WEEKLY CAR DIARY – FOOTBALL BOOTS AND BENTLEYS

My wife and I spent this morning watching our son represent Boots in the Corporate Games at six-a-side football (he has a one year work placement at Boots head office as part of his university course). The Corporate Games is a large, multi-sport event and Nottingham is the host city this year. It was the clash of the titans as Boots faced two teams from Asda and one from accountancy firm, Smith Cooper. There should have been a fourth team from Nottinghamshire Police Force but I think someone put in a bogus 999 call so that they didn’t turn up and Boots were awarded a win by default.

Anyway, I spent most of this week worrying that passers-by may think I was an over-paid Premier League footballer (actually, I probably could have been a Premier League footballer but I peaked way too early – for regular readers of this blog, it was during that match for the Cubs against the Brownies when Jimmy Spannerfoot disgraced himself):-

Monday: Bentley Bentayga Diesel, Leicester to Ascot; Bentley Continental GTC W12 (2013), Ascot to Leicester

Tuesday: Bentley Bentayga W12, Leicester to Basildon, Essex; Bentley Continental GTC V8 (2013), Basildon to Leicester

Wednesday: Bentley Continental GTC V8 (2012) to Wolverhampton; Bentley Flying Spur W12 (2014), Wolverhampton to Leicester

Thursday: Bentley Continental GTC W12 (2013), Leicester to Ascot; Bentley Bentayga Diesel, Ascot to Leicester

Friday: Vauxhall Movano van, Cannock, Staffordshire to Nottingham

In truth, it was very pleasant driving these swift and comfortable cars up and down the country but the journeys themselves were rather uninteresting – basically all motorway and quite a bit of congestion. Some relief from trial by motorway came on the second trip to Ascot, when I went via a different route. From Maidenhead to Ascot was a green and pleasant trip through classic Home Counties scenery, including a beautiful little place called Holyport Village. Basically it’s a very large green with the quaintest of pubs and some old houses overlooking it. Apparently, Stirling Moss used to live in Holyport (pronounced Hollyport) and was in the Bray and Holyport Scout Group. I wonder if they ever beat the Bray and Holyport Brownies at football?

Holyport
One of the Bentaygas outside the pub in Holyport Village, Berkshire. I’m afraid I cannot tell you what the inside of the pub is like!

Here are a few thoughts on each type of Bentley based on these rather one dimensional journeys (although in the case of the Continentals, I did drive two last week on more varied roads):-

Continental GT and GTC: Despite the Premier League footballer image, these cars have grown on me! I absolutely love the sound of the smaller V8 – even steady, progressive acceleration is rewarded by a deep, loud and lazy fluttering beat like a very laid-back pneumatic drill – or maybe some sort of pod racer from Star Wars Episode 1. My descriptive powers may not do it justice but it is fabulous. By contrast, the faster but more expensive W12 sort of whirrs in a muted way although if you really mashed your right foot into the Wilton, I’m sure it would be more vocal. When cruising, the Continental is appropriately quiet whichever engine is under the long bonnet although you do notice more noise from your surroundings when passing other vehicles in the convertible (no big deal though). The Continental is a true Grand Tourer which is another way of saying that it does not go round corners with much aplomb but would be good at crossing continents quickly and comfortably. In fact it could probably cross a whole continent more quickly than it took me to get to Wolverhampton but that wasn’t the Continental’s fault. So, unlike the Mitsubishi Carisma, the Continental GT has a totally appropriate name. In terms of ride and handling, the V8s and the older W12s I drove felt very similar but last week’s new-ish W12 Speed was noticeably different with heavier steering (despite being in full comfort mode) and being more prone to tramlining. The Continental GT has been around since 2003 and inside it does feel a bit dated. However, the interior is less blingy than the Mulsanne and Bentayga which (from my point of view) is a good thing. There is a new Continental due out soon with underpinnings developed jointly with Porsche and apparently it should be better at twisty bits.

Conti GTC V8
Continental GTC V8

Flying Spur: A sort of stretched, four door Continental GT but a bit softer. The W12 engine was even more muted than in the Continental GT and extremely quiet when cruising. To emphasis this more restrained approach (compared to its GT sibling), there were no flappy paddles to play with but, no surprise, a very quick car. The dashboard is taken from the Continental GT but the materials in the Flying Spur that I drove were more understated. A very quick way for four adults to cross continents.

Bentayga: Won’t say anything about the looks. I suppose Bentley had to jump on the SUV band wagon. More wood and bling than in the Continental GT and Flying Spur but of course comfortable, quiet and fast in a straight line – like a Flying Spur on stilts. The diesel Bentayga is the quietest diesel (almost silent!) I have ever driven but then again it is the most expensive diesel I have ever driven. In addition, it lays claim to being the fastest diesel SUV in the world. It can also manage 35 – 39mpg in the real world. Not bad for such a big and quick lump. By comparison, the W12 Bentleys managed mid to high 20s and I did 33mpg in the Continental GT V8 on the 130 mile journey from Basildon to Leicester.

Incidentally, I drove these Bentleys while working for the Bentley dealer in Leicester – collecting customers’ cars for service and returning them. Two of these customers lived 120-130 miles away but have their Bentleys collected and taken to Leicester for their oil change. And these two customers had loan cars while their Bentleys were in the workshop. Not your run-of-the-mill courtesy car like a Ford Fiesta or clapped out Renault Clio with “Bert’s Autos” written on the side but new Bentley Bentaygas. Different world. So, I was on my best behaviour, tugging my forelock and only speaking when I was spoken to.

IMG_20170706_143154
Gratuitous supercar photo – Lamboghini Aventador at the Bentley/Lamborghini dealer

Colin

 

WEEKLY CAR DIARY – LAMBORGHINI HURACAN (AND A BENTLEY OR TWO)

Another vindaloo week. The main event was a golf day held by Bentley Leicester at Woodhall Spa Golf Club in Lincolnshire to which four of us took three Bentleys and a Lamborghini, having collected them the evening before:-

Monday: Audi A6 S-Line Quattro 2.0TDi Ultra, Leicester to Cirencester, Gloucestershire; Bentley Continental GTC (convertible) V8S & Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 LDF, Syston, Leicestershire to Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

Tuesday: Bentley Continental GTC V8S, Melton Mowbray to Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire; Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 LDF, Woodhall Spa to Melton Mowbray.

Wednesday: Bentley Continental GT Speed W12 (633hp), Melton Mowbray to Syston; X-wing fighter, Ashby-de-la-Zouch,  Leicestershire to Leicester.

Thursday: X-wing fighter, Leicester to Taunton, Somerset; Volkswagen Transporter (2012), Taunton to Exeter

Friday: Ford Transit Custom, Ashby-de-la-Zouch to Stockton-on-Tees.

So, let’s talk a bit more about the worthy Ford Transit Connect/X-wing fighter. Let’s cut to the chase – what was the Lamborghini Huracan like to drive? Well, before you can drive it, you have to work out where a few things are and how they work. I jump into a lot of cars for the first time and, apart from the occasional quirk, most things are where you expect them to be. Even in something exotic like a Bentley, the essential controls are fairly conventional once you have looked past all the wood and shiny stuff. Not so, with the Lamborghini (into which you have to lower yourself rather than jump). There are, for example, no indicator or windscreen wiper stalks. Instead, there are little switches on the steering wheel – like the indicators on a motorbike. Then there is the centre console where you would normally expect a gear selector and the letters P – R – N – D to be.  Again, not so with the Huracan. There’s no selector at all, just two buttons “P” and “M” and a funny little bridge affair over these buttons marked “R”. Incidentally, this centre console is made out of left over bits from a F-117 stealth fighter, all matt black geometric shapes at obtuse angles to each other (I assume the whole car is invisible to radar but the glaringly bright metallic yellow paint on this Huracan wouldn’t escape the Mk 1 eyeball too readily). Then there’s what is obviously a nuclear button because it is covered by a bright red, flip up guard. This guard prevents you from accidentally nuking North Korea before Donald Trump gives the nod. Actually, its the engine start button – Lamborghini owners must be prone to absent-mindedly starting their car’s engine so the Lambo engineers have thoughtfully put the guard there. Of course, this is all part of the drama and making you feel as if you are in some futuristic piece of military hardware or space craft.

Huracan Pop Art
The futuristic Huracan. A proper supercar shape – as would be drawn by boys (big and small) the world over.

 

Huracan interior
The stealth-like cockpit complete with red guard for the nuclear button

Once you are settled in to the snug racing seat and had a nose around the cockpit, you can adjust things to your liking. First the wing mirrors which sit atop long stalks so you can see past the car’s wide haunches but these haunches still feature prominently in the rearward view. Then the central rear view mirror which peers through a very small slit of a rear windscreen. Now you are ready to go.

Foot on brake pedal, flip up the red guard on the nuclear button and fire. BOOM! Lots of noise from the mid-mounted engine to ensure that everyone within a two mile radius knows that North Korea is about to become toast. Once the engine has settled down to a loud and impatient-sounding idle, you simply pull the right hand flappy paddle behind the steering wheel and a large “1” and an “A” appear on the digital instrument panel in front of you. You’re in first gear and automatic mode so flip off the electronic parking brake, squeeze the loud pedal and you’re off….. Except, there may be another hurdle to overcome. Speed bumps. With its low slung shape and even lower front spoiler, the Huracan would be as useless as a Dalek at conquering sleeping policemen (let alone the universe) but the Huracan has an ace up its sleeve. Press and hold a button on the dashboard and the front end raises slowly like an old-fashioned Citroen. Ease gently over the bump, press and hold the button to reverse the process and you are away while the Dalek is left behind the speed bump waiving its little balloon whisk arm and sink plunger in frustration (you often see Daleks in Woodhall Spa as they go there for a bit of pampering – “ex – fo – li – ate, ex – fo – li – ate!”). You can’t even hear the Dalek’s manic, metallic, machine-like protestations because the Huracan’s V10, 5.2 litre 610hp engine is wailing gloriously behind your head as you accelerate in the blink of an eye up to the legal limit (0 – 60mph in 3.2 seconds if you were to give it the full beans).

Huracan 2
At Woodhall Spa Golf Club

 

 

Bentleys at WSGC
The three Bentleys we also took to Woodhall Spa. Our chase driver said the four cars made an impressive convoy.

I drove the Huracan a couple of times, the main journey being the 55 miles (on a good mix of roads) from Woodhall Spa to a village near Melton Mowbray where the four cars where going to spend the night before being returned to Bentley Leicester the next morning. The roads coming out of Woodhall Spa were not really the Huracan’s natural environment. On these narrow and bumpy roads, the car’s wide tyres would follow the lumpy contours so you had to focus on keeping it on line. And with suspension made from only the best granite and with ultra-low profile tyres, you felt all of those lumps and bumps. However, this was more than bearable and the body hugging seat was extremely comfortable. Immediately noticeable at the first corner was the very quick steering – not much rotation required on the tiller to get the Huracan round a bend.

The Huracan soon came into its own on smoother roads. For most of the journey I left it in automatic but I did override this when I felt like it, simply by flipping either of the flappy paddles – right for up, left to downshift. Approaching corners, I would change down manually with each quick downshift accompanied by a short rise in engine note as if the throttle had been blipped. Each downshift also brought a little forward shove in the back before the engine helped slow the car down. You could then flow into the corner, enjoying that quick steering and sharp turn-in as the Huracan changed direction as if on rails (with that granite suspension, “body roll” is not in the Huracan’s vocabulary). Four wheel drive and fat tyres would no doubt give a massive amount of grip – way more than I needed since my job was the get the Huracan from A to B in one piece. The knowledge that that grip was there if needed was reassuring since it did rain for the middle part of the trip.

After enjoying the single carriageway roads, I eventually got onto the A46 dual carriageway. With such a low seating position and a rush of road noise, the impression of speed was much greater than in a “normal” car at 70 (and a bit….) mph and like the rest of the journey it felt much more of an event. Finally, there were a few more miles of twisty, country lanes (on full manual after pressing the “M” button on the centre console) before pulling back that curious little bridge thing marked “R” to reverse the flying banana into store for the night.

That was fun.

Colin

 

 

 

WEEKLY CAR DIARY

Bit of a contrast between the two jobs I had this week:-

Tuesday: Nissan Micra Visia 1.2 (2012), Melton Mowbray to Lichfield.

Friday: Bentley Continental GT Coupe (2011), Leicester to Stamford, Lincs and Bentley Bentayga W12 (2016), Rugby to Leicester. Tough morning.

Looking at last week’s and this week’s diary shows what variety can come your way in this line of work: a commercial van, military truck, second-hand runabout and a couple of super-luxury cars. The Micra doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? A four year old, bottom of the range example of the most unloved incarnation of Nissan’s small car. Actually, I had a pleasant and comfortable 50 mile cross-country jaunt in it. The sun was shining which probably helped. Like Sutton United in the FA Cup, underdogs occasionally surprise.

Had an interesting experience this week. Got roped into talking to two classes of 9 year olds at my wife’s school (she’s a teacher in case there’s any misunderstanding). The subject was the Battle of Britain, so I went along equipped with genuine World War II flying helmet and goggles and a borrowed sheepskin flying jacket. Had to wing it a bit (pun intended) but only for the minor details. There are now sixty Year 5s at our village school who think the Battle of Britain was fought in Armenia between the Tartars and the Oompa-Loompas. With ray guns. In 1703.

Keeping with a WWII theme, I went to see Hacksaw Ridge. Brutal, truly terrifying and astonishing. A remarkable story about a real-life World War II hero. This epic deserves the acclaim it has received (and an Oscar or two), unlike a certain other film I saw recently. I’m not being blokish here. I enjoyed La La Land very much and am glad I went to see it but it is a good film rather than a great one. The hype is out of all proportion, probably because Hollywood has not made a musical for a while.

Question: What is the most expensive substance known to man? If I remember, I will give you the answer in my next weekly diary. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment with your suggestions.

Colin