What's all this fuss about
I've had a Bentley Continental GTC in my possession now for two months. Granted, it's technically not my car - it was a very kind loan for a few months from the Bentley team, to give me the chance to drive it around the countryside and see if I loved it.
In honesty, I haven't always been a car person, and even now I'm not going to pretend that I know anything about what's under the hood of a car. But I don't believe that luxury cars are only for people who could take an engine apart and put it back together again. And it's not just for those who can list every car model of a brand's historic fleet in under one minute either. There are people out there that admire and enjoy cars for their aesthetics, what they can do, how they move and what they can offer their driver. And that is moi.
There's just this feeling when you step inside the Continental GTC. The diamond quilted leather seats hug your sides as you sink into the drivers chair, and of course it can be heated, or cooled, depending on your mood or temperature. The steering wheel too can be heated if you're driving first thing in the morning and you just want to feel snug like you're still in your own bed. I say this because whilst dropping Alex off at the train station this morning, I had the heated seat and heated steering wheel on immediately, keeping me cosy as soon as I stepped in, out of the cold air.
But the interior from doors to the dashboard through to the ceiling - it's all just so beautifully created. And after I was given a tour of the Bentley factory a few months ago, I have so much more understanding now of just how much skill goes into the creation of every element of these cars.
It's easy for a non car enthusiast to state 'yea, but they're just too expensive' - and whilst yes they are priced in the luxury car bracket price range, the prices are warranted when you see the expertise and hand crafted love that goes into each and every car. They're built by hand, piece by piece by the workers in Crewe.
It's only by wandering around this factory too, that you can really get a sense of the loyalty and the enjoyment that the staff maintain through their roles. Each member of staff I spoke to was so friendly and eager to show me exactly what their tasks consisted of. And not just because they were being asked to - you could really sense the pride in the way they talked me through their particular process, whether that be buffing the wooden arm rest panels, or sewing the leather pieces for the seats, or ironing out the creases in the leather. Each person in the factory has a process that is essential to the next and so they run as a tightly structured unit. Each process passing to the next and then the next. The guys who apply the seat covers over the seat padding have precisely sixteen minutes to mould, shape and trim before the conveyor belt moves to the next worker. You need to watch my video from the factory as it shows everything in much more detail, but it's fast paced and each person relying on the next to ensure everything runs smoothly. It's a well oiled cog I suppose one would say.
But what's it like to drive a Bentley?
Honestly I have never been stared at so much. There's a feeling in the air when a Bentley drives past. For someone like me, it would be comparable to someone walking past me with a metre wide Hermes bag - I would stare them down until they had turned the corner. It's one of the most luxurious objects in the world, driving along in front of you, so I understand why it turns heads. They turn my head every time I see them too. Rather funny though when people wave or point at me and I've had people try to race past me on a number of occasions to show that their car is also pretty fast...
If only they knew - genuinely the speed of this car is unbelievable. The way the whole body of the car almost rises at the front when you put your foot down to overtake, responsibly mind you. But when we could give the car a real test run on the German Autobahn, the power of the acceleration is just incredible. You can't help but make sounds similar to those you'd make on a rollercoaster when you put your foot on the accelerator to go from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds.
And what makes it easy to drive?
There are a few features of this car, that for someone like me, who enjoys driving but does feel that twinge of nerves now and again if I don't know the route all that well, or it's raining or if it's dark outside - these features really put me at ease.
The Heads Up display is the best thing to ever happen to my driving experience, and when I buy a car, I will ensure it has this included. The car literally reads the road signs for you and displays the road speed limit on the display in your eyeline. That means no taking your eyes off of the road. And it's so perfectly timed, so that as soon as the car hits the line from a 60 to a 30mph zone, the car will instruct you at exactly the moment your car crosses over. It's instant and just the most helpful tool I've ever seen in a car. And additionally, the SatNav is beyond excellent and again, the directions are displayed alongside the road signs in your eyeline. So for me and my nerves when I'm coming up to a roundabout, just having the SatNav tell me three times where to turn and showing me in my vision really helps me to relax.
It also has Lane Guides, that will have the car ensure you're staying within the lanes. Of course again you need to be responsible with this as the car won't drive itself solo for long before it will warn you to get your hands back on the wheel, but for me it's just those little tugs from the steering wheel to keep you perfectly in the centre of a lane that helps me feel more at ease. Great for narrow roads or narrow motorways.
But also - there is a Parking Assist button that will help you to parallel park when you're out and about. I haven't used it yet personally, but Ian my Bentley Chauffeur for Fashion Week (I just realised how ridiculous that sounds) showed me how it worked 3 times excitedly and its so so cool. The car will turn itself into a space, all you have to do is press the brakes. Hello to the future!
So how do I feel now?
Honestly, no car will ever match up to a Bentley. And that's the truth of it. My dream is to own a Bentayga Hybrid - which were delivered to customers for the first time this week in fact. I'd go for Ice white with Cricket Ball red interior and it would be my car of dreams.
I will be so sad to say goodbye to the GTC next month, but I'm so thrilled to have had this opportunity to feel like a Bentley owner for a few months.
If you're in a position to buy a Bentley and you're deciding, I could not recommend this car more to you. You will enjoy every experience driving for the rest of your life. And if you're a woman especially, there's no better feeling that driving a car that has been known for so long as a Gents car. But the times are so different now, and us ladies and younger ladies especially are part of a generation who want to own and drive a luxury car. And why shouldn't we - if we earn our own cash and we can afford the car, then this is the car we want to be driving. I know I do.