Our intrepid Editor recently jetted off to Europe to see how the other half drives.
Here’s Part I of his report from the upper altitudes:
When it comes to the super-luxury segment, most carmakers try to outdo each other with ostentatious touches meant to appeal to the oligarchs and oil sheiks who buy them by the bushel.
Our intrepid editor jets off to Europe to see how the other half drives
Subtle, it’s not.
We said most; Bentley operates on a different plateau altogether.
On Planet Bentley, everyone is born rich, good-looking and a championship athlete, with the perfect wardrobe, an Oxford education and bloodline to match.
Bentley Geneva; click to enlarge (courtesy Bentley)
Consequently, contrary to the popular maxim there’s no need to flaunt it; it is taken for granted that you “got it” long ago.
Does such a place actually exist?
Piloting precious metal through Alpine passes and rubbing elbow patches with the bon ton
In fact, yes. It’s called Gstaad, and it’s in Switzerland.
Thanks to the famed British marque, we got to be a temporary inhabitant of its rarefied atmosphere, piloting precious metal through Alpine passes, rubbing elbow patches with the bon ton at the world’s most exclusive hotel, and generally departing terrestrial cares for a few days of empyrean existence.
There are more Bentleys per capita in the elite enclave than anywhere else, hence it was the perfect locale to peruse the marque’s partnership with Zai, the Swiss brand that makes the world’s most exclusive skis, including special Bentley models.
Continental GT; click to enlarge (courtesy Bentley)
We have to admit though that we couldn’t keep our hands off of Bentley’s other models long enough to hit the slopes.
A crime, you might say, given that Gstaad is the site of some of the world’s most impressive ski runs, but call it a crime passionnel.
We couldn’t keep our hands off of Bentley’s models long enough to hit the slopes
There we were greeted by the sight of the stunning Bentley Continental Supersports Ice Speed Record car, aka the ISR, in which Juha Kankkunen set the world Ice Speed Record last February in Finland, hitting 205.48 mph.
The ISR car at Bentley Geneva; click to enlarge (courtesy Bentley)
Apparently, the Breitling-badged car was going to accompany us on our adventure.
We piloted an ice blue Continental GTC up through the alps and into Gstaad
Our wheels for the first leg of the journey, up into the alps to Gstaad, was an ice blue Continental GTC, the storied marque’s opulent open tourer designed in the grand manner of Bentleys past, an all-wheel-drive demon.
The car ate up the twists and curves and barely blinked as the weather turned from chilly to downright dicey, demanding pressure on the pedal that required all our skills when negotiating certain hairpin turns (that will forever be etched in our copilot’s cortex).
Continental GTC; click to enlarge (JPS)
Drive a Bentley at a stately pace? Not in this lifetime, thank you. You can go slow in a Subaru.
Negotiating the final dramatic ascension, we arrived at the Gstaad Palace, perched above the posh town and surveying its inhabitants like a dowager in a drawing room.
Drive a Bentley at a stately pace? Not in this lifetime, thank you
But we won’t dwell on our arrival; that’s for arrivistes. In a Bentley at the Palace, you’ve simply come back to where you belong.
Suffice to say that several other supercars had to make way under the celebrated porte-cochère, which you may recognize from The Return of the Pink Panther.
In the elegant Lobby Bar, the fire was being banked up and prosecco poured to herald our appearance.
Gstaad Palace; click to enlarge (courtesy Gstaad Palace)
Actually no, it was for the gaggle of microskirted boarding school blondes, but we didn’t begrudge them the bubbly.
The appropriately castle-like Palace has long been a refuge for royalty of both the Hapsburg and Hollywood variety.
Keira Knightley stopped in, but since she wasn’t handbuilt in Crewe,we didn’t notice
Apparently, Keira Knightley stopped in while we were there, but since she wasn’t handbuilt in Crewe with a twin-turbo, 6-litre W12, we didn’t notice.
After a quick snooze in our suite, complete with a balcony overlooking the twinkling lights of the town, we trundled off to Wasserngrat and hopped on a chairlift through whirling snow to partake of fondue in a snug mountain lodge.
Wasserngrat restaurant; click to enlarge (courtesy of Bentley)
At the cozy restaurant, we were nearly done in by the dangerous local habit of dipping one’s bread into a glass of schnapps before dunking it into melted cheese, but, remembering the exploits ahead, we relinquished our fork in time.
Nearly done in by the dangerous local habit of dipping one’s bread into a glass of schnapps
Which was a good thing, because the next morning we were set to witness a new chapter in the history of winter sports, of a kind that only the modern-day Bentley Boys could create…
Stay tuned for Part II of our Swiss Bentley adventure.
Click to enlarge; ISR car at the Gstaad Palace (courtesy of Bentley)
- Posted January 31, 2012
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- Jared Paul Stern for DRIVEN