B in pods. Driving a vehicle will be something from the history – what families go to watch at Bank Holiday Weekend track events around Silverstone and Brands Hatch.
The roar of a 12-cylinder engine will probably frighten children and remind grandad of when everybody owned a car, locked in a little house next to their home that was called a garage.
There isn’t an awful lot of time left to enjoy incredible cars like the GT Speed. The price puts it was beyond reach of the average man in the street but we should at least marvel at vehicles like this while we have them.
Times are changing, probably for the better but fans o the combustion engine need to enjoy it while they can…
The Bentley is an odd set up. The old school atmosphere of the interior is attached to a high performance chassis and engine that is capable of an astonishing turn of speed.
Slip the weighty chunk of gearshifter into Sport and the Flying Spur lives up to its name. It’s remarkably quick, considering the whole package weighs a whopping 2.4 tons.
Other cars like the Mercedes S600 do the limo thing better but, of course, they simply ain’t a Bentley W12 with this turn of speed.
The 6.0-litre has huge amounts of torque on tap. It turns this W12 model into a very special car that drives a lot better than the ageing styling suggests it might.
So, if you were a chauffeur, who would you like to drive around for the day? A pop star, a politician, or somebody from the sporting world.
Me? Well, I’d go for the wonderful Annie Lennox, who I’m listening to on Radio 4 right now. I interviewed her a couple of years back and found a humble woman of warmth and charm.
It’s unlikely Annie would ever want to step into anything as grand as a Bentley. She’s just too grounded, discreet and, in her own words ‘despairing and morose’!
The Flying Spur isn’t her sort of car but if anybody deserves the limo treatment, it’s the engaging Scottish woman with red hair…
So, day two of the enormous magic carpet ride that is the Flying Spur. There are big cars like the Range Rover and Audi A8, and then there are really big cars, like the Bentley.
Apparently, a large proportion of Spurs will find their way to China. There, the back seat is more important than the front (it’s a cultural thing), so perhaps it should be no surprise that the Flying Spur seems to have been built around the rear space.
And it’s a pretty special place to sit. The reclining, air-cooled or heated seats recline and massage occupants, while the rear entertainment system is pure first class travel. It even features a touchscreen control which operates sound, heating and other important little luxuries.
I especially like the deep pile carpet, although it must be a bugger to clean. Last night I sat in the back and called a few people. The chauffeur isn’t standard, so I just remained on the driveway until it went dark.
It’s one thing to sit in the back of a Bentley, quite another to be driven everywhere in it too..
Something of a mad rush today as I’ve been interviewing Olympic rower Kathryn Grainger for Country Life magazine. The Bentley cause ripples on the water when I turned up at the National Rowing Centre in Caversham, for some reason…
Instead of some opening words on the Flying Spur., you might be interested in some of the option prices that took our test Bentley from a list of £153,300 to an incredible £191,191!
Boot carpet – £420
Contrasting stitch in Imperial Blue – £1,485
Comfort specification – £1,885
Full length centre console – £3,025
Dark Stained burr walnut – £1,375
Refrigerated bottle cooler – £1,665
Vehicle tracking system – £1,400
Rear entertainment – £5,835
Wi-fi hotspot – £5,695
Space saving spare wheel – £4,335
Erm, £4,335 for a spare wheel? Surely if you own a Bentley a nice chap from the AA comes and sorts a flat out for free…?